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Maximizing Space Utilization

Construction cost per square foot and the size of the building determine the total building project cost. While knowledgeable design by a cost-conscious architect, with the input of value engineering through construction management, can control the cost per square foot, the size of the church building is the most significant factor in determining the cost of the building.

Instead of your building committee simply giving the architect a wish list of functional needs and leaving the space interpretations to the architect, your committee needs to understand how to facilitate all the church functions in the least amount of space that will adequately accommodate the ministry.

This efficiency in space utilization requires the church leaders and building committee to understand the ministries for all age groups, the amount of square feet per person for each function, and the relationship of the functions so that space allocations will harmonize. (You should not have youth and infants functions next to each other.)

By giving the architect a program for the new spaces that contains specific definition of size and allocation for each room, along with the maximum project cost, you can greatly increase the probability of constructing an affordable project.

This space needs analysis, with results submitted to the church architect as the program for design and construction, is one facet of the church development consultants ministry on behalf of the church.

This functional basis for the design of the new facility (rather than the exterior appearance of the building as the primary criteria) provides the greatest assurance that the building will facilitate the development of the church’s ministry. Otherwise, the facility will dictate the feasible functions.

Therefore, efficient space utilization is a key to getting the maximum number of functions in the least amount of square feet. Here are some hints on maximizing space utilization.

Design the Classroom Section with Large, Open Rooms
A departmental assembly room with adjacent small individual classrooms may double the amount of required education space in the building. The small classroom can serve no other function in addition to the small class. Large spaces cost much less to construct with fewer walls required.

A large open room can effectively house the departmental Sunday school structure comprised of multiple cases that can meet as small class groups at tables in the same room. The quality of teaching can actually improve with the best teachers mentoring the less experienced teachers. The noise factor can be overcome with discipline and cooperation. Teachers soon learn how to work together as they become accustomed to the multi-group setting.

Use Free-Standing Movable Partitions
When greater privacy is needed in the large multi-group room, use sound-absorbing partitions that are free-standing to allow the greatest flexibility in room configuration. These partitions are less expensive than movable walls and provide much greater functional flexibility.

Equip Each Open Room for a Specific Age Group
For example, a primary room for ages 6-8 can serve most, if not all, the functional needs of this age group. Configure the room with an assembly area and multiple tables for classes during the Sunday school hour. Reconfigure the room for primary church. Arrange the room appropriately for club night for primaries.

Structure Adult Sunday School Classes to Utilize the Entire Room Space
I often see a small group of adults in a room that could house many more with an appropriate multiple small group structure. Adults are probably 75 percent of your attendance potential.

Structure these adults in fellowship groups of perhaps 35 people, and then divide the fellowship group into small table groups. You can house this group in a room with about 600 square feet of space. The same department/small class concept can be effectively applied to the adult age division.

Use the Fellowship Hall for Other Functions
For example, divide the hall into several adult classrooms by using free-standing movable partitions. This large area can house several adult fellowship groups (ABFs) and provide a setting for effective teaching by utilizing a small group structure with maximum participation in a conversational tone, rather than the more common, ineffective lecture teaching method.

Use Movable Seating in at Least a Portion of the Worship Center
In some instances, we have used a combination of pews and chairs, with the chairs for the back rows of this assembly area. These chairs can be reconfigured into circles for small groups during Sunday school or prayer meeting. We often design the worship center with overflow classrooms that serve as worship seating as well as adult classroom space.

Some churches make the entire worship setting a multi-use area by using movable chairs rather than pews. I never recommend worshiping in a gymnasium.

However, there are other functions that respect the dignity of the worship space. Some deem it appropriate to also use this space as the fellowship hall when growth and budget constraints make it necessary.

Schedule Multiple Times for Church Functions
While you may consider it the ideal to have a family night with choir rehearsal, Bible clubs, and adult electives all at the same time, you will defeat your purpose if no one has an adequate functional space. Consider scheduling the club program on a separate night.

If you chose to have two morning worship services, make certain that you provide quality worship music. Allow adequate time between sessions to allow people time to fellowship with one another. (This is often the only time the people see others in the church.)

You must also double Sunday school capacity by adding classrooms or scheduling multiple sessions. Otherwise, you will not effectively assimilate the worship congregation into participatory church life.

Unless the church architect is a participant in your kind of church, he will not understand these functional concepts. Before engaging the architect, bring the church consultant to your church for ministry, facility, and financial planning. You’ll be glad you did.

This information is courtesy of Screenflex, which manufactures portable room dividers, www.screenflex.com.

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