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General Church Building Guidelines
Follow the directions for church building is an excerpt from the authors book, “Before you build“. These church building guidelines have been compiled from many sources, including years of experience in what really works, and what doesn’t. Use these guidelines as a starting point for planning, but please note Note that these are general guidelines for a church building program, and each of these has exceptions and modifications depending on your specific needs.
In general, you should estimate about 1 hectare per hundred people. This allows for your building, adequate parking, green space, entertainment and stormwater management. This space requirement will be greatly reduced in a metropolitan area with on-street or public parking.
Plan for 1 parking space at a time for every 2.25 people on campus. This will probably be less than the city or county parking requirement, but will more accurately reflect the actual need. In the beginning you will be able to get away with less parking, however, you need to plan for the overall capacity of the facilities for adequate parking, even if you decide to grow it over time.
To get a good idea of parking needs for an upcoming building program, have someone go into the parking lot and count cars over a period of several weeks with good participation from everyone on campus. Divide the average total attendance (men, women and children) by the average number of cars. The result would probably be around 2 to 2.5 people per car. Multiply this number by the capacity of your new space and this will tell you how many parking spaces you will ultimately need to park everyone in order to fill your building to capacity.
Estimate the on-site parking to be approximately 100-110 cars per hectare. Regular parking (parking decks/garages) is VERY expensive. While structured parking can dramatically increase parking per acre, use it only as a last resort due to the high cost of construction.
Sanctuary seating requirements typically range from 10 to 15 square feet per person, depending on the design, type of seating, style of seating, and overall size of the sanctuary. The stage area should be considered separately from the seating area, which may vary greatly between churches.
Using chairs instead of pecans will usually allow you to fit more people in the same space, perhaps as much as 20% more. The chair also allows you to reconfigure your sanctuary as needed to support a variety of uses (weddings, Sunday morning service, events, community use, fellowship, etc.)
Vestibule / Lobby / Narthex should be 2 square meters per person in the center of worship. Typically this will be about 15-20% of the sanctuary seating area. If you plan to run multiple services, you should add this to make “switching” easier.
Classroom sizes range from 12 square feet per person (for adults) to 35 square feet per person in the room (kindergarten and toddler), depending on the age group using the space.
Almost no church is built with enough warehouses, guards and work space.
The high school basketball court is 50×84 feet. Adding the modest amount of space around the edge of the court for out-of-bounds, plus allowing for a room, storage rooms, multi-purpose rooms, etc., means you’re probably looking at a minimum 7,500-8,000 square foot building.
Personal offices are generally recommended to be at least 120 square feet and pastor’s offices to be at least 150 square feet (with a recommended size of 300 square feet). Cubicles in open workspace areas range from 48 to 105 square feet, although they can be as small as 4’x4″ (16 square feet).
Round tables in the fellowship hall will reduce seating capacity by 20% or more. In calculating space requirements, plan on 12 square feet per person for square tables and 15 feet for round tables.
In total, a building with dedicated spaces for sanctuary, fellowship, education, administration and multi-use space may require 35-55 square feet of space per person, depending on the program, ministry and other factors.
A building with multi-purpose rooms (some rooms used for multiple purposes) may require about 23 square feet per person.
For women, plan on almost twice the resting capacity.
The corridor should not be less than 6 meters. If you run a lot of services to make “shifting” easier, seriously consider more spacious lounges. This is especially important around Sunday school rooms, and the area always seems crowded.
Handicap ramps do not have a drop of more than 1 inch per linear foot unless handrails are provided.
Budget about 10% of the building cost for new furniture.
Generally, first floor space above grade is cheaper than basement or 2nd floor space. If you have the room, it’s usually better to spread out horizontally rather than vertically to keep costs down.
One way to estimate the cost of furniture is to take the floor plan of your new facility and make a room-by-room breakdown of the items you need to purchase for that room. The easiest way to do this is in a file with room columns, item description, quantity, cost and total cost (formula number times item cost). Open a catalog of church supplies and set reasonable prices for each item and let the results table complete.
None of the above points should be interpreted as advice on what to do, but only as reference points to use in your planning and budgeting process.
With this information, you are now equipped with some general ideas about church building. As they say, a little knowledge can be dangerous, however, it is less dangerous than lack of knowledge.
It is often in the best interest of the church to find an outside consultant, either within the denomination or an independent church building consultant to help shape these general concepts into a specific plan for the church building program. Outsourcing is almost always a smart move because the difference between knowing and not knowing something is much smaller than the difference between knowing something and doing it.
Mistakes are easily made. For more information on how to solve critical church building problems, read “Before You Build: Helpful Tips and Experienced Advice for Preparing Your Church for a Building Program“available for free download immediately.
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