Options for External Security of Your Church Building

Making the exterior areas of a church building safe and secure should be a priority in a church design, but that doesn’t mean making the church exterior look like a fortress instead of a welcoming place to worship. It’s very possible to incorporate many security elements into a modern church design in ways that are both seamless and effective. Here are some suggestions and photo examples from a new church building project.

Let There Be Light

Of course, one of the most important considerations for the outside of your church building is good lighting. All parking areas should be well-lit, and there should be no dark spaces around the perimeter of your church building where someone could hide. If you’re concerned about the cost of electricity, we recommend installing motion detectors, and you can also use timers for lights in certain parts of the property when you know meetings or evening events will be taking place.

Keeping an Eye on Everything Around Your Church Building

Cameras are another obvious element in a modern church safety system. At a minimum, we recommend installing security cameras at each entrance to your church building, as well as covering all outdoor areas such as parking lots, playgrounds, and athletic fields. We also recommend placing windows in strategic locations of your church design to allow receptionists and security staff to have a clear view of who is coming and going from your church building.

In the top photo of this recent church design, you can see a series of windows which face out into the parking lot. These windows are for staff offices and the last one, closest to the doors, is by the reception desk. This allows staff clear sightlines to the entire parking lot and the approach area to the front doors of the building. The receptionist can also electronically unlock the front door from their desk once they’ve identified the visitor.

Having a Clear View on Church Safety

The other thing you can see from these pictures of the façade of this church design is that there is a lot of transparency around the church foyer. This allows guests to easily see what’s happening inside and feel more comfortable about entering your church building. It also allows the security team to keep an eye on who is heading toward the doors, so they can respond if something doesn’t look right.

In another post, we have discussed the idea of “building hardening,” which uses bulletproof glass, blast resistance, and decorative physical barriers to prevent someone from shooting or driving a vehicle into your church building. While we haven’t included those in a church design, they are an option that could be considered if exterior church safety concerns are a priority for your community.

While we don’t specialize in security system design, there are basic elements that can effectively be included in your exterior church design to maximize security without taking on the appearance of a fortress. To learn all of our latest ideas about church design, sign up for our free i3 webinars. We also address your questions live when you attend a webinar, so register today.

2021-08-24T20:19:51+00:00 August 24th, 2021|Church Building, Church Design, Safety, Security|

Exceeding the Safety Basic Requirements for Your Church Building

The International Building Code (IBC) helps ensure a minimum level of safety for any building. However, the building code is meant to be a baseline. There are times when church leaders make a conscious choice to exceed those safety basics with their church design. There are also times where you may be required to exceed the basics because of the types of activities that take place in your church building.

Going Above and Beyond with Your Church Design

There are some straightforward ways that church leaders choose to exceed the safety basics required by code. Some can be very simple and not overly expensive. For example, we have worked on church designs that voluntarily included extra smoke detectors.

Some church leaders go much farther. We’ve had conversations with a few of them about installing automatic sprinkler systems because of safety concerns, something that can be a pretty expensive addition. But it’s also an added investment in the safety of everyone who enters your church building.

Incorporating Emergency Evacuation Shelters into Your Church Design

Another area where more churches are going beyond the basics is with storm shelters, although in some areas and situations these may be required. One type of shelter is the emergency evacuation shelter. This is a place where people can gather for safety after a hurricane, tornado, wildfire, winter storm, or other significant event has left them without shelter. To prepare for events like this, you would need to install backup generators, showers, sometimes commercial kitchens, and open spaces in your church building (without fixed furniture) that can be used as gathering spaces and for sleeping.

Does Your Church Building Need a True Storm Shelter?

Another type of storm shelter is one that can withstand the storm itself and provide a safe refuge for people as the storm comes through. These types of shelters are more durable and expensive. They are also required by the IBC (and thus in most states) for many types of buildings, including some new educational facilities. This is important for church leaders to understand.

In some states, the storm shelter requirement applies to all educational facilities, including schools within a new church facility. However, there are exceptions for daycare facilities and “occupancies that are accessory to religious worship.” This means that if you just hold Sunday school classes or small groups in your church building on Sundays, you don’t need to have a storm shelter in place. However, if you have any sort of school, anything from preschool through twelfth grade, you may need to include a dedicated storm shelter that can safely hold all occupants of the entire building. (Of course, every state makes its own decisions regarding storm shelters. For example, Ohio has been delaying the implementation of storm shelter requirements for three or four years.)

