The Rev. Chuck Cimpl is enjoying his status as a retired, but still very involved, priest in the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls.

“I was born in South Dakota, and most of my ministry has been in Sioux Falls, so I wanted to stay around Sioux Falls and help out.”

Retirement does remove Cimpl from some of the administrative duties that come with being a pastor.

“I don’t have to worry about skylights or roof leaks or anything like that,” he said, referring to an issue that accompanied his time as pastor at Holy Spirit Church.

For quite some time, Holy Spirit had a problem with a leaky skylight.

To make matters more challenging, the church sanctuary is directly under the skylight.

Cimpl called it an odd and inconsistent leak.

“Sometimes it would rain 2 or 3 inches, and we would get nothing, and sometimes it would rain a tenth of an inch, and we would get a drip,” he said.

Part of the problem was attributed to a small cross that penetrated through the skylight, meaning the cross was supported by the structure of the skylight.

Besides the fact that a skylight is not a great assembly to support a cross, the passing of time, strong South Dakota wind, and the age of the skylight meant it was time for a replacement. And replacing the skylight with a fixed roof – or nontransparent cap to the roof – was not the congregation’s preferred course of action.

“We really liked our access to outside light,” Cimpl said. “With the interior colors of the church, it is great when the sun hits in various spots. We wanted to continue to have the skylight and not block it off or just shut it down.”

Because of his multiple projects with TSP, Inc. during his priesthood, Cimpl called upon the expertise of the architecture, engineering, and planning firm.

Cimpl built relationships with past and present TSP team members through successful projects at Holy Spirit and St. Michael Parish, where he also served over the years.

At Holy Spirit, where TSP provided engineering services for the original design, the firm’s later work included a major interior renovation. The project involved nearly every functional area of the church, including the sanctuary, offices, restrooms, sacristy, and the lower-level parish hall.

While TSP brought expertise to each project, the firm’s team members were interested in the faith dimension of the work, Cimpl said.

“It wasn’t just a job to them, and that was very helpful,” he said. “It was a different sort of work for them because they were doing it in a church setting.”

In partnership with Fiegen Construction, TSP helped Holy Spirit design a skylight solution in addition to a new, more visible cross atop the church. The installation of the new skylight and cross took place this summer, about a year after Cimpl retired.

Chase Kramer, an architect and TSP’s director of design, said the project demonstrates the value of a multidisciplinary design approach, regardless of scope.

Chase Kramer

“This was a small but unique project,” Kramer said. “It was, on the surface, just a skylight replacement, but the element of maintaining the cross and ensuring it didn’t cause performance issues with the skylight made it a bit of a design challenge.”

In this case, the solution involved the most straightforward approach of separating the skylight and the cross elements.

“Chase led the coordination and started with the vision of the cross and the idea that we need to isolate the cross from the glass, rather than penetrate it like the existing construction,” said Lucas Lorenzen, a structural engineer at TSP.

“We then went through an iterative process between the architectural vision and the structural design to come to a workable solution.”

Lucas Lorenzen

The team was able to mimic the geometry of the existing skylight with the new cross support elements and allow the new skylight to sit lower, beneath the overall supporting structure.

“The cross pops up and is mounted to the natural termination point of where the peak would be if just the shingled roof continued upward,” Kramer said.

“The cross itself is now larger as well,” Kramer said. “We upped the size so that it is to a scale that makes sense with the monumentality of the original roof structure.”

Aluminum was chosen as the material for the new cross because of its lightweight benefits and resistance to corrosion.

Kramer’s takeaway from the Holy Spirit project is the importance of creative problem solving regardless of a project’s size.

“Even if you’re thinking about a replacement or a maintenance project, there are ways to look at how a project was approached before and explore ways to do it better, rather than just a one-for-one replacement,” he said. “That’s the power of design thinking.”