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Integrating Church Safety into the Office Portion of Your Church Design

The prior post in this series of articles on integrating church safety and security in your church building shared a church design example of the children’s areas in one of our recent church building projects. But children’s areas aren’t the only ones that need to be kept secure. Office areas in your church design also need safety elements to protect church staff.

Integrating Visual or Video Access Control into Your Church Design

We’ve established in this series that the days when a package delivery person could show up at a church office, push a button, and talk with a receptionist over a speaker system are gone, because audio systems don’t provide enough security. The best church safety protocols require direct visual or video, as well as audio input, before someone is allowed into your church building. The receptionist or volunteer can easily see, for example, whether the delivery person is wearing company-logo clothing and actually carrying a package.

There are additional ways to protect church leaders through access elements in your church design. Providing a separate, private entrance for staff members that leads directly to the office area of your church building means they have a choice about whether to walk through public areas.

Considering Office Rotations and Safe Rooms to Promote Church Safety

One church safety strategy that we’re hearing about lately is the office rotation. This means that the senior pastor plans to exchange offices with another staff person once a quarter. While we have not yet incorporated this feature into a church design, we are open to doing so. We understand that there’s another level of church safety involved when an intruder cannot easily presume to know which office belongs to which church leader or staff person.

Another level of safety which we have researched and discussed with customers is a safe room. This is a room that has dedicated power and ventilation, and which serves almost as a concrete bunker within your church building. While we haven’t yet included a safe room in a church design, it is an option some churches are considering.

Keeping Funds and Files Safe in Your Church Building

Beyond protecting people, which is always critical, it’s important to incorporate ways to keep both money and information safe in your church design. Another type of “safe” room would be a room that holds a safe, such as the counting room where ushers or other volunteers and financial officers can securely count, store, and prepare offerings for deposit. Any financial offices should also be difficult to access from public spaces, locked, and well-protected. The same should be true for the file storage and server rooms in your church design.

In our next post, we’ll share an example of an office entrance area church design that includes multiple layers of security. Meanwhile, we continue to present additional free i3 webinars on a regular basis. Find out what other church building topics we’re talking about here and sign up today.

2020-03-10T18:41:27+00:00 March 10th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Safety, Security|

The Latest Look at Rising Church Building Costs

We’ve posted before about the adage “time is money,” especially as it relates to the construction industry. Here’s another one: “time waits for no one.” Both simply mean that the longer you wait to create a church design and construct your new church building, the more it’s going to cost.

In 2018, we laid out the rising construction costs leading up to that year. Well, it’s been two years and costs continue to rise. Here’s an update on what to expect.

Inflation and the Church Building Process

Since we last wrote about it, there has been no slowdown in rising construction costs. This inflation rate can have a significant impact on your budget and your new church building’s bottom line.

We want to draw attention to the fact that time is a critical factor. It can be a long stretch between your first conversation about needing a new church building or expansion, and the day you dedicate that new building. After all, there are many necessary steps: developing a vision, drafting an appropriate church design, getting everyone in your church on board with the idea, raising funds for the building, securing a loan for the difference between the budget and your cash on hand, obtaining the various permits necessary, carrying out the construction project itself, then finishing it in style, addressing everything from carpeting and furniture to the landscaping. It’s very common for the whole process to take two to three years. The costs at the start of the planning will certainly be lower than the costs at the end of construction.

Inflation and new challenges

According to The Turner Cost Index, construction costs in America increased 4.82% in 2019 and over the last four-year period inflation has averaged around 5% per year.  Of course, the actual numbers in your community will be affected by the pace of construction in your part of the country, but nevertheless we are seeing increases in construction costs everywhere.

In 2019, we experienced a new challenge that contributes to these rising costs: a trade war involving tariffs. Electronics and light fixtures imported from China make up a very high percentage of controls and lighting fixtures used in construction today. The tariffs on Chinese goods increased the price of these items 20 – 30% overnight!

More concerning than tariffs is the construction workforce.  As baby boomers reach retirement age, much of the skilled labor work force is leaving. It’s not being replaced at the same rate. According to a labor study by the business research group Conference Board, since 1995 the number of men aged 16 to 24 in blue collar jobs has dropped by 10%. 

