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Church Building Codes and ADA Requirements for Weekday Daycare and Preschool Spaces

We covered that any preschool or daycare program that your church operates during the week will have to be certified by appropriate agencies. Those agencies have a different, and often stricter, set of rules and regulations than you need for your Sunday church design. You’ll also need to consider how building codes and other government rules will affect the daycare and/or preschool programs in your church building. Here are the types of issues you will need to address in your new or remodeled church design:

Understanding Building Code Regulations

Your state childcare board is not going to dictate how you should construct your church building, just that it follows building code. These codes will contain requirements for childcare, so your church design needs to incorporate them.

In childcare, the big age demarcation is under and over 30 months of age. For any children under 30 months old, there are some extra building requirements. You must have doors from each classroom that take you directly outside. This means, especially if you’re remodeling your church building, that you can’t use basement or second-floor classrooms for children under 30 months old. Another requirement arises if you will have over 100 kids under 30 months of age. In this case, your church building must have automatic sprinklers installed (for fire suppression).

Meeting Church Design Requirements for Hot Meals and ADA

There are also more general requirements that must be met for your childcare programs. If you are going to serve a hot meal in your childcare program, your kitchen must meet health department codes. This includes a certain number and type of sinks, a certain number of cooking devices, and whether you need kitchen hoods, fans, grease traps, and so forth.

ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) also dictates numerous requirements for the elevators, family restrooms, doorway widths, ramps, and other elements of your church design so that your building is handicap accessible. You also must design a safe egress from your church building. For example, if you have an older building and you want to have rooms upstairs for grade-school children, the stairs leading there can’t be too steep or wide, and they have to be consistent.

Hallways also have requirements. In a church remodeling project, your older hallways could be too narrow, or it could take too long before you arrive at a stairwell (what’s called “travel distance”). You could also have dead-end corridors, which make it more difficult for children to escape in case of a fire. Building code requires that any upstairs level in your church building that’s used for childcare should have at least two stairways leading to where you can exit at ground level. You can’t have any classrooms beyond those stairways (in dead-end corridors) because there would be no way out if there’s a problem.

Clearly these regulations are put in place for good reasons. It’s important to protect everyone who uses the classrooms in your church building any day of the week. To learn more about best church design practices, sign up today for our next free i3 webinars.

2019-10-15T17:12:24+00:00 October 15th, 2019|Church Building, Church Design|

Church Design Principles for Weekday Daycare and Preschool Spaces

We covered church design principles for children’s spaces on Sundays and special church events. But what about a daycare or preschool that is open for business during the week? The design principles for these kinds of church building spaces are a little more complicated. First off, the appropriate state agency will have to certify any daycare or preschool program, which means meeting certain standards and following additional, stricter rules. We’ve provided some points below to consider.

Understanding Church Building Childcare Terminology

There are two basic types of childcare programs churches commonly offer, and each requires state licensing and approval. Daycare programs for children will usually take children of all ages and is a year-round program. Preschool programs, however, generally handle a certain age range and only happen during the school year.

Preschool and Childcare Church Design Numbers and Ratios

For preschool children, state agencies generally require room size between thirty and thirty-five square feet per child, which is larger than the numbers you’re allowed for Sunday use. If you intend to use your church building for preschool or childcare, you need a church design with more generous children’s spaces.

Another factor to consider is the number of children per teacher. State agencies also set these ratios, which vary according to age and location. For example, if the ratio for newborns to twelve-month-old children is 1:5, then you need one teacher for every five babies. The ratios increase as the children get older. A typical ratio for five- to eleven-year-old children might be 1:18 (one teacher for every eighteen children). 

Churches occasionally miscalculate these ratios, which should be carefully considered in your business plan. For example, you might design a nursery for ten babies that’s only 260 square feet, which is fine for church use at 25 square feet per child but is not enough for a daycare space that might need at least 30 square feet per child. Although you’re allowed to have ten babies under one teacher’s supervision, the room design itself only allows for eight. The income for two babies is lost, which might mean the difference between your program breaking even or losing money. Remember: because the numbers vary from state to state, check the rules and ratios for your state.

