Word of Faith EpiCenter

Austell, GA
115,000 SF

Creating Community Space at the Word of Faith Riverside EpiCenter

When the leaders of the Word of Faith Family Cathedral considered how the church could best engage and serve the community, they looked beyond the existing church campus. In fact, they decided to build a new community center entirely, one that would uplift its congregation and provide a safe space for family entertainment. The space they envisioned would provide areas of interest for neighbors of all ages, including recreational facilities (basketball courts, rock-climbing wall, a fitness center with locker rooms, steam and sauna amenities, weight room and bowling alley), community spaces (auditorium, conference center, entertainment center, performance hall and recording studio), office spaces, retail, café and catering capabilities.

Word of Faith Family Cathedral sought the help of experts, including AHA Consulting Engineers (AHA), to launch the 115,000-sf Riverside EpiCenter project. A recognizable name in the design of civic and mixed-use spaces across the country, AHA was hired to link the varied programmatic elements with a cohesive and sustainable systems design.

“We have designed many projects for churches but never a family life center as elaborate as this one,” said Ryan Carter, Partner and Director of Operations at AHA in Atlanta.

The engineers at AHA devised a design solution that satisfies building codes throughout the expansive and inclusive mixed-use space. Recognizing the church’s socially conscious vision for the project, AHA also incorporated environmentally friendly features that enabled the community center project to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Certification with the U.S. Green Building Council. In fact, the Riverside EpiCenter incorporates low-flow water features, access to fresh air and lighting schemes that reduce energy consumption.

The EpiCenter’s sleek design aesthetic emphasizes modern sustainability on the exterior and inclusivity inside. Visitors enter the building to a 40-ft atrium, a welcoming space despite its expansive two-story height. “We created a lighting design throughout the building to make it warm and inviting to all visitors,” said Carter. “AHA worked closely with the architect to select fixtures that matched the church’s vision for the space. The collaborative effort enabled us to achieve the overall bright atmosphere that the church wanted.”

While the multi-function space is light and cheerful, efficient building systems ensure a comfortable environment for guests without detracting from the overall visual appeal. “There’s always a challenge for engineers to design systems that complement the artistic elements, which often leave minimal space for ducts and plumbing,” said Carter. “As the design progressed, we found that spaces originally allocated for ductwork were reconfigured for architectural and structural details. It required a great deal of coordination to blend aesthetics with functionality.”

For the mechanical components, AHA designs an energy-efficient HVAC system that is serviceable by the church’s limited maintenance staff. “Our team designed an efficient system that requires minimal maintenance. And we located most of the air handling units in a large penthouse room for easy access,” explained Carter.

In the performance space, the church requested a sophisticated performance light package that tends to also produce a lot of heat. AHA collaborated closely with the audiovisual consultant to ensure safe temperatures during peak lighting usage.

The talented specialists at AHA understand the church’s mission to support family connectivity through social engagement. The project is a testament to AHA’s emphasis on client service. By working closely together, the Word of Faith Cathedral and AHA created a significant community space that provides entertainment space for families, promotes health and wellness and reduces the organization’s overall carbon footprint.

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