What does this mean? That space must have increased roof strength and wall structural design. It must have multiple exits, minimal windows, and be fire separated from the rest of the building. It must have emergency power for light and ventilation for up to two hours, through a generator or battery system. This storm shelter also has to have its own restrooms and first aid station, and many other very specific details. Schools typically combine storm shelters with other big spaces like the cafeteria or a gymnasium (since locker rooms contain restrooms and showers).

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to safety for your church building. We know such building code requirements are not top-of-mind for most church leaders. This is why we implemented our free i3 webinars—to help you understand what’s involved in creating a safe church design and constructing a safe church building. Sign up for our next i3 webinar today!

2021-07-20T20:29:58+00:00 July 20th, 2021|Church Building, Church Design, Safety, Security|

Support Church Safety with a Well-Placed Church Building Security Office

There are some other areas that should be considered when integrating church safety into your church design, like the need for a well-placed church building security office. One that doesn’t stand out but does function well within the overall church design. Here are some key points to equipping and placing your security and medical offices in the best possible location of your church building.

What Does Your Church Safety Office Need?

An effective church safety office needs to be well-equipped to meet the needs of your security team. This means it should be wired for camera monitoring and recording. We further recommend that anytime a service is going on, there is somebody from the security team monitoring cameras and watching public areas, making sure they have an eye on what’s going on in your church building.

Your church safety office should also be located next to a medical office or storage room, that can hold medical equipment like an AED, or automated external defibrillator, as well as standard first aid equipment. Ideally this medical room should function like a small doctor’s office and have an attached, dedicated restroom. If that’s not possible, it should be located near a public restroom in your church building.

Where to Locate the Security and Medical Offices in Your Church Design

These two church safety offices should be centrally located in your church building so that security teams can quickly and easily see and access several key areas. As you can see from this church design, the prime location of this security office gives the team a view of the entire foyer and the main entry to your church building. Through the glass entryway, they even have a view of most of the parking lot through a large, one-way window that faces the foyer. For the public, from the foyer, that window appears to be a mirror, while security staff can easily see out from the inside.

In addition to the foyer, the security office has a clear view down the corridor on the left side of the church design, which leads to the children’s wing. They also can easily see both the welcome center and the main doors into the worship space. The corridor to the right, past what’s labeled as the nurse’s office, leads directly to an outside door with a canopy, which would be where an ambulance is directed for easy pickup from the medical office. You can also see the dedicated restroom, which allows for medical treatment and cleanup in a more private and secure location.

How Else Can Your Church Building Benefit from a Security Office?

In addition to serving as a central medical location and monitoring station, your security office can hold supplies that you will need for various church safety situations. In addition to a defibrillator and first aid equipment, storage space in your security suite can hold ice melt or salt and shovels for winter storms, traffic cones for various occasions, and other useful safety equipment.

As you can see, we’ve given a lot of intentional consideration to every facet of church design. We are glad to share this information with you, which is why we host our free i3 webinars over the course of each year. Click here to learn more and sign up for our next free webinar.

2020-04-07T17:23:16+00:00 April 7th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Safety, Security|

Examples of Church Building Offices with Multiple Safety Layers

Last post, we described some of the church design safety and security measures that might help protect and secure offices in a church building. Here are some examples of how those measures have been incorporated into projects we’ve completed for church leaders like you.

Incorporating Layers of Church Safety into Your Church Design

One important security concept for any church design is to think in layers. While we might think of a church building as a single entity, it is made up of numerous parts. Church safety elements can be implemented into each part of your church building, such as doors, windows, rooms, etc. This means each door can serve as a layer of security, because it can be locked. A window allows people in one room to see into another, and so on. When considered in this fashion, it’s clear that you can do a lot to keep staff and church leadership safe while they are in your church building.

One Church Building Office Area with Three Layers of Security

In this first church building example, you see an office reception area that is very friendly. It’s well decorated, clean, and looks appealing. It also incorporates three levels of security. There’s a door to the left (the doorframe is just visible in this photo) that includes a window, which allows the receptionist, sitting at the desk, to have a direct visual connection with whomever is outside. The door is also locked, so the receptionist must buzz visitors through the door after speaking with them and looking at them through the window. This is the first level of church safety.