Additional Requirements and Special Program Opportunities

In addition to classroom space for preschool and childcare, you need to follow state requirements for restrooms and playgrounds. Because many states require one restroom fixture for every ten children, you may need to incorporate larger restrooms into your church design. Your outdoor playgrounds will need between 50 and 60 square feet per child, and after you determine how many classrooms’ worth of children you want on your playground at one time, you will need to make it big enough.

Finally, state programs rate daycare and preschool programs, and you can improve those ratings by including special program spaces, such as an art room for preschoolers or a computer room for older daycare kids, in your church design. If you’re aiming to make your church building a magnet in your community, this is another way to make your program stand out.

Preschool and childcare spaces require careful planning and consideration. And we’re not done yet—our next post will address the impact of building codes and ADA on childcare and preschool spaces. Meanwhile, take a look at our upcoming free i3 webinars, where you can learn more about creating the best church design for improving ministry in your community.

2019-10-08T21:01:00+00:00 October 8th, 2019|Church Building, Church Design|

Children’s Church Design for Sunday Use: Kindergarten through Fifth Grade

Our last several posts have focused on functional church design principles for children’s spaces for use on Sunday (and other days when ministry is happening, and childcare is needed). Last time, we reviewed the best church building setup for a Sunday nursery and discussed how your church design can best serve preschool children and their families. In this post, we address the church design needs of children in kindergarten through fifth grade.

Church Design for Kindergarten through Fifth Grade Classrooms

As we’ve noted before, the younger the children, the more space they need, so it follows that elementary school-aged children will not need as much room as preschoolers or those in your nursery. We recommend that you allocate 20–25 square feet per child for these school-aged classrooms.

Grade school rooms are going to be equipped with some similar fixtures and furnishings to those that you find in a preschool classroom. You will need cabinets or closets to store worship materials, teaching aids, art supplies, paper and pencils, and so forth. You might decide to install sinks in these classrooms, if you expect children will be participating in activities that can be messy, like art projects. Since these are older children, capable of making bigger messes and splashing farther, we recommend churches that install sinks in school-aged classrooms to install a tiled area around the sink, to make cleanup easier.

If you expect to be doing a lot of arts and crafts, you may wish to tile a broader section of the floor, to prevent damage to carpeting. However, you will want comfortable carpeting installed in an area of the classroom so that kids have the option of sitting on the floor when appropriate.

Church Building Restrooms for School-Aged Children

In planning for restrooms in your church design, keep in mind that these children, unless they are home-schooled, are likely learning at school how to visit a restroom down the hall from their classroom. It’s no longer necessary to have restrooms that are connected to each classroom (as younger children need). However, for security reasons, you may still wish to have group restrooms located close to the classroom and within the secure children’s area. Having both a smaller adult restroom and a larger children’s group restroom, within the secure area, can also be a good idea so no one needs to leave the area until parents come to pick up their children.

Again, sometimes there may be building codes that dictate the number and configuration of your group restrooms, so check on the requirements of your municipality.

Other School-Aged Children Design Considerations

Windows are something to also consider with older kids. Some churches wish to install windows between individual classrooms so that volunteers and staff can look at what’s going on in the other rooms and get someone’s attention if they need help. Windows also ensure that a child cannot be left alone with a teacher or volunteer.

To learn more about our various church building recommendations for each aspect of your church campus, check out our i3 webinar page and register for our next free church building webinar.

2019-10-01T17:10:04+00:00 October 1st, 2019|Church Building, Church Design|

Children Church Design for Sunday Use: Preschool Age

Different age ranges of children each have different requirements, so your church building should take these different needs into account. In this series, we’re focused on specific children’s needs for Sundays and special events rather than as a full-time daycare facility.