Accompanying this drop is also a slowdown in labor productivity.  Less work getting done in the same amount of time will contribute to rising construction labor costs.

What Does This Mean?

Construction inflation can be substantial, but other factors are playing into the inflation, which will increase the rate in coming years. We’ve said it before, and it’s truer now more than ever. If you’re having conversations in your church, or even just among church leaders, about how your church building is hampering your growth or not meeting your ministry needs, don’t delay. Building a church will take plenty of time, even if you don’t procrastinate, and some elements of the process—like inflation—will always be outside of your control.

Start planning now. Reach out to have a conversation with us and get the process started. The road ahead can take longer than you might anticipate, and construction inflation means that it could also be more costly then you planned.

2020-03-03T20:54:20+00:00 March 3rd, 2020|Budgeting, Church Building, Church Design|

Putting It All Together: Church Safety Example for Children’s Areas of Your Church Building

We’ve focused on various ways to protect sensitive parts within a church design, especially children’s areas. For example, we’ve talked about interior hardening and modern safety technology, their applications ranging from doors to glass. In this post, we will show how these various elements, along with other safety precautions, can be incorporated to create multiple layers of safety within one church building.

Church Safety for the Nursery Area

We’ve labeled the nursery area with a 1 on this church design. In this space, there is an initial layer of security with a pair of doors leading into the nursery check-in area. That wall and opening is almost all glass—glass doors, glass windows—but all the glass is covered with a ballistic film. The doors also have an emergency lock-down feature, so if there’s any kind of threat, somebody inside this nursery check-in area can hit a button and the doors will immediately close and lock.

Inside this check-in area is a volunteer, providing another layer of human security. Each of the four classrooms has a classroom door, with a check-in counter and another door located in the check-in area, with another volunteer present. This means there are four to five layers of security in an area that looks quite friendly and feels open because there’s a lot of transparency. There’s not a sense of being closed off, but still there is a significant level of security.

Church Design for Security in the Preschool and Elementary Area

In the preschool and elementary area, labeled 2 in this church design, there are even  more layers of security. Initially, there’s the check-in area with a volunteer—that’s layer number one. As in the nursery area, there is a similar set of glass doors and windows with ballistic film that is layer number two. Down the corridor is the elementary worship area, with lockable doors that create a third layer. There are volunteers and staff in the worship area, which is layer four. Finally, each classroom off the central worship area (“Garage”) has a lockable door and is staffed with a volunteer. This means a total of five to six layers of security for these children when they’re in those interior classrooms, which is extremely reassuring.

Keeping Children Safe and Also Happy in Your Church Building

Keep in mind that all these layers of church safety are built into a children’s area that is themed for kids. The church building still looks fun. Kids have no idea about the many levels of security that have been built into this church design. Parents, however, can rest assured that their children are as safe as they can be while they are in your church building. Your security team will also be more confident in assuring families that your church leaders are taking all possible precautions to protect those who worship and learn within your church building.

To learn more about the latest in innovative and secure church design, sign up today for our forthcoming free i3 webinars. Learn more and register here.

2020-02-26T15:14:04+00:00 February 25th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Safety, Security|

How Door Hardening Helps Improve Church Safety in Your Church Building

There are many areas of a church design that can include hardening to increase safety. The outside of your church building can be “hardened” with the use of attractive and functional bollards to control access to your exterior building perimeter. We’ve discussed the ways interior windows and walls can also be hardened to resist intrusion, especially when applied to protect children’s areas of your church building. Another church safety element to consider is door hardening.

Church Safety through Door Hardening

Most residential doors have a hollow core and easily penetrated. In contrast, there are commercial solid-core wood door options that make good sense for a church building where safety is a priority. Metal doors are another option for improving church safety. In addition to the doors themselves, the door frames can be upgraded from wood to metal to present a stronger defense in case of intrusion.

Modern doors, especially in children’s areas of your church building, can also be installed with an emergency lockdown feature, like those found in many public schools. These allow someone to push a button and have the doors immediately and automatically close and lock. Especially when there is also ballistic film installed over any windows in the doors or walls, humans will find it very difficult to get into one of these well-protected rooms in your church building.

