How To Avoid Common Design Pitfalls When Planning A Church Project29 May
We are blessed to live in a country where we are free to practice the religion of our choice. Our various faiths are very important to us, as are the buildings we construct as places of worship. We are going to address church buildings and the common pitfalls people face when designing and planning them.
Whether you are facing new construction of a church building or expansion of a current building, there are many building options. When deciding on the type of building you want, you must consider:
- Building cost
- Construction time
- Current needs as well as future growth
- Maintenance cost
- Operational cost
Traditional buildings of wood cost less to build, but over time they end up costing you more in money, maintenance costs, and time. Wood rots, weakens, and wears as the forces of nature wear it down. Wood is subject to mold and mildew; and even pests and rodents damage the wooden structures. This makes wood a poor choice for a long-term building such as a church.
Buildings constructed of brick fare better than wooden structures. However, brick is not the best choice. It takes longer to construct and build a brick building, and though pests are not an issue, mother nature is. Over time the forces of nature cause the wear of brick and materials used to adhere the brick. They do not hold their value or their beauty as long as long as the ultimate in buildings, steel.
Steel Church Buildings
Steel church buildings are prefabricated to specifications making them quick to construct. They are virtually maintenance-free. They never need painting and carry a 40-year rust through warranty. A steel church building costs less, comes in a wide variety of styles, and additional buildings can be built when the time comes to expand.
The steel buildings of today are more advanced than those in the past. They withstand hurricane size winds, wind, rain, snow, hail, and the sun. They can be insulated and using “cool roof” technology, they are more energy efficient and eco-friendly than traditional buildings.
Common pitfalls of planning a church building design
Factor in all costs
This is a common problem. There is more to consider than the cost of your building. A few examples are:
- Redesign of the property and parking area
- Audio and lighting inside the church
- Lighting and surveillance for parking area
- Moving or installing playground equipment
- Cost of utilities in new building
- Expense of making the facility handicap accessible
Think beyond Sunday service
The church is more than a few Sunday school rooms and a chapel. The church is where members share life. Be sure you consider an area for receptions, group meetings, pot-luck dinners and even funerals.
Involve the congregation
- Ask for their opinions on the needs of the facility
- Allow them to vote on the design choices
- Have a building committee (limited to 6 members)
- Organize prayer groups to pray over the decisions to be made
Do not overestimate the needs
- Resist the temptation to buy everything you want initially. Instead, buy and initiate the plans of action in phases
- Be realistic with needs. If you have 300 members, you may one day need seating for 1200, but not anytime soon. Do not use the money you need to complete the project on future aspirations that are years away from reality.
Allow for versatility
You will be designing the layout of the church interior. This will probably include kitchen areas, restrooms, and office areas. When designing these essentials, keep in mind your plans for the future. If you plan on opening a children’s church at the opposite end of the building, nurseries and Sunday school rooms, do not obstruct the areas needed by placing the kitchen or bathrooms in the way. Keep your vision in mind to save you money as you grow.
Design a building that works for you
Your members are not the only people who will use the facility. Many times churches forget that the goal is to draw in new members. People who are visiting get confused and do not know where to go. Here are some things to avoid:
- Entry and exit areas that are too small (causing a bottleneck effect)
- Halls that are too narrow giving the feeling of being in a maze
- Hidden bathrooms that are difficult to find
- Inadequate or too few doors
Be realistic with time speculations
The prefabricated, steel building is erected quickly. The manufacturer can tell you how long it will take to produce and erect the building. But this is only part of the job. There are other contractors to consider. The concrete company, carpet company, plumbers, painters, electricians, and cabinet makers all have work to do before you can open the doors. Make sure you take this into consideration before you announce your time frame to the congregation.
Hire the right people
This is a major problem in the church arena. Committees are always looking to save a few dollars and when there is a large group involved inevitably, someone is going to “know a guy”. This is serious business. The church will stand for generations to come. You are constructing for long-term. Because a guy was great at building his own garage, does not mean he can build a huge facility. Experience matters. Get bids and shop for the right deal. In the end, go with qualified, experienced, insured and licensed contractors.
Follow these tips and keep your focus on getting the upgrade you need. Build the church you need for today with enough room for growth. Your church should draw new members and comfort existing members. Allow for immediate goals, but do not try to design the church you will need 20 years from now. Plan your budget and factor in operational costs and you cannot lose. Above all else, pray. Never lose focus on your true mission.