News/Blog

Church Building Steps from Start to Finish: Building Codes

As we work our way through each of the steps involved in the church building process, we go from looking at zoning codes and focus the spotlight on another important group of regulations – building codes. These are the municipal or state requirements that govern construction. When your church leaders begin to think about the specifics of any new or renovated church design, those building codes need to be part of the conversation.

Building Versus Zoning Codes

How are zoning codes and building codes different? Zoning codes govern what can be built and where. Building codes address how each church building is designed and actually constructed. The purpose of building codes is what the industry calls “life safety.” They make sure everyone is safe while they are in your church building and can get out quickly and safely in case of an emergency.

Unlike zoning codes, which vary by city, most states in the US have adopted the International Code Council (ICC) model codes and standards. This is good news, because it generally means that there’s just one set of requirements that you will need to address. However, there are different types of building construction and each has its own set of ICC regulations.

What Type of Church Building Will You Construct?

Construction type determines which regulations apply to your project. Will your church be built of wood, concrete, or steel? The code requirements for each are based on the potential combustibility of the material.

Also, there are “use group” types to consider, and churches can have many different ones. What the code calls “assembly” is your worship area. What it calls “education” covers your church school classrooms and any daycare facilities, while “business use” covers your various offices.

When you combine these types, the building code has a formula that will dictate what size church building (in square feet) you can construct. It will also determine what type of fire suppression system you may or may not need to have in place. Sometimes you can increase the square footage of your church design if you’re willing to install a sprinkler system in the building. Other times that sprinkler system will be required as part of the building code approval process.

Creating an Accessible Church Design

The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA is also a building code. This federal law sets requirements regarding elevators (depending on the size and shape of your church building), doorknobs, handicap access, restroom stalls and sinks, stairwells, ramps, etc.

Another critical building code concern is egress from the building—which means getting everyone out safely in case of emergency. The requirements for sufficient egress options can sometimes come into conflict with church leaders’ desire for security, particularly for children in the church building. This is another reason why involving experienced professionals in the development of your new church design early is a good idea. The McKnight Group is familiar with the range of building codes; what they require for your type of building and how to solve problems and conflicts without violating the rules.

In the next step in our church building “from start to finish” series, we’ll discuss the need for a utility review.

We are also now putting the finishing touches on our 2019 free i3 webinar series (which, earlier this year, is where we first introduced this “from start to finish concept). If there’s a topic you’d like to see addressed in 2019, please let us know at 800-625-6448.

2018-11-13T14:40:55+00:00 November 13th, 2018|Church Building, Church Design|

Church Building Steps from Start to Finish: Zoning Considerations

As we cover the church building process from start to finish, the next step to look at is zoning. Whether you’re starting from scratch or considering a major church remodeling project, you will need to ensure that your church design meets the zoning requirements for the area of town in which it is built.

Zoning 101

Every city and town in America have their own set of maps showing what can and can’t be built in various areas. While zoning can feel restrictive, it is often put in place to prevent some very frustrating situations. For example, people don’t want a noisy manufacturing facility to be built in the midst of a quiet residential neighborhood. So, it is required that your proposed or current church building meet the zoning requirements for where it is placed.

The Church Building and Conditional Use

In 90% of the zoning classifications we’ve encountered, church buildings are considered conditional use properties. The good news is that conditional classes, not being specific, are not explicitly excluded from most zones in a municipality. The bad news is that because a specific use isn’t specified, it usually means having to go before government authorities to get approval. Sometimes this involves meeting with the zoning officer, while at other times it involves an official public hearing.

Typical Church Design Zoning Restrictions

Occasionally church leaders ask us why they cannot do something with their church design that another church, across town or in another city, has done. The likely answer is that the other church’s zoning regulations are different. For example, in a downtown area with high-rise office buildings and apartment complexes, the building height limit will be higher than that of a suburban residential neighborhood.

Another restriction relates to lot coverage. Some cities restrict a church building with a maximum lot coverage of 20-30% of the available land. If you are looking to expand with a church remodeling project on a four-acre lot, you will need to make sure that your new design does not cover more than one acre with church buildings. This can be less of an issue in a more open space in a residential neighborhood than a restricted space in a downtown location, but still important to consider.