For any visitor to move beyond this reception area, they must pass through two more levels of security. The first is the counter, with a volunteer or staff member. That’s level two. Beyond the counter, out of sight to the right, is another door that leads into the actual office complex. That’s level three. Most visitors will just see a beautiful little room, but those who are thinking about church safety will recognize three levels of security built into this one element of the church design.

Another Example of an Office Area Church Design

Here is another church building project, for a very large church. This lovely two-story office entry area is part of a four-story office wing for a church building we designed. It’s a bright and open space with a lot of glass, which makes it appear very welcoming. But there are also many levels of security incorporated into this church design. First, the main front doors are controlled by the staff receptionist, who has a direct view through the glass front doors. As in the first example, people can be buzzed in (a first layer of security) but cannot move beyond this two-story lobby without passing the receptionist (a second layer of security).

Every door in the rest of the office area, on both the first and second floors, can only be accessed using key fobs. So, while there are clearly many doors that can be accessed from this lobby, visitors can’t get anywhere beyond this reception area without an escort who has a key fob. Once again, one church building reception area holds at least three levels of security.

These examples demonstrate that church safety doesn’t have to appear grim or threatening. Instead, it’s about thoughtful incorporation of church safety elements into each layer of your church building. To learn more about what we’re thinking regarding church building design, sign up today for one of our upcoming webinars.


2020-03-17T18:34:19+00:00 March 17th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Safety, Security|

Integrating Church Safety into the Office Portion of Your Church Design

The prior post in this series of articles on integrating church safety and security in your church building shared a church design example of the children’s areas in one of our recent church building projects. But children’s areas aren’t the only ones that need to be kept secure. Office areas in your church design also need safety elements to protect church staff.

Integrating Visual or Video Access Control into Your Church Design

We’ve established in this series that the days when a package delivery person could show up at a church office, push a button, and talk with a receptionist over a speaker system are gone, because audio systems don’t provide enough security. The best church safety protocols require direct visual or video, as well as audio input, before someone is allowed into your church building. The receptionist or volunteer can easily see, for example, whether the delivery person is wearing company-logo clothing and actually carrying a package.

There are additional ways to protect church leaders through access elements in your church design. Providing a separate, private entrance for staff members that leads directly to the office area of your church building means they have a choice about whether to walk through public areas.

Considering Office Rotations and Safe Rooms to Promote Church Safety

One church safety strategy that we’re hearing about lately is the office rotation. This means that the senior pastor plans to exchange offices with another staff person once a quarter. While we have not yet incorporated this feature into a church design, we are open to doing so. We understand that there’s another level of church safety involved when an intruder cannot easily presume to know which office belongs to which church leader or staff person.

Another level of safety which we have researched and discussed with customers is a safe room. This is a room that has dedicated power and ventilation, and which serves almost as a concrete bunker within your church building. While we haven’t yet included a safe room in a church design, it is an option some churches are considering.

Keeping Funds and Files Safe in Your Church Building

Beyond protecting people, which is always critical, it’s important to incorporate ways to keep both money and information safe in your church design. Another type of “safe” room would be a room that holds a safe, such as the counting room where ushers or other volunteers and financial officers can securely count, store, and prepare offerings for deposit. Any financial offices should also be difficult to access from public spaces, locked, and well-protected. The same should be true for the file storage and server rooms in your church design.

In our next post, we’ll share an example of an office entrance area church design that includes multiple layers of security. Meanwhile, we continue to present additional free i3 webinars on a regular basis. Find out what other church building topics we’re talking about here and sign up today.

2020-03-10T18:41:27+00:00 March 10th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Safety, Security|

Putting It All Together: Church Safety Example for Children’s Areas of Your Church Building

We’ve focused on various ways to protect sensitive parts within a church design, especially children’s areas. For example, we’ve talked about interior hardening and modern safety technology, their applications ranging from doors to glass. In this post, we will show how these various elements, along with other safety precautions, can be incorporated to create multiple layers of safety within one church building.

