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|

What You Need to Know about Church Building Construction Documents

Every business has its own set of rules, regulations, and documentation. The church design and building business is no different. Indeed, before you can set the cornerstone for your new church building, you’ve got to have the paperwork in order. So, let’s discuss some of what you’ll need, specifically what’s required in a proper set of construction documents.

Construction Documents and the Church Design Timeline

Construction documents are prepared once your design, budgeting and funding preparations are in place. You don’t want to begin drafting your church building if you haven’t calculated the cost and determined where the money to cover that cost will come from, whether it’s from cash on hand, a lending institution, pledge drive or a combination of all three. Once you know how you’re going to finance your church building, you’re ready for the construction documents.

Civil Engineering: What’s Outside Your Church Building

There are two types of construction documents: engineering and architectural. Civil Engineering is the term used to describe the documents that will address things outside of your new church building structure. You might be building on a new site, or adding to an existing church facility, and there are different elements involved with each.

If you’re adding additional parking, for example, you might need to submit construction documents for zoning approval. If you’re changing the layout of the land, you will need construction documents that map out storm water management systems. Other types of documents will be needed to show utilities, as they come onto the property and into your church building.

Structural Engineering: Your Church Building Itself

Structural engineering address how the church building will be constructed and supported. This is how the walls, roof, foundations and alike will be laid out and shows support loads required by the building code along with specific loads required by other factors

Architectural documents address how the church building will be constructed and laid out. These details show what a wall is made of, how building codes are met and what finishes are planned. Architects will also need to contribute expertise and coordinate other plans for other engineering disciplines like plumbing, electric, HVAC, audio, video, and lighting.

For example, you’ll want to make sure your electric service and supply is large enough to meet your audio, video, and lighting needs. Will conduits be installed and wires pulled to the places where you need power? Where will you want wall connection points or to plug into the floor instead?

The structural engineer needs to know the load from the roof top unit the HVAC engineer wants to place on the roof.

You will also address interior design in your construction documents. This includes the types of flooring and ceilings, but also the specific types of materials you want for your restroom and kitchen fixtures, doors, countertops, and cabinets.

Putting Plans on Paper

The construction documents cover everything that will go into your church building project, and once you reach this point, your church design will become a defined reality, at least on paper. The good news is that this is where the design process ends, and actual building is ready to begin.

Construction documents are just one topic we covered in our recent i3 webinars. These free seminars address everything from sharpening your church vision for ministry to the latest church design trends. Sign up today for our next one to learn more about the church building process.

2019-08-06T15:53:37+00:00 August 6th, 2019|Church Building, Church Design|

Prepping for the Church Design Process

There’s a “Genesis,” a beginning, to every church building process. It begins with some thoughtful attention to preparation for your church design process. Here’s what you’ll need to do in order to get your project underway in the best way possible.

You Need More than Your Church Vision

We’ve frequently discussed in prior posts the importance of having clarity on your church vision for ministry in your community. Without that vision, you don’t really know what kind of church building you need.

But you need more than vision to get your church building project off the ground. You also need to address some very practical matters.

Begin Your Church Design with a Professional Needs Assessment

Once you have your vision in place, you should figure out how your church building might be holding you back in achieving that vision. It’s why we suggest that church leaders engage with professionals to do a ministry-based needs assessment. It will show where the pinch points are in your ministry plans and where your church building is in the way.

This needs assessment is leadership-based. Some architects will interview many people in the congregation, but we don’t usually do that. We understand that leaders are the ones who really have the vision for ministry in your community.

Another element of the needs assessment is information about current church operations. What ministries are there currently and will you be keeping or growing them in the future? In addition to service and class dates and times we ask questions like these:

  • What ministries are hindered because of the building right now?
  • What ministry is your highest priority?
  • What ministry is most effective for you right now?
  • If you could only change one thing about your building what would it be?
  • What ministries would you start if your building didn’t hinder you?
  • What things have you tried to work around your building’s shortcomings?