Parking is another zoning requirement consideration. Regulations usually want one parking spot for every three or four people in your worship space. If you hope to expand your church’s footprint in the future, we suggest you allow one parking spot for every two or two and a half people currently in your sanctuary.

Planning Ahead

If you are thinking about constructing a new church building and haven’t yet purchased your land, you should be checking into the zoning requirements for each property you consider. If you have specific questions about zoning, we’re happy to help, so give us a call at 800-625-6448. We also welcome your thoughts on topics we might cover in our free 2019 i3 webinar series. We be announcing the list soon.

Our next step in this series addresses more codes—ones of the building variety.

2018-11-06T19:17:09+00:00 November 6th, 2018|Church Building, Church Design, Remodeling|

Church Building Steps from Start to Finish: The Design Phase

In a recent and ambitious i3 webinar, we covered all the steps in the process of constructing a new or remodeled church building, from start to finish.

Step one was about determining the catalyst – the right reasons for your church building project. In step two, you need to convert that understanding into a practical, workable, overall plan. This is the design phase and it’s also the time to bring in church building professionals.

Getting a Needs Assessment

The first step in the church design phase is a needs assessment, which is a professional review of what you need for fulfilling your ministries. There are consequences for every decision that you might not have the expertise to understand. A professional will, however.

For example, let’s say you want to increase participation or develop a new children’s program. From a church building perspective, what does that mean? Do you want classrooms, a children’s church, a multi-use facility, an activity center? Did you think about the need for restrooms and storage to go with each of these? Have you considered the regulations governing safe exits and modern parental safety concerns in the church design? This is why you need professional help.

Getting a Church Building Professional’s Perspective

It’s not enough to get just any architect or designer to work with you. Professionals who design offices can give you the right square-footage requirements, but they won’t understand how to analyze your current building limitations in terms of the ministries you want to achieve. When you work with church building professionals, they understand that a church vision and the associated ministries have special sets of requirements.

Getting Your Church Remodeling or New Building Documentation Together

The final element in the design phase is gathering all the documentation needed. For example, for a church remodel, you need to have available all existing blueprints and plans for your current church building and the property as a whole.

If you’re starting from scratch, you still need property documentation. In this case, design professionals need the topographical survey of the land to know the boundaries, any rights of way, and elevation changes over the property because no piece of land is completely flat.

In addition to the property, architects need information about the church community to design an appropriate church building. This information includes operations (when and what types of worship services and other activities, which may overlap and impact parking and hallway usage) and numbers (church attendance, percentage of children, etc.).

Since these factors greatly influence the design and layout of your church building, it’s easy to see that the average office-design professional probably won’t understand the value and importance they add to your church vision.

We believe it’s never too early to involve professionals in your church remodeling or new building project. Contact us today with your questions—and with suggestions for our 2019 i3 webinar series now being finalized.

In our next “start to finish” step we’ll address zoning-code review.

2018-10-23T17:04:16+00:00 October 23rd, 2018|Church Building, Remodeling|

Church Building Steps from Start to Finish: The Catalyst

Do it yourself TV shows are very popular, and one reason is that they break down complex projects into a series of simple steps. While church building is never a DIY project, breaking the process down into smaller steps does make it easier to understand what’s involved.

In one of our recent free i3 webinars, we discussed each of the various steps involved in undertaking a successful new church building project. Over this, and the next several blog posts, we will cover that step-by-step information so that you get a clearer sense of how any church building project can be managed.

Have a Catalyst

If you’re going to embark on a church building project, you need to be certain that you’re building for the right reasons. Therefore, the first step is to have a clear understanding of the catalyst for your project. There are three parts to a good church building catalyst:

1. A Clear Vision for Ministry

From the beginning, you need to understand exactly what you’re doing and why. We’ve mentioned before about having this clear vision for your church’s ministry. When your vision is clear and compelling, it’s much easier for the next two parts to fall into place.