Whenever parents are busy elsewhere in your church building, whether they’re in worship or adult education or a special event, you need the right space available to care for and teach their children. This post looks at the needs of preschool-age kids.

Church Design for Preschool Rooms

The general principle for room space for children is this: The younger they are, the more space they need. With a nursery, the children aren’t that active, but you need space for changing tables and possibly a washer and dryer. When you create a church design for preschool children, you need to understand that these children will be more active, so you need a safe space for them to move around. Therefore, it’s important to plan for between 25-30 square feet of space for each child in your preschool room.

Preschool rooms are going to be equipped with many of the same types of fixtures and furnishings that you find in the nursery: sinks, cabinets, and child-sized tables and chairs. Here you won’t have cribs or rocking chairs for adults to rock babies, but you will need to have both adult and child-sized chairs, and the children will need to be able to access the sink in the classroom (even if it’s via a movable step stool). You will need supply cabinets too for more arts and crafts and teaching aids than you needed for the nursery room.

Church Building Restrooms for Preschool Needs

Restroom design for preschool classrooms is a challenge. Children in this age range will benefit from having a restroom attached to the classroom (see the schematic design above), so they won’t have to travel far (or be unsupervised) when they need to go. Since preschool children are small and learning to use these facilities, some churches install small toddler toilets (and lower sinks) in these adjacent bathrooms.

Determining how many toilets of which type (including handicap accessible) is also a consideration—one that is often determined by local building codes, so it is wise to check on the requirements for your municipality.

Other Preschool-Area Considerations

As you can also see in the schematic, there’s a curved desk in the upper yellow part of the image. This is the check-in desk for this portion of the children’s wing of the church building. Having a central check-in point allows parents to watch as their children are safely escorted all the way to the door of their preschool classroom. It also keeps parents separate from the children’s classrooms, minimizing crowding and the potential for chaos with many small preschoolers running through the area.

In our next post, we’ll complete this series by addressing the needs of children who are in kindergarten through fifth grade. To learn more about our various church design recommendations for all ages, check out our i3 webinar page and register for our next free church building webinar.

2019-09-24T21:10:39+00:00 September 24th, 2019|Church Building, Church Design|

Children Church Design for Sunday Use: Nursery Age

It goes without saying that children have very different needs from adults, and any church design must take these different requirements into account. Parents are much more likely to return to your church if they recognize that church leaders have given thoughtful attention to the needs of children. This includes not just colorful walls and child-sized chairs in the rooms, but various other aspects of your church building as well.

There are several ways children’s needs can be addressed with a good church design. It might be play areas, or the presence of a daycare, but every church building should plan for one specific children’s need: Sunday use. In other words, those times when you’re having services or other church events and need childcare to be available.

Church Design for the Nursery

In this post, we’re focusing specifically on Sunday church design ideas for nursery age children:  0 to 18 months. In coming weeks, we’ll also cover the other two important age groups: preschool (children ages 18 months to 5 years) and grade school (children in kindergarten through fifth grade).

Typically, a church design for nursery age kids should provide between 25 and 30 square feet of space per child in the room. This means in a room for 10 kids, you will need it to be between 250 to 300 square feet in size. If you want 20 kids in each room, then you’ll need to plan for 500 to 600 square feet.

Within this space, you will need to think about where to establish an area for changing diapers, whether that’s a built-in changing table or a piece of furniture. You will need a sink for hand washing nearby as well as cabinets for storage of diapers, wipes and related materials. You will also probably want a closet or cabinet for additional supplies, toys, towels, and blankets and sheets for the cribs.

Additional Church Building Rooms Connected to the Nursery

Those towels, blankets and sheets will need to be washed, so you might wish to add an adjacent, dedicated laundry space to your church design. Some churches add a dishwasher for sanitary washing of toys, teething rings and other nursery equipment. Shared restrooms dedicated for the nursery are also a very good idea. With this age group, shared restrooms would be for the staff or volunteers working in the nurseries, not necessarily for the babies themselves. By placing these restrooms close to the nursery, attendants are never far from the children in their care.