All of this is background information you need before beginning the church design process.

Getting Your Church Building Paperwork in Order

Another important element in prepping for the church design process is to gather documentation about your existing church building. This will get your design professional off to a running start. (Even if you’re constructing a new church building from scratch on vacant land, you will need a survey of the property to determine the lay of the land.)

If you cannot find any plans for your existing church building, then an “as-built” survey, which involves taking measurements and drawing out a professional set of plans, can be completed instead. There’s no reason, however, for your church to invest in as-built plans unless you absolutely cannot find the construction drawings for your church building.

As you can see, there’s a lot involved in preparing for the church design process. Whether you’re constructing a new church building from scratch or remodeling an existing facility, you can learn more about what’s involved by signing up for our free i3 webinars. We use these presentations to give you important church design and building information, so sign up and join us!

2019-07-30T13:40:05+00:00 July 30th, 2019|Church Building, Church Design|

What You Need to Know about Building Codes for Your Church Building Project

Have you ever heard of the ICC? It’s not an International Church Conference or the Ice Cream Convention. It’s the International Code Council and most of the building codes in the US and in other areas in the world are established by them. While you might not think that’s something you need to think about with your church design, the ICC building codes have been adopted by about 90% of state and local governments in this country and will likely govern the process of constructing your church building.

Overview of the ICC

The ICC building code (IBC) is over 700 pages and covers nine basic categories, including everything from exterior building height to interior finishes. In addition to the construction of your church building, it also codifies plumbing and mechanical elements used in a church design. There are even property maintenance codes (annual inspections) and codes that support energy conservation (iecc). The ICC is not the only code that affects these areas. There are other codes governing details of plumbing, electric, HVAC, fire suppressions, etc…

Basic Elements of the ICC that Affect Your Church Building

Here are some examples of how the ICC building codes affect your church building project. Take Construction Types, which refer to building materials. Are you constructing your church building out of wood, concrete, and/or steel? Each of those materials must meet different types and levels of fire separation or fire suppression requirements in order for your building to be approved for use.

Another ICC category is Use Groups. This code regulates how you’re going to use your building. If you’re constructing a worship facility, that falls under what ICC calls “assembly” use. The codes for assembly affect the size and types of construction in your church design. If you’re including a daycare in your church building plans, there are certain requirements that need to be met, such as the size of the room and how many and what types of exits you need to incorporate.

Building Accessibility into Your Church Design

Accessibility is also covered by ICC codes, although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and American National Standard Institute (ANSI) governs this as well. For example, you could need to have multiple universally accessible egress areas for your church building. How this is enforced may differ from one state or municipality to another, so a lot depends on where you’re located.

Much of the building code is concerned with getting people safely out in case of a fire, emergency, or disaster. This means taking a careful look at each space in your church design and determining how people will move from one area to another.

As you can see, there are many areas of your church design that will be impacted by building codes. We know them well because we have worked with ICC and other codes since the ICC was adopted in the early 2000’s. If you have questions about how building codes might affect your church building design, give us a call at 800-625-6448. Also be sure to sign up for our next free i3 webinar to learn more about the church design and building process.

2019-07-23T22:31:30+00:00 July 23rd, 2019|Church Building, Church Design|

Replace Your Pews? Build Up or Out? We Respond to Your Church Building Questions

Our free i3 webinars give us the chance to share the latest church building wisdom. We also have a question-and-answer session at the end of each one that gives viewers a chance to ask the questions that really matter to them. Then we can share those questions and answers here. Following are our responses to two more of your i3 webinar questions about church design.

Question 1: We have pews and are thinking of changing to theater seating. What is the trend and what are the advantages?

This is an increasingly common question as more church buildings get older and more church leaders are looking to remodel and update their church building. One reason to consider switching from pews to chairs or theater seating is that people are willing to sit closer together with chairs than they are with pews. When you make the switch, you gain an average of about 10 percent in seating capacity.