2. Unified Leadership

Another critical catalyst element is unity of purpose at the leadership level of your church. All members of your leadership team need to be on board with the focus of the vision for ministry. That way you can truthfully say, “This isn’t just the pastor’s vision. It isn’t just leader X’s idea. This is something that the entire church leadership considers very important. We believe this is the direction God is leading us in ministry for our community.”

3. Identified Ministry Needs that are Hindered by Your Church Building

The final catalyst element is having clearly defined ministry needs. This clarity will help you see where your current church building is hampering each ministry and whether the solution is a new church building or a major remodeling project.

Sometimes the best way to figure this out is to ask questions about each ministry:

  • How does our church building support the ministry?
  • How does our church building hinder the ministry?
  • What changes in our church building would make the ministry easier?
  • If the sky was the limit, how much space would you need for the ministry and what would that part of our church building look like?

While it may not be possible to solve everything at once, you will be able to envision the bigger picture. Then, when you sit down to brainstorm with church design professionals—which is the next step—you will have your dreams and desires in place.

As you can see, our free i3 webinar series is a very practical and useful way to understand the church building process. We are finalizing our 2019 i3 webinar series right now, so if there’s something you would like covered, please contact us at request@mcknightgroup.com today!

2018-10-16T19:37:19+00:00 October 16th, 2018|Church Building, Church Design|

Our Fall Church Maintenance Checklist: Second Edition

Fall is here, and in much of the country, you can tell just by looking at the leaves on the trees. While those leaves are gorgeous, they can also cause problems for the roof and gutter systems of your church building. In our post, Fall Church Building Maintenance Checklist, we covered some important maintenance needs including roofs and gutters. Here are some more items to add to the list as you get your church building ready for fall, and yes, the winter months that follow it.

Dust both supply and return air grilles. Last time we talked about HVAC filters, but we didn’t discuss grilles. Dusty vents decrease efficiency, which leads to higher church building energy costs. They can also reduce your furnace or HVAC system’s lifecycle.

Get the freon level checked in your HVAC system. The freon level should remain constant, so if it’s low, there may be a leak. By having freon levels checked in the fall, there’s plenty of time to address any problems before you need to turn on the air conditioning again in the spring.

Watch for window condensation. If the windows in your church building are fogging up, your HVAC humidity setting could need adjustment.

Check plumbing fixtures. While church goers might bring clogs to your attention right away, they don’t tend to bother when it’s just a slow drain. However, slow drains can lead to clogs—which can especially be a problem when the holidays arrive and both restroom and kitchen usage spikes. By tending to your drains now, you prevent future aggravation.

Protect outdoor plumbing from freezing weather. As the weather gets colder, you should disconnect hoses from hose bibs when they’re no longer needed. Cover hose bibs for the winter. Insulate any exposed pipes—to prevent freezing, including in the attic or crawl spaces of your church building.

Replace burned-out bulbs in light fixtures. Fall and winter bring more hours of darkness, meaning that light fixtures will get more use, especially outdoors. When possible, retrofit with replacement LED bulbs, which are much more efficient. If you need to rent a lift or other special equipment to replace some bulbs, consider replacing all of them at the same time, to reduce future rental costs.

Test all smoke alarms and any carbon monoxide detectors. Replace batteries, including battery backups for hardwired devices. Remember that some smoke alarms could be located inside your duct work. For hard-to-reach places, plan this church maintenance at the same time as your various light bulb replacements.

Check the dates on all fire extinguishers. Replace or recharge any expired fire extinguishers.

Check all exit signs. Are those signs still shining brightly? If you have an older church building, this might be a good time to review all signage and egress lighting. Is it time to upgrade any fixtures or lighting? Pay special attention to long, winding, and/or dead-end corridors.

Check your first aid kits. What’s been used and needs replacing? Which items have expired? If your first aid kits are older, check online to see what newer kits include and consider expanding or upgrading your older boxes.

Now that you’ve expanded your Fall Church Maintenance Checklist with these items, we have one more suggestion for your to-do list. Our final free i3 webinar for 2018 will take place on Thursday, October 18. The topic is “Principles for a Successful Church Building Project” and we suggest you register today. We are working on our 2019 lineup of free webinars now, so watch this space for our announcement.

