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Moveable Walls, COVID, and Religious Facilities

January 8, 2021 jill Blog
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Other than educational facilities, the religious/worship vertical market has been affected the most by the pandemic. But religious facilities, especially existing, are faced with very unique space division issues.

The premise of a worship facility is based on “congregating,” to meet together as a unified body to worship and praise. But how do you congregate and at the same time maintain mandatory separation requirements and able to sanitize surfaces and stay safe?

As it is in all aspects of our congregating life today, effective solutions will require a coordinated approach between building features and design/operational practices. This will not be inexpensive, and it will require change and adapting to the new normal.

There will be a need to modify and make changes to existing religious facilities as well as in the design of new in order to ensure the health & safety of occupants, maintain the confidence of congregants, and make all feel comfortable when in attendance.

COVID has created a need for new planning and design precedents based on a new way of life, including how we work, learn, congregate and worship. Reducing density based on specific needs by means of moveable walls is possible and desirable.

  • Using moveable walls in a well-thought-out way in order to divide space into multi-functional areas is, quite frankly, a no-brainer. Fixed permanent walls, although initially less costly, will no longer suffice and provide maximum flexibility and adaption to changing needs.
  • In recent years, there has been a growing trend toward creating more versatile spaces. Traditional single-venue worship venues are now becoming modern community meeting places that allow both large and small gathering by the use of moveable walls. A well-thought-out plan will provide a structure offering multifunctional capabilities as well as provide the present day need for separation.
  • Moveable walls can be designed to provide alternate one-way entrance & exit routes in order to avoid large gatherings and then relocated to provide a large open space area.
  • Facilities will have to post “safety banners” in prominent locations reminding people about how COVID spreads. Using “steel skinned” operable panels with magnetic attachments, rather than softer gyp skinned panels with stick pins, is preferable so as to ensure a longer lasting and more maintenance-free moveable wall system.
  • Provide special delivery receiving areas that are located remote from the larger building population. Special areas for receipt and storage of goods can be created quickly by the use of operable walls with the option of opening up the area after for alternate purposes. Steel skinned durable Excel low STC operable walls are perfect for this application.
  • Lobbies, foyers, and entrance areas, rather than being wide open allowing for close contact, can be divided up with glass panel systems to provide the feeling of being open but also provide secure separation. The ability to open up these areas completely fully or divide as needed is achievable by using panel systems.
  • Meeting rooms will have fewer chairs but may still require at time larger groups of people or two meetings taking place at the same time. An operable wall is what you require for social distancing. Operation is based on easy, dependable, quiet, low-maintenance manual operation with a multitude of aesthetic options and various degrees of acoustical privacy. The best choice would be an economical center stack paired panel system with automatic base seals and a perimeter trim that allows the user to grip the panel edge in a specific identified location, thus reducing the need to sanitize the entire panel surface.
  • Because of distancing, more areas for people to work will have to be found. Common areas, lobbies, and general areas where people once met socially will still be needed, but these areas can be quickly divided by installing operable partitions that create multi-functional areas as needed.

This information is courtesy of Moderco, which engineers, designs and manufactures Operable Partitions, Accordion Folding Partitions and Operable Glass Partitions, www.moderco.com.

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