Other Room Considerations

One other room you might want to incorporate into your church design is a nursing room for mothers. This convenience allows mothers to remain in the area when they pick up their child for nursing, rather than having to hunt for an appropriate space in another part of your church building. If you’re working on a new church design or even a significant church remodeling project, you can consider installing video from your worship space so mothers can continue to worship while they care for their baby.

With so much to consider when designing church building spaces for infants, it’s a good idea to consult with church design professionals to help with all the decisions. In our next post, we’ll address the specific needs of preschool-aged children. Meanwhile, drop by our free i3 webinar page to see what other church building information we’re sharing with church leaders like you.

2019-09-17T19:16:19+00:00 September 17th, 2019|Church Building, Church Design|

We Answer More of Your Church Design Questions

Our free i3 webinars provide a wealth of information on the latest in church design and church building. In every webinar, we also allow time for Q&A when participants can voice their individual questions and receive helpful responses. We periodically share our answers to pertinent questions for the benefit of all church leaders.

Here are two questions, and our responses, that came up in one of our recent i3 webinars.

We need a church design plan before fundraising can begin, but we need to know how much to raise before we develop a plan. Which comes first?

While this may seem like a chicken-or-the-egg question, you should figure out what you can afford first, and after determining that, you can develop a church design that will fall within the scope of your budget. You can fund raise with that specific plan in mind.

A church building industry rule of thumb is that you do not borrow more than three times your annual income, which is the limit of your debt load, because you don’t want monthly payments on a church building loan to be more than a third of your budget.

What does that look like in concrete numbers? Say your annual church budget is $300,000. Multiply that number times three, and you can borrow up to $900,000. If another $100,000 in cash is on hand, a budget of $1 million is possible, but the safer plan is $950,000. If the church design plan were to call for over $1 million, making your monthly payments could be very difficult, and your lending institution may not loan that large of an amount.

In your experience, is prefabricated steel, stick-built, or precast concrete the most cost-effective building type?

The answer depends on your building’s size and purpose. If you’re constructing a building under 5,000 square feet, a stick-built building (also called a wood frame or wood truss) should be a very economical choice. Prefabricated steel is more economical for buildings over 5,000 and up to about 25,000–30,000 square feet. For a building over 30,000 square feet, other materials can be a better option.

The church leader who posed this question also mentioned stone, but any true craftsman stone building will be very expensive. You might want to include some stone accents, but if you’re counting cost, building your entire church with stone would not be economical option.

Choosing the building type is another consideration for your church leaders. A church building filled with simple classrooms will be more efficient as a stick-built structure. A tall worship center without annoying, sight-blocking posts will usually need to be constructed from steel. Clearly, with so many factors involved, it’s best to have a church design professional help you draft plans that will meet your needs.

We always recommend consulting with church building professionals as soon as possible in your church design phase. Call us today at 800-625-6448 and talk with us about your particular situation and ask your church building questions.

2019-09-10T18:48:20+00:00 September 10th, 2019|Church Building, Church Design|

Summarizing the Main Stages of the Church Building Process

Over the last several posts we’ve looked at some key steps in a church building project. Within any building project, there are many details that must be completed to have a successful outcome. But, it’s also helpful to have a big picture view of the process to understand how everything fits together. In this post, we’ll review the main components of a church project in one place and provide some links for more details.

The Church Design

The first goal in the church building process is to get the design of your church building down on paper. Here you start with a clear vision, identifying ministry needs and making sure leadership is unified behind the plan. Then the architect creates schematic drawings outlining the vision. There’s more to do, however. In order for a church building project to proceed, you need to address local building and zoning codes and get approvals, especially for any variances. You’ll also need to create an accurate budget for your church building project.