Integrating Lockdown Hardware and Shades into Your Church Design

Another option for securing doors that lead to sensitive areas of your church building, like church offices and children’s classrooms, involves lockdown hardware that is manually engaged. As you can see in these photos, lockdown hardware at the bottom of a door can slide into a specially reinforced section of the floor, keeping the door from opening. There are also sleeves that can be installed over a door closer, preventing a door from being opened until the sleeve is removed.

In addition to door hardware, window shades can prove an effective deterrent to intruders. Simply release the Velcro, let the window shade close, turn off the lights, and it will now appear from outside that the room is dark, empty, and unused, since nothing can be seen inside the room.

Putting Together the Church Safety Pieces

There are clearly a number of interior elements to the church safety picture. In our next post, we will put them all together to give you a good sense of how best to keep the interior children’s areas of your church building safe. Each of these elements was discussed in detail, with illustrations, in one of our free i3 webinars. To keep apprised of the latest ideas, insights, and innovations in church safety and church design, we encourage you to sign up for our upcoming church building webinars.

2020-02-18T20:08:18+00:00 February 18th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Safety, Security|

Church Safety Tips for Integrating Interior Hardening into Your Church Design

Continuing our series on church safety and security, we recently addressed ways to harden the outside of a church building. Now we shift indoors to highlight various ways you can integrate “interior hardening” into your church design to keep people, especially children, safe.

Understanding How Ballistic Film Can Increase Church Safety

One of the more interesting safety products available these days is ballistic film. This material is not bulletproof but puncture resistant. The film is applied to windows and anchored in the window frame. It will resist bigger items that might be used to break glass, such as a block, brick, rock or even an ax.

How is this possible? When a rock is thrown at a window or a glass door that has ballistic film, the glass will shatter. However, the ballistic film holds the shattered glass in place, so it doesn’t fall out. Instead, the glass stays stuck to the film, which is anchored in the window frame. This delays potential intruders for many minutes, and even longer. You can find examples of ballistic film being tested on the Internet, and we have recently helped some churches install it on interior windows in their church buildings.

Should You Consider Bulletproof Windows for Your Church Design?

Some church leaders may want to consider upgrading from ballistic film to acrylic bulletproof windows. This option is available but is rarely implemented.

Bulletproof windows aren’t frequently used for interior church safety due to their expense, and because in order for them to be effective, you must “harden” the rest of the area you’re protecting; whether it’s your children’s spaces, church offices, or other sensitive areas of your church building. Otherwise, an intruder can simply move to the side of your bulletproof window and kick a hole in the drywall next to it, and then gain entrance to that area of your church building.

Hardening Walls in Your Church Design

There is, of course, a solution to this problem. To harden an entire area of your church building, you can invest in wall hardening as well. Wall hardening can involve selecting stronger building materials like concrete block, or installing plywood behind drywall, or even steel plates or similar types of bulletproof barriers behind drywall. This prevents anyone from quickly penetrating an interior wall and gaining access to a secured space.

There are many elements of your church design that must be considered in maximizing church safety. In the next installment of our church safety series, we will discuss how you can lock down doors in sensitive areas of your church building. Meanwhile, see what church design ideas we’re discussing now by checking out our free upcoming i3 webinars.

2020-02-11T19:52:46+00:00 February 11th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Safety, Security|

Supporting Church Safety with Modern Access Technology

Modern technology, like video doorbells and keyless entry, is no longer just for home security. Technology like this can also significantly increase church safety and provide appropriate access to your church building. In this post, we continue our discussion on church design safety and security features by focusing on church building access.

Challenges and Solutions for Deliveries to Your Church Building

Not long ago, a standard technology available for controlling access to your church building was a push-button audio system. This allowed delivery drivers or other visitors to push a button, announce their presence, and be admitted into the building. The problem with this system was the lack of visual confirmation. Without a direct view or video view, anyone could walk up, push the button, saying they had a delivery—and get into the building to do mischief or cause serious problems.

Fortunately, modern technology has provided video solutions to this issue. Those same smart video doorbells used in many homes, as well as larger-scale business technology solutions, can be installed in your church building. This allows church staff members or security teams to view exactly who is at the door and what they’re carrying, before allowing anyone to be admitted into your church building.