There are three factors to consider when deciding between removable chairs and theater seating. The first is cost. In 2019, removable chairs can be purchased for $50-60 per chair (more if you want wooden chairs, which give a warmer, more ornate appearance). In contrast, theater seating costs $200-300 per seat.

The second factor is the floor of your worship space. If you have a flat floor, you can install movable chairs. If your floor is sloped greater than 2%, you really have little choice but to invest in theater seating. This means you’ll need to decide whether the increased seating capacity is worth the cost of installing theater seating.

The third factor is flexibility. If you have a flat floor and want to use your worship center as a multi-ministry space, you might wish to choose movable chairs.

Question 2: Do current church design trends include a basement option or are more churches moving away from that design?

The bottom line with multi-story buildings is added costs. This is because you will need to install an elevator (in most places, this will be a building code requirement) and multiple sets of exit stairways. Elevators and internal stairways will eat into your available square footage, increasing the size of the church building you need to construct. Therefore, if you want to build another level, we strongly suggest that the church building be large enough to justify the cost increase. We suggest a church design of at least 5,000-10,000 square feet to make the additional floor (basement or second story) worth the money.

Of course, if your church building is on a landlocked property, you may have no choice but to build a second story or basement level. In that case, you will need to budget and raise funds for the additional costs of elevators and stairwells. If your land has a steep grade across it then it may be well suited for multiple stories with much additional cost. If you have the available space on your property, however, we do recommend that you build out rather than up or down.

We hope that our responses to these questions are helpful in your decision-making process. Whether you’re ready to remodel an existing church building or are looking at new church design options, sign up for our free i3 webinars to learn about the process and get your questions answered.

2019-07-17T04:27:54+00:00 July 17th, 2019|Church Building, Church Design|

How Advances in Technology Are Impacting Church Design

Technology impacts our lives in many ways, and churches are not exempt from the benefits of tech in daily living. Here’s how newer technological trends and advances can improve a church building and impact church design.

AVL Technology—and More—in Your Worship Center

Audio, video, and lighting (AVL) are three systems integrated in any modern worship location, especially in church buildings designed for real-time simulcasting. Integrating Wi-Fi and connectivity with AVL increases the seamlessness of multi-campus ministry with virtual worship. AVL, when set up well, can make it feel like the pastor is in the room with you.

Another technological advance in church design is handling sermon questions in real time, which allows people to text questions while the pastor preaches. After the question arrives, the pastor can quickly read it and respond. (Please note that we do not design AVL systems, but we can incorporate them into your church design and can recommend a list of reliable vendors for purchasing the technology.)

Integrating Technology Throughout Your Church Design

A dedicated space for monitoring and controlling these advanced technological systems is another big need. Modern church design can incorporate rooms set aside for video control, online streaming and recording control, video editing, and sometimes audio-visual recording studios. Because technology constantly changes, we suggest including space for additional technology in your church design.

We also suggest integrating technology throughout your church campus because tech innovations aren’t limited to worship. Digital signage, kiosks for giving, and dedicated church apps, which can include real-time sermon notes and an option for feedback to the leadership team, are examples of using technology in your church building.

Easing Church Building Management

Not all modern technology supports church attendees; some of it supports leaders such as you. For example, many commercial structures now have smart-building controls for HVAC that staff, from a distance, can manage through apps. We can include these energy-management systems in your church design. Wherever you are in the world, and with a reliable signal, your phone can regulate your church building’s heating and cooling units.

When we started building churches in 1970, none of this technology was available. Since then, so much has changed, but the bottom line for church design remains the same: The building and technology are tools to bring people closer to God.

Technological advances have also helped us share our i3 webinars for free—and in a format that’s easy for you to access. By registering for our next i3 webinar, you can keep up to date on the latest in church design and building trends.

2019-07-09T16:43:41+00:00 July 9th, 2019|Church Building, Church Design|