2018-10-09T16:07:02+00:00 October 9th, 2018|Church Building, Church Maintenance|

Answers to More Church Design i3 Webinar Questions

We get great questions during our free i3 church building webinar series. The answers to these questions can be as informative of the church design and construction process as the webinars themselves. In this post, we answer three more questions that church leaders have asked during recent webinars.

Question 1: Do you have someone on your church building team who helps figure out sound and lighting design?

Clearly audio, video and lighting (AVL) are important elements of any modern church design. We do understand the needs churches have for AVL and how to create a church design that takes it into account. When it’s time to work out the details, we are flexible in how that is handled.

We have AVL designers and contractors that we can recommend. We can subcontract them ourselves and include it in our scope of our work. Or we can recommend them to you, and you can do the interviewing, hiring, and paying directly. We are also happy to work with sound and lighting experts that you might already know and have a relationship with. The key point here is that we’re flexible. We want the best for your situation, so we’re happy to work with you to accomplish that.

Question 2: What is your subcontractor selection process, or do you always build with your pre-selected subcontractors?

The McKnight Group functions as a general contractor for all of our church design and building projects. This means we provide a project manager and project superintendent who work onsite on your church building project.

Most of the actual church building work is done by local subcontractors and suppliers. We go through a competitive bidding process, put together the best package of people and businesses, and present that to you as a single contract with a guaranteed construction cost. This ensures you are getting the best prices from local people.

The selection process involves making sure that the subcontractors and suppliers have the proper amount of people available to do the work, they have a good reputation, they pay their bills, and they have a track record of successfully handling any issues that arise during the work. This way we are responsible for handling their work, rather than relying on church leaders who do not have experience with church building construction.

Question 3: What is the cost of each phase of the church design and building process?

The cost of the initial church design study can vary.  In 2018 we estimate anywhere from $4,000 to $20,000, based upon the complexity and size of the project, and what you are trying to accomplish. Yes, that’s a wide range, but there’s a wide range of problems and situations that individual churches have to address.

Construction documents and construction itself would depend on your actual church design and the budget you have prepared for the church building or remodeling project. The budget will include the architectural, engineering, and building permits, as well as the actual construction costs.

With all of those variables, it’s impossible to give you generic cost estimates for each stage of the church building process without visiting your church and discussing the what you are trying to accomplish. However, you can learn a lot about each of those variables in our free i3 webinars, which is why we encourage you to sign up and join us there to learn more. Meanwhile, if you have specific cost questions related to your existing church design, give us a call at 800-625-6448 and let’s begin a conversation.

2018-10-02T18:58:46+00:00 October 2nd, 2018|Church Building, Church Design|

Addressing Recent Church Building Questions from our I3 Webinars

Joining The McKnight Group for our free i3 webinars is a good idea for many reasons. For one, we cover a great range of information on church building and church design. Another reason is that our webinars give you a chance to ask us questions

In this post, we respond to some of those questions that have been put to our presenters during recent i3 webinars.

Question 1: Do you often suggest tearing down a church building rather than remodeling?

Actually, we seldom recommend tearing down a church building. We do know that, frequently, church leaders and even attendees can come to dislike their church building. Maybe they think it doesn’t present the right first impression now that there’s a new church vision in place. They might be frustrated with an aging boiler or a leaky roof. They might get caught up in church building envy, wanting something new and fresh, like that the ultra-modern church design two towns over.

However, the bottom line is that it almost always costs a lot more to create a new church design and build a new facility from scratch than it does to undertake even an extensive remodeling of an existing church building. If you’re going to be good stewards of your property, it’s usually a good idea to investigate how your current church building can be remodeled with an excellent church design to meet your current needs.

There are a very few exceptions to this rule. If your church building is no longer structurally sound, then it makes little sense to remodel it. This doesn’t just mean the leaky roof; this means the entire structure is too far gone to be salvaged. Another reason that it might make sense to tear down a large, old church building in disrepair is if the congregation has become so much smaller that they literally cannot afford to care for their property—even if it was repaired.

Question 2: Have you ever dug out a basement under an existing church building?

No, and we wouldn’t recommend it, either. It’s technically possible but creating a basement floor under an existing building is an engineering challenge and an expensive proposition.