The Church Safety Advantages of RFID Products

Another significant technological advance is the use of RFID in church security. RFID stands for Radio-Frequency Identification and it is the technology used in wireless key fobs on most cars these days, as well as the access cards used for most hotel rooms and office buildings. RFID has many advantages over traditional entrance methods. Each RFID card or fob is unique and can be programmed to allow access to specific areas of your church building, for specific individuals, and at certain times.

For example, you can set times for individuals or teams of people (such as children’s teams, worship teams, or security teams) to be granted access to certain parts of your church building. Such individualized access also gives you the ability to track the entry and exit of each person, which can be helpful for establishing patterns or addressing situations that might arise.

Another option in access control is magnetic locks, commonly referred to as maglocks.  These provide the security of locked doors, but also have other benefits including lock-down capability.  Doors with maglocks can be secured with one touch of a button in the event of a security threat.  Also, maglocks can be controlled remotely from a office computer or mobile device, or follow a preset locking and unlocking schedule.  Maglocks can also be controlled with an RFID card or fob from the exterior, and usually include motion sensors on the interior to allow free exiting.

Integrating Security and Church Design in Your Public Spaces

We think a lot about security when creating the public spaces in any church design. The key idea here is transparency—keeping public spaces easy and comfortable to use, especially for guests. For example, you want to place restroom doors in very public locations, both for ease of use and to make it more difficult to enter a restroom without being seen. Including welcome counters in your church design with authorized security team members present will go a long way toward helping guests and attendees relax and focus on worship.

As you can see, we think a lot about church safety. In our next article, we look at building hardening from the inside. Meanwhile, click here to learn more about the many church building topics we will cover in our upcoming i3 webinars.

2020-02-04T17:08:33+00:00 February 4th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Safety, Security|

Building Hardening and Why It Should Be Part of a Church Design

There are many perspectives that need to be considered in the development of an effective and inspired church design. In this post, we continue our series on the need to include church safety and security needs in your church building.

What is Building Hardening?

All architects complete continuing education, including Philip Tipton, Vice President of Architecture at The McKnight Group. One of the topics he has studied is how to integrate some aspects of governmental level security into church design.

Building hardening is a term used to describe ways that buildings can be designed to include security features like perimeter protection, forced-entry projection, bullet resistance, and blast resistance, among other threats. Early detection of threats is always the first line of defense, but when it comes to physical building design, perimeter controls are the first line of defense. This is usually accomplished using physical barriers that prevent a vehicle from getting close enough to a church building to do catastrophic damage—whether it’s targeting pedestrians, breaching a secure entry point, or transporting weapons or an explosive device of some type. With perimeter controls, any possible assailant would be forced to get out of their vehicle and walk up to the church building rather than drive close enough to do significant damage.

Incorporating Perimeter Controls into Your Church Design

The most common type of perimeter control is a bollard, a short, vertical post. A series of bollards can be installed in front of any building to prevent vehicles from driving closer. You’ve likely seen bollards, whether metal or concrete, round or square, in front of all sorts of buildings today – airports, office buildings, shopping malls, arenas, governmental buildings, etc. Between partial-height walls, which can enclose some terraced landscaping (it is also impossible to drive upon), and bollards in front of the entrance, you can easily create a hardened perimeter around your church building if needed.

Integrating Beauty, Functionality and Church Safety

The good news is that bollards and other church perimeter controls don’t have to be ugly. As you can see here, bollards can have lights, thereby serving multiple functions. In addition to preventing vehicles from getting too close to your church building, they provide helpful lighting for evening events and draw attention to your church building.

Bollards can also take many other forms, beyond simple posts. These concrete spheres are more than decorative. They are secured into the ground with deep foundations. They are designed to resist a direct impact from a car or a truck. Even though they appear to be decorative only, those spheres are not going anywhere—but they don’t leave the first impression of church safety, and they can be incorporated into an overall exterior design for your church.

Finally, architects have gotten creative about bollards in other ways. In the last example (the image on the lower right), these bollards make attractive, and still very strong, planters. Despite their beauty, these function as more than just planters. Like the concrete spheres, they are anchored to deep foundations in the ground and are designed to resist a direct impact by a vehicle.