Fundraising for Your Church Building

The next component is funding. Once you have the exact plans, you can begin to share your vision for ministry with your entire church community. This will usually involve a stewardship campaign to raise funds for the building, and many times a loan (to be paid off by the pledges made) so that you do not have to wait for all the money to come in before you start building.

In order to get that loan, you will have to give the lending institution a lot of detailed information about your church, as well as a thorough budget for your church building or remodeling project. The documentation can take some time to gather, so it’s important to be working on it early in the building process

Building Your Church Design

With a plan for fundraising in place and financing approved, it’s time to move on to construction. But before actual building can begin, construction documents must be completed. These will guide your contractor during the building phase.

This is also the time to finalize the actual construction costs so that the proper funding is in place and then obtain needed construction permits. Once these elements are done, you can begin the actual construction of your church building.

How long does all this take? Generally, we’ve found that the entire process requires an average of between 18 and 24 months before a shovel can be put in the ground.

It is a long process, and not to be taken lightly. But the right church building can be the key to success for ministry in your community, so it’s a project worth pursuing when the time is right.

To learn more about the church design and building process, sign up today for the next in our free i3 webinar series.

2019-09-03T16:54:10+00:00 September 3rd, 2019|Church Building, Church Design|

Completing a Church Building Project: The Closeout

Your church remodeling or new construction project has many steps that need to be completed. But every project, no matter how long it takes, has an ending! Let’s look at the last steps in a successful church building project and what you can expect to receive from your building contractor during this final phase.

Church Construction Closeout

Some people call this the walk-through (or punch list), but we prefer the word closeout. At the end of the construction process, it’s time to walk through your church building—inside and out—and list anything that’s not working properly, needs finishing, or needs attention before the project is over. Once each item is addressed, you can rest assured that you have a fully functional church building that’s ready for move-in.

Church Building Systems Training

Training is another important element in this final, closeout phase. Church leaders and selected attendees need to know how to use your new or remodeled church building. Your contractor should teach, for example, how to operate the HVAC system (every manufacturer is slightly different), how to program and remotely connect to the thermostat, and when and how to change filters.

One item we like to provide is an operational manual that details maintenance information for various devices like furnaces and kitchen appliances, light fixtures, and recommended lightbulbs. We even include the best way to clean your floors and how to maintain fixtures for long life and reliable functionality.

Church Design Drawings and Building Warranties

In this closeout phase of a church building project is when church leaders should receive red line drawings and warranties. You should have warranties for your roof, flooring, and various appliances. You should also get final church design schematics for your records showing what was actually built. For example, a change during the church construction process will be redlined on your final set of drawings.

These drawings are also important for longer-term planning. You might not refer to them again after the closeout, but if the next generation of church leaders wants to add on or remodel your church building, the architect will need to know about your church building’s construction and the installation of things like pipes, ducts, and electrical and media wiring. The record drawings, which should be stored in a safe and well-labeled location, provide this information.

Whether you’re preparing a church design process or going through the challenges of a church building project, look forward to the closeout phase. To learn more about each aspect of a church design and construction project, sign up today for our free i3 webinars that share more information the entire church building process.

2019-08-27T18:01:06+00:00 August 27th, 2019|Church Building, Church Design|

Your Church Building Work After Construction Starts

Once construction begins on a new church building or remodeling project, it still isn’t time to sit back. The construction phase is a time when many of the final details must be determined, and when questions can come up at every step along the way. This is especially true if you are undertaking a remodeling project and need to be using your church building during the construction period.

What are Church Building Coordination Meetings?

We strongly recommend regular coordination meetings between church leaders and construction project managers during the construction of your church building. These meetings provide an opportunity for both client and contractor to talk about what’s happening, and for them to address the inevitable questions that will arise during the construction process. No matter how well the project is designed, changes will be necessary. It’s best to be able to talk about those at regularly scheduled meetings.

How Often Should You Meet?

The frequency of church building coordination meetings will vary, depending on the type of project and the preferences of church leaders and project managers. If you meet weekly, you will usually have quick, touch-base meetings. If you meet every other week or once a month, your meetings will likely be longer, as more questions will arise and more of the finishing details will need to be addressed at each meeting.

