church plan


The promise of pre-designed plans

The idea of ready-made church plans sounds ideal. Similar to purchasing pre-designed house plans, you could save time and money, right? After all, the architects and engineers have already done the design and can offer the plans at a reduced fee. Many of our clients ask us if we provide ready made plans.  The short answer is: no we don’t. However, if you’re considering that option there are some issues you need to be aware of.

Will they meet local requirements?

Every church client is unique, therefore no two church buildings are exactly the same. So a church building that works for one congregation will not be suitable for another congregation. We believe every church should have a facility that precisely suits their needs. Since most of the cost of a building project is in construction, it follows that to build a church that exactly suits your needs is no more expensive than a church that exactly suits someone else’s needs. If you choose a plan from an American company you will find that many Building Code requirements are different in Canada, and may even vary from province to province. Plus for commercial buildings your municipality will require the drawings to be stamped by architects and engineers, who may be wary of stamping drawings you purchased elsewhere.

Will they be suitable for your property?

Every site is different. Imagine for a moment that you did find a church plan that exactly suited your needs. As you try to locate it on your property you will find that many of its features just don’t suit the site. For instance the connection between the street and the office area, or the relationship of parking to the various entrances. Or maybe your site has different setback requirements or an inconvenient right-of-way and you can’t locate the building exactly where or how you want to. Or you might have different height requirements, or the number of windows allowed will be different, which may change the functionality of the interior spaces.

How will it be oriented on site?

The mechanical systems will have different design parameters. The same building plan, rotated by 90 or 180 degrees, will have different heating and cooling requirements because the number and size of windows on each side is different, and will have greater or lesser exposure to wind and sunlight. Or perhaps the location of the water or gas lines will be different, forcing you to change the location of the mechanical rooms. So using someone else’s plan will likely require a redesign of the mechanical systems to make sure the proper amount of heating and cooling is available to each room.

What about foundations and soil conditions

On your site, the soil conditions may be different, so a foundation system that worked for the original building may be completely different for you. Soil conditions that require a grade beam and pile foundation are vastly different than soils that can support strip footings and frost walls. The point is that you will need a structural engineer to review the foundations in either case, to design the most efficient system for your site.

Changes will cost money

By themselves, these individual issues may be acceptable to you. But taken together you can see that your off-the-shelf plans may quickly end up costing you as much money as a custom designed plan would, plus you’re left with a plan that compromises functionality because it was designed for someone else. So before you commit to ready-made plans, think it through, ask the right questions, be sure to get professional advice and figure out whether you will actually save any time or money in the process.

For more information contact David or Kelly at Parker Seminoff Architects.

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