As you can see, incorporating church safety into your church design doesn’t have to be conspicuous. Building hardening, and perimeter controls specifically, can also provide a reassuring welcome to any guests who recognize bollards as church safety elements. Those guests will know that you care about the security of all who visit your church building.

Over the course of each year, we share our church building experience and new trends through our free i3 webinars. Sign up today to keep informed!


2020-01-28T21:12:11+00:00 January 28th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Safety, Security|

Church Safety Elements to Include in the Exterior of Your Church Design

We’ve discussed the need for safety and security with topics such as types of security needs, deadly force, and emergency response times. We’re now going to focus on incorporating specific safety elements into your church design.

There are many safety components to include in the exterior features of your church building and property, so we will begin with these:

Safety Elements for Parking Areas and Exterior Features of Your Church Building

Key safety church design elements for parking areas and outdoor portions of your church building are good lighting and cameras. Attaching photocells to your exterior lighting gives you the ability to turn lights on and off based on the time of day or current weather. Another option is timers, which can keep lights on until a certain time at night when you know all activities at your church building should be finished. Motion detectors are also an option for exterior lighting. These will trigger lights to come on if somebody drives onto your property, or past a certain area of your building.

Cameras and recording devices are also critical for churches today. It’s a good idea to install them at every building entry point—including emergency exits. Cover other strategic locations as well, including parking lots, playgrounds, and athletic fields. Also, having church security teams be visible and alert during church events will help keep everyone safe.

Integrating Church Safety into Playgrounds and Athletic Fields

Church safety must extend to all areas where people gather on your church property. All playgrounds should have fall-safe surfaces for playground equipment and appropriate fencing for the age level of the children that use each playground.

Athletics area designs should include fencing that prevents younger children from entering the sporting areas and keeps spectators safe from flying balls or bats. We recommend that you include safe storage for sports and ground keeping equipment in your church design to minimize the chances of accidents.

Church Design Factors for the Exterior of Your Church Building

Here at The McKnight Group, we focus a lot of attention on door and window location and design for every church building. Church safety includes ensuring that everyone can exit every building safely, and also making it difficult for unwelcome guests to enter your church building easily. We focus attention on making sure it’s difficult for them to enter your building through ground-floor windows without triggering alarms, and also by using window materials that make entry difficult.

Additionally—and it’s unfortunate—we’re beginning to discuss with some church leaders the elements of embassy design that can make your church building safer. These include vehicle barriers, which don’t allow vehicles to get close enough to your church building to cause any damage in the event of a car bomb or a shooting. There is also something called building hardening, which we will discuss in more detail in our next post.

As you can see, there are many useful ways to integrate church safety into your church design. To learn more about many different aspects of church design, register today for our upcoming free i3 webinars.

2020-01-21T13:01:41+00:00 January 21st, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Safety, Security|

Here is 2020’s Lineup of i3 Church Building Webinars

It’s a new year, which means we have scheduled a new set of i3 webinars. As always, these free webinars are designed to share ideas, insights & innovations (the i3) about church design and building projects.

Every year, we share the latest information we have on best practices for church building and remodeling, concerning a wide variety of topics. Use this list to plan which ones you want to attend and learn about. Each webinar also gives you the chance to ask us questions about your church design and building projects. We hope you will join us for these informative webinars throughout the coming year.

January 16 – Current Trends in Church Design

We begin the year with a look at the latest church design trends in America. We will address new and recurring trends influenced by technology, the economy, and other factors. The webinar will include examples from several McKnight church design projects.

February 20 – How to Fund Your Project in Today’s Economy

Funding your church building or remodeling project in uncertain times can seem daunting, but many churches are successfully making it happen. In this webinar, we’ll share specific methods that churches are using to raise money, and we’ll give you some tools for constructing a realistic budget as well.

April 16 – How to Transform the Building You Have into the Building You Need

Many church leaders aren’t certain how to make an older church building fit to support today’s ministries. If you feel your building gets in the way of effective ministry, this i3 webinar will show how real churches transformed their buildings to create ministry opportunities they could not have imagined.