If you want to expand your existing church building and have very limited land available, the best church design option is to build additional floors, rather than creating a basement. Even if your existing church design requires significant shoring up to support additional floors, it will still be cheaper and a lot less hazardous to build up rather than down.

Question 3: Does The McKnight Group have availability to begin a church building study in the fourth quarter of 2018, for projects that would begin in 2019?

If your preferred schedule has us visiting you by the end of the year that should not be an issue. The completion of a study will vary depending upon the complexity, size and the availability of the land and/or facility documents. A design study typically requires six to ten weeks to complete after all information is gathered. To find out what information we need from you, email us at request@mcknightgroup.com or give us a call at 800-625-6448.

If you’re not quite ready to take that step, we encourage you to continue gathering information. You can learn a lot from our free i3 webinars, so register for our upcoming events at the bottom of our home page. Also stay tuned, because we will respond to more questions in our next post.

2018-09-25T15:56:49+00:00 September 25th, 2018|Advice, Church Building, Church Design|

Discerning Transformation: When a Church Renovation Is in Order

Our philosophy at The McKnight Group is that a church building is a tool for ministry. As with any tool, it can get worn out, outdated or even damaged and no longer be efficient at fulfilling its purpose. When it happens, church leaders often begin discussing the need for a new church design to fit their evolving vision for ministry in their community.

But this raises a very important question: How do you know when it’s time to invest in a church renovation? Here are three components to a good discernment process. If these elements are in place, you’re probably ready to consider a new church building or renovation project.

#1: A Vision for Ministry in Your Church Building

The first and most important component is a clear and compelling vision for ministry. A church design needs to support the kinds of ministry that you want to achieve in your community. To learn more about how to discern and perfect a great vision for ministry, check out this post on the subject.

It’s also important that the great majority of your attendees—leadership and worshippers—are on the same page about this vision. When it’s time to raise money for your church renovation, it will be critical that the congregation agrees on the outcome. If not, you could end up with a tool that doesn’t work in the way you want it to.

#2: Understand What Your Active, Growing Ministries Need in a Church Design

The second component in the successful church renovation discernment process involves a close examination of the various ministries that use your church building. Which of your ministries are growing and thriving? Which could do even more if they had larger or better space in which to thrive?

It might be a preschool that’s bursting at the seams or an outdated youth ministry space that’s no longer appealing to kids in the neighborhood. Perhaps, your vision for ministry involves an after-school program or Christian school, but you’ll need to renovate your church building before that can happen.

#3: A Well-Planned and Affordable Budget for Your Church Renovation

The last critical component to a successful church renovation is to make certain that you can afford it. You need to pay careful attention to your resources and understand what’s possible. It’s great to begin by dreaming large, but it’s just as important to be realistic about what you can afford.

This does not mean giving up on the big picture. Instead, it might mean completing your church renovation in stages, or choosing different options to support your various ministries. When you work with an experienced church design team like the McKnight Group, we can help you plan the creative church renovation project solutions that will work with your available resources.

Remember that resources aren’t limited to finances. Time, land and people are other components which need to be carefully worked into the full equation. That way, when everyone is on board at all levels, you can begin a church renovation with confidence that the end product will support your vision for ministry.

To learn more about church renovation projects and how an experienced church design team can help, sign up for our free i3 webinars. You can find them at the bottom of our home page.

2018-09-18T18:15:43+00:00 September 18th, 2018|Church Building, Church Design, Remodeling|

Church Design: Planning a Renovation for Your Church Renovation

We live our lives in stages. It took many steps to reach where we are today. The same is true with the lifecycle of a church and of the church building itself. There are many steps and stages that occur over time — some large, others small. Sometimes, church leaders work with a church design that addresses immediate needs. At other times, it’s possible to intentionally plan ahead. In this post, we share the story of a church that actually included a future renovation into their current one when planning their new church building.

Introducing Beavercreek Nazarene

The leadership of Beavercreek Nazarene in Beavercreek, Ohio, had a vision to grow their church. In the beginning, during the early 1990s, they had a worshipping congregation of about 300 people and they needed a new sanctuary to keep growing. They had dreams of seeing 1,000 people in attendance in the future, but they also knew if they built a worship center to accommodate that many, those current 300 attendees would look small and lost in comparison.