Church Safety for the Nursery Area

We’ve labeled the nursery area with a 1 on this church design. In this space, there is an initial layer of security with a pair of doors leading into the nursery check-in area. That wall and opening is almost all glass—glass doors, glass windows—but all the glass is covered with a ballistic film. The doors also have an emergency lock-down feature, so if there’s any kind of threat, somebody inside this nursery check-in area can hit a button and the doors will immediately close and lock.

Inside this check-in area is a volunteer, providing another layer of human security. Each of the four classrooms has a classroom door, with a check-in counter and another door located in the check-in area, with another volunteer present. This means there are four to five layers of security in an area that looks quite friendly and feels open because there’s a lot of transparency. There’s not a sense of being closed off, but still there is a significant level of security.

Church Design for Security in the Preschool and Elementary Area

In the preschool and elementary area, labeled 2 in this church design, there are even  more layers of security. Initially, there’s the check-in area with a volunteer—that’s layer number one. As in the nursery area, there is a similar set of glass doors and windows with ballistic film that is layer number two. Down the corridor is the elementary worship area, with lockable doors that create a third layer. There are volunteers and staff in the worship area, which is layer four. Finally, each classroom off the central worship area (“Garage”) has a lockable door and is staffed with a volunteer. This means a total of five to six layers of security for these children when they’re in those interior classrooms, which is extremely reassuring.

Keeping Children Safe and Also Happy in Your Church Building

Keep in mind that all these layers of church safety are built into a children’s area that is themed for kids. The church building still looks fun. Kids have no idea about the many levels of security that have been built into this church design. Parents, however, can rest assured that their children are as safe as they can be while they are in your church building. Your security team will also be more confident in assuring families that your church leaders are taking all possible precautions to protect those who worship and learn within your church building.

To learn more about the latest in innovative and secure church design, sign up today for our forthcoming free i3 webinars. Learn more and register here.

2020-02-26T15:14:04+00:00 February 25th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Safety, Security|

How Door Hardening Helps Improve Church Safety in Your Church Building

There are many areas of a church design that can include hardening to increase safety. The outside of your church building can be “hardened” with the use of attractive and functional bollards to control access to your exterior building perimeter. We’ve discussed the ways interior windows and walls can also be hardened to resist intrusion, especially when applied to protect children’s areas of your church building. Another church safety element to consider is door hardening.

Church Safety through Door Hardening

Most residential doors have a hollow core and easily penetrated. In contrast, there are commercial solid-core wood door options that make good sense for a church building where safety is a priority. Metal doors are another option for improving church safety. In addition to the doors themselves, the door frames can be upgraded from wood to metal to present a stronger defense in case of intrusion.

Modern doors, especially in children’s areas of your church building, can also be installed with an emergency lockdown feature, like those found in many public schools. These allow someone to push a button and have the doors immediately and automatically close and lock. Especially when there is also ballistic film installed over any windows in the doors or walls, humans will find it very difficult to get into one of these well-protected rooms in your church building.

Integrating Lockdown Hardware and Shades into Your Church Design

Another option for securing doors that lead to sensitive areas of your church building, like church offices and children’s classrooms, involves lockdown hardware that is manually engaged. As you can see in these photos, lockdown hardware at the bottom of a door can slide into a specially reinforced section of the floor, keeping the door from opening. There are also sleeves that can be installed over a door closer, preventing a door from being opened until the sleeve is removed.

In addition to door hardware, window shades can prove an effective deterrent to intruders. Simply release the Velcro, let the window shade close, turn off the lights, and it will now appear from outside that the room is dark, empty, and unused, since nothing can be seen inside the room.

Putting Together the Church Safety Pieces

There are clearly a number of interior elements to the church safety picture. In our next post, we will put them all together to give you a good sense of how best to keep the interior children’s areas of your church building safe. Each of these elements was discussed in detail, with illustrations, in one of our free i3 webinars. To keep apprised of the latest ideas, insights, and innovations in church safety and church design, we encourage you to sign up for our upcoming church building webinars.

2020-02-18T20:08:18+00:00 February 18th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Safety, Security|

Church Safety Tips for Integrating Interior Hardening into Your Church Design

Continuing our series on church safety and security, we recently addressed ways to harden the outside of a church building. Now we shift indoors to highlight various ways you can integrate “interior hardening” into your church design to keep people, especially children, safe.

