Answers in Genesis/The Troyer Group – Ark Encounter

Troyer Group pic

The Ark Encounter project will wow and teach visitors about Noah’s Ark.

By Alan Dorich

It’s rare when a construction project has the goal of sending people back in time by thousands of years. But that’s what the Ark Encounter project in Williamstown, Ky., plans to do with presentations of numerous events from the Bible, including a full-size replica of Noah’s Ark.

When finished, the Ark will be the largest timber frame structure in the world, declares Mike Zovath, the project manager and co-founder of Answers in Genesis. The apologetics ministry is serving as the general contractor on the multiphase project alongside The Troyer Group, the construction manager.

The project’s first phase consists of the Ark itself, which is being built to the units of measure originally described in the Bible: 300 cubits in length, 50 cubits in width and 30 cubits in height. “That equates to it being 510 feet long, 85 feet wide and 51 feet high,” Zovath says.

The other phases, he notes, include a pre-flood walled city with shops, restaurants and street theater presentations. “We equate it to Disney Main Street,” he describes. “Everybody comes the Walled City and they can browse.

“We also have a first-century village planned where you can experience what things would be been like in the time of Christ,” he continues. Also planned is a Tower of Babel and an attraction about the history of Israel. “It starts with Abraham and ends with the 10 plagues.”

Building the Ark

The Ark Encounter project has been long in development, Zovath says. “We started planning in 2010 and started design work in 2011,” he recalls. “We really went full speed and started construction in the summer of 2014.”

When the Ark phase opens on July 7, it will provide an experience that will wow visitors on multiple levels, Zovath asserts. “First, you’ve got the impact of people seeing the Ark when they first arrive,” he describes. “Then, when they get to see how large it really is inside, it’s going to be an eye-opener.Troyer Group box

“[They’ll have] the jaw-dropping experience of walking through this structure with timber frames,” he says. “It’s going to be mind-blowing to people to see how enormous it looks from the inside.”

The exhibits inside the Ark also will fascinate them, including living quarters and an inside garden, Zovath promises. “We show guests how Noah was able to fit all of those animals on board, how he cared for those animals, and how Noah and his family lived on the Ark,” he says.

Built to Last

Answers in Genesis took a unique approach to constructing the Ark. “We built it from the middle out,” Zovath recalls. “Once a certain a mount of timber for the structure was in place, then all the trades came in and it continued to get larger.”

The project team used Accoya wood for the frame, which features protection that makes it resistant to water and insects. “It’s radiata  pine, harvested in New Zealand and shipped to the Netherlands , where it goes through an acetylation process. It is then shipped to North Carolina to be milled, and then shipped to the construction site,” he says.

Although the frame is complete, the project has required continued work from its electrical, plumbing and HVAC contractors. “It keeps the subs on site more than a normal project,” Zovath says.

Green building also has been an overarching theme during the project. For example, “We wanted to use local labor, local construction companies and local materials as much as possible,” he states.

“[We’ve also] done a lot of work with LED lighting to cut down on the heat loads, which in turn cuts down on HVAC requirements, which cuts down on structural needs,” he says, noting that Ark Encounter’s buildings are also designed to reduce the amount of scrap lumber that can pile up on a project.

“We don’t have a lot of windows in the place, but our windows are heat reflective,” he adds. “It’s going to be an very energy-efficient structure when it’s completed.”

Project Passion

Zovath praises the subcontractors, who all share a passion for the Ark Encounter project. “Everybody’s on board with what’s going on,” he says. “We’ve been really pleased with each of them.”

He also praises the work of The Troyer Group. “They have the same goal to see this Ark Encounter project impact lives,” he states. “It’s been a real joy to find a like-minded engineering/architectural firm to work with.”

Troyer Group also sourced talent for the project from an Amish community in Indiana. “The Amish are the core group of our timber framers,” Zovath says. “They are the masterminds when it comes to assembling all of the thousands of pieces that are the Timber Frame process. They are experienced craftsmen and a disciplined work force. They come from Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and work here for five long days, then head home for the weekends and then back on Mondays.”

The next phase of the Ark Encounter project, the Walled City will be completely different, Zovath says. “[This phase] doesn’t have a timber frame,” he says, noting that Answers in Genesis has master-planned the entire project.

Answers in Genesis wants to start construction on the Walled City in 2018. “That’s my hope, plan and goal,” Zovath says. “It will be funded by the earnings of phase one.”

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