Introducing an Innovative Church Design Solution

Their innovative church design solved this problem with two stages of church renovation. They decided to construct a full-size church building but build a pair of walls into the back of the sanctuary, as you see here in this first picture. Behind those walls are classrooms and offices. This left space for 600 in the worship center, which was plenty of room to grow without the congregation appearing too small.

A dozen or so years later, when the Beavercreek congregation had become large enough, they took out those back walls, as you can see in this later photo, and enlarged the worship center to seat the full thousand they had originally envisioned.

Advantages to Planning Multiple Church Renovation Stages

There were several advantages to this staged church renovation process. First, the outer shell of this worship center only needed to be constructed once. All the infrastructure was in place for expanding the sanctuary, which made it very cost-efficient to do when the time came. It also meant that attendees didn’t lose what they felt was “their” worship space when it came time for the second church renovation.

In the beginning, that first church design also housed offices and classrooms in one consolidated church building. Later, when the entire sanctuary space was needed for worship, they also had a larger congregation to draw from in funding the construction of a second space to house the classroom and offices for the church.

Planning ahead with your church design is an excellent way to be good stewards with a limited budget but without limiting your church’s vision for the future. If you’d like some help thinking about innovative solutions, sign up for our free i3 webinars on our website, which give you lots of examples of church designs that address specific church visions and needs. You can also give us a call at 800-625-6448 to talk about your particular church building needs.

2018-09-11T18:02:23+00:00 September 11th, 2018|Church Building, Church Design, Remodeling|

A Final Church Building Trend Example: Traditional Church Design

Over the past several weeks, we’ve been sharing examples illustrating various church building trends. With this post, we will conclude our series of church design photos with a trend that is a surprise to many people: a return to traditional worship spaces.

Why People Seek a Traditional Church Design

At first glance, a return to traditional church design would seem to fly in the face of earlier trends in our series, like third place design. However, the key reason for any church building project or renovation is to support your church’s mission to reach people in your community. What we’re finding today is that the oldest and a segment of the youngest people in many communities are seeking a traditional-looking church design.

Why is this? For those older, the answer is easy to understand. Most of them grew up worshipping in a traditional church and hunger for something that’s familiar, especially as they age and face the challenges that come with it. A traditional church building brings them comfort and hope.

For unchurched millennials, the answer is a bit more complex. Many of them have not been raised in church, but they seek a spiritual life and a connection with something deeper than what social media and work provide. Millennials also seek a sense of history. This is evident in the popularity of genealogy research and DNA testing with young people today. When this group is exploring worship options, they often look for a church experience, and church design, that reflects traditional images and connects them to the past.

Examples of Traditional Church Building Trends

This trend is so new that we’re going to share some 3D rendering of church designs we have recently completed rather than actual photos. In this first example of a traditional worship space, you can see that the traditional look brings with it white walls, white pews, federal windows, wood trim and a very bright, light feeling.

Since couples getting married, especially millennial couples, often want a traditional feel, churches with this type of worship space will use it extensively for weddings. Millennials are also more likely to return to a church where they were married, so having a traditional worship space is a good way to draw them into your church community. In fact, some churches are building two worship spaces, one contemporary and the other traditional, to meet both types of needs.

Keeping Multi-Ministry Options Open with Traditional Worship Space

In this second church design example, you can see a more flexible traditional style church building option. Here, as in the first example, the space is painted in a bright, neutral color and the floors are flat. In addition to making it easier for people to get around, flat floors (and the movable chairs instead of pews) allow this worship center to be a multi-ministry space. Dinners and training events can also be held here, while not sacrificing the more traditional, historical feel for Christian worship.

We hope that this series of church building trend examples has been helpful in your own church design considerations. To learn more about the latest in church building trends, sign up today for our free i3 webinars. If you have specific questions about how your own church building can support your mission for ministry, contact us today at 800-625-6448 or request@mcknightgroup.com.

2018-09-04T17:59:25+00:00 September 4th, 2018|Church Building, Church Design|