May 21 – Security Design for Today’s Church Building

Security is a common theme in every aspect of life today. In this webinar, we review existing building code requirements, what types of security you can design into your church building, and what you should be considering as you develop your church security plan.

June 18 – Steps to a Successful Church Interior Design Project

Many church leaders forget that interior finishes are a critical component to an attractive and welcoming church building. In this webinar, we’ll address various types of finishes, the importance of good planning, and provide a step-by-step guide to the interior design process.

July 16 – Developing a Clear Vision for Your Church

A clear and focused church vision for ministry is the best starting point for any church building project. In this i3 webinar, we’ll take you through the steps for developing a vision that can guide your church design. We’ll also outline how to transform such visions into a church building that supports your many ministries.

August 20 — Creating Effective Children’s Spaces

Do you have any idea how to draw families with children to your church building? Are you needing to transform existing spaces that will entice and excite young families and children? In this i3 webinar, we’ll discuss both best practices for children’s spaces in your church building and some frequent pitfalls you’ll want to avoid.

September 17 – Step by Step: New Church Building from Start to Finish

Everyone needs some type of guidance when taking a trip for the first time. This i3 webinar is designed to guide church leaders on each step of your church building project, addressing which direction to take, the best stops to make, and the most cost-effective ways to successfully arrive at your destination.

October 15 – Principles for a Successful Church Building Project

In this final i3 webinar of 2020, we’ll share some of the challenges we’ve encountered in over forty years of church building projects and the principles we’ve developed to avoid them. You’ll learn everything from who is needed on the leadership team to how best to understand your financial potential and what makes a building functional.

As you can see, we’ve put together nine timely and informational webinars over the next year, our 50th in business! We hope you will plan to join us for this free webinar series.

2020-01-14T21:31:26+00:00 January 14th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design|

Maintaining a Safe Church Building with Church Safety and Security Teams

Every church leader wants their church building and entire campus to be a safe haven, both for guests and regular attendees. And while we are church building experts rather than church safety and security professionals, we are sharing some information to help church leaders be prepared, and to increase awareness of the importance of integrating church safety into a church design. In this post, we focus on the value of church safety and security teams.

Church Building Risk Assessment

One key reason to have a church safety and/or security team is to assess risks within and beyond your church building. This involves reviewing your entire church property and your church building for weaknesses, threats, and opportunities that could be exploited by those with bad intent. The advantage of having a security or safety team is that it will intentionally be looking for weaknesses and thinking about how to address them, in order to make your church building a safer place for everyone. It’s critical to have background checks performed on every member of your church safety and security team (as well as all who work in children’s ministries).

Training and Visibility for Church Safety Teams

When you’ve got your church safety team in place, it’s important for them to understand what they’re expected to do in every situation. Comprehensive and ongoing training is essential. While we might think about the need to counter the deadly use of force, it’s much more likely that team members will be called to address a medical emergency. This is why it’s a good idea to have team members who are trained in CPR, in using an automated external defibrillator or AED, in general first aid, and who also can recognize the onset of a violent incident.

The visibility of church safety team members can also go a long way toward preventing violence. Parking lot attendants are a good example. Having someone keeping watch can deter many who might be looking for an easy target. The same is true in your foyers, and even in your worship center.

Critical Communication to Keep Your Team Safe

Clear assignments and communication with safety and security staff are critical. Some churches like to use professionals and may even hire sheriff’s deputies or police officers to be on the property and in the church building at certain times. Volunteer teams are the more common alternative, but it’s critical to make certain there is no conflict between volunteers and on- or off-duty first responders (police, firefighters, EMTs, or even professional medical staff, such as nurses and doctors).

It’s important for your security teams and volunteers to clearly understand who’s in charge in case of an emergency. Most volunteers would defer to a medical professional, but complexity can quickly arise during other kinds of situations. Circumstances involving concealed-carry laws, which vary greatly by state, would be one example.

This information on church safety and security teams comes from one of our free 2019 i3 webinars. Stay tuned for our next post, where we will detail our i3 webinar series for 2020.

2020-01-07T17:48:34+00:00 January 7th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Safety, Security|