What is Discussed at Church Building Coordination Meetings?

If you are undertaking a remodeling project of an existing church building that you are currently using, you will need to discuss logistics on a regular basis, most likely weekly. This is to make certain that you are aware of how the ongoing construction project could affect your Sunday and weekday operations at each stage of the renovation process. Contractors will need to know your regular schedule of ministries and meetings (especially during the week), including all events happening in or near the construction zone. You will also need to keep the construction team informed about special ministry events that may change your regular building-use schedule and thus impact the ongoing remodeling work. On the other hand, if you are constructing a new church building in a different location or a portion of your property not currently utilized, then the subject matter of your meetings will focus mostly on finalizing details of the project.

With both new construction and remodeling projects, you will need to decide such things as color selections and keying schedules in coordination meetings. Keying schedules determine how many types of keys the building will have, whether there’s a master key system, and how many keys of each type you will need.

Constructing a new church building or doing a church remodeling project are complex tasks. Keeping communication going through the use of regular meetings is always recommended. To learn more about what else we recommend throughout the church design, construction and finishing phases, sign up today for our free i3 webinars. You can find the list of our upcoming topics here.

2019-08-20T17:07:25+00:00 August 20th, 2019|Church Building, Church Design|

Will Getting Your Church Building Permit Be Easy or Hard?

Before any contractor can start construction on your church building or remodeling project, you must have a building permit in hand. Of course, there are steps to cover before you’re ready to get the building permit, including resolution of any zoning issues, a completed church design and a finalized set of construction documents. Once those are in place, you’re ready to begin the building permit process. But will that process be easy or hard?

When Getting Your Church Building Permit Is Easy

There are some situations where obtaining your church building permit will be a fairly straightforward process. You have only one jurisdiction to deal with, you submit your construction documents to them, and you wait a few weeks up to a month for them to finish their process and issue the permit. In the rare situations where it’s this easy, count your blessings, but generally speaking, the smaller the town, the more quickly and smoothly the process will unfold.

When Getting Your Church Building Permit Is Hard

There are exceptions to every rule—and with building permits, the exceptions actually are the rule. There are several factors that can slow down the permitting process.

First, many jurisdictions will not issue your church building permit the first time around. Instead, they will issue what’s called a “correction” or “clarification” letter. This is simply a request for more information on a certain part of the project or questions that require a response from your architect before the plans can be approved. An experienced architect can anticipate the questions, especially if he or she is familiar with your jurisdiction and its processes, but there is always the chance that you will need to address these questions and issues before the permit is approved. This means the process might take six to eight weeks instead of four.

Second, we’ve developed another rule of thumb for the church building permit process: The larger the city, the longer it will take and the more complex it’s likely to be. Every city is different. We had one project where the town was very strict, and it took an entire year to complete the sewer permit portion of the building permit process. That’s an uncommon scenario, but we share it as a warning that you can’t guarantee the process will be finished in just two months.

Finally, and this is rare, it’s possible that your church property could be situated on a border between city and county land, for example, or two different cities. In such a case, you could end up needing to get approvals from both jurisdictions. This can become especially complex if they have different standards that you need to meet.

The Good News

Fortunately, many building permits will be issued in the two-month time frame mentioned above. It’s not often easy and seldom very hard—but those hard cases do occur, so it’s wise to allow some extra time for your church building permit to be issued.  

Also, keep in mind that along with a building permit, often a zoning permit and site permit are needed. Sometimes these permits can be applied for all at once. Sometimes they must be done sequentially, where you’ll apply and receive the zoning permit before you can apply for the building permit.  

To learn more about each aspect of the church design and construction process, sign up and join us for our free i3 webinars. It’s where we present ideas, insights and innovations for building your church.

2019-08-13T18:48:45+00:00 August 13th, 2019|Church Building, Church Design|