Understanding How Ballistic Film Can Increase Church Safety

One of the more interesting safety products available these days is ballistic film. This material is not bulletproof but puncture resistant. The film is applied to windows and anchored in the window frame. It will resist bigger items that might be used to break glass, such as a block, brick, rock or even an ax.

How is this possible? When a rock is thrown at a window or a glass door that has ballistic film, the glass will shatter. However, the ballistic film holds the shattered glass in place, so it doesn’t fall out. Instead, the glass stays stuck to the film, which is anchored in the window frame. This delays potential intruders for many minutes, and even longer. You can find examples of ballistic film being tested on the Internet, and we have recently helped some churches install it on interior windows in their church buildings.

Should You Consider Bulletproof Windows for Your Church Design?

Some church leaders may want to consider upgrading from ballistic film to acrylic bulletproof windows. This option is available but is rarely implemented.

Bulletproof windows aren’t frequently used for interior church safety due to their expense, and because in order for them to be effective, you must “harden” the rest of the area you’re protecting; whether it’s your children’s spaces, church offices, or other sensitive areas of your church building. Otherwise, an intruder can simply move to the side of your bulletproof window and kick a hole in the drywall next to it, and then gain entrance to that area of your church building.

Hardening Walls in Your Church Design

There is, of course, a solution to this problem. To harden an entire area of your church building, you can invest in wall hardening as well. Wall hardening can involve selecting stronger building materials like concrete block, or installing plywood behind drywall, or even steel plates or similar types of bulletproof barriers behind drywall. This prevents anyone from quickly penetrating an interior wall and gaining access to a secured space.

There are many elements of your church design that must be considered in maximizing church safety. In the next installment of our church safety series, we will discuss how you can lock down doors in sensitive areas of your church building. Meanwhile, see what church design ideas we’re discussing now by checking out our free upcoming i3 webinars.

2020-02-11T19:52:46+00:00 February 11th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Safety, Security|

Supporting Church Safety with Modern Access Technology

Modern technology, like video doorbells and keyless entry, is no longer just for home security. Technology like this can also significantly increase church safety and provide appropriate access to your church building. In this post, we continue our discussion on church design safety and security features by focusing on church building access.

Challenges and Solutions for Deliveries to Your Church Building

Not long ago, a standard technology available for controlling access to your church building was a push-button audio system. This allowed delivery drivers or other visitors to push a button, announce their presence, and be admitted into the building. The problem with this system was the lack of visual confirmation. Without a direct view or video view, anyone could walk up, push the button, saying they had a delivery—and get into the building to do mischief or cause serious problems.

Fortunately, modern technology has provided video solutions to this issue. Those same smart video doorbells used in many homes, as well as larger-scale business technology solutions, can be installed in your church building. This allows church staff members or security teams to view exactly who is at the door and what they’re carrying, before allowing anyone to be admitted into your church building.

The Church Safety Advantages of RFID Products

Another significant technological advance is the use of RFID in church security. RFID stands for Radio-Frequency Identification and it is the technology used in wireless key fobs on most cars these days, as well as the access cards used for most hotel rooms and office buildings. RFID has many advantages over traditional entrance methods. Each RFID card or fob is unique and can be programmed to allow access to specific areas of your church building, for specific individuals, and at certain times.

For example, you can set times for individuals or teams of people (such as children’s teams, worship teams, or security teams) to be granted access to certain parts of your church building. Such individualized access also gives you the ability to track the entry and exit of each person, which can be helpful for establishing patterns or addressing situations that might arise.

Another option in access control is magnetic locks, commonly referred to as maglocks.  These provide the security of locked doors, but also have other benefits including lock-down capability.  Doors with maglocks can be secured with one touch of a button in the event of a security threat.  Also, maglocks can be controlled remotely from a office computer or mobile device, or follow a preset locking and unlocking schedule.  Maglocks can also be controlled with an RFID card or fob from the exterior, and usually include motion sensors on the interior to allow free exiting.

Integrating Security and Church Design in Your Public Spaces

We think a lot about security when creating the public spaces in any church design. The key idea here is transparency—keeping public spaces easy and comfortable to use, especially for guests. For example, you want to place restroom doors in very public locations, both for ease of use and to make it more difficult to enter a restroom without being seen. Including welcome counters in your church design with authorized security team members present will go a long way toward helping guests and attendees relax and focus on worship.

As you can see, we think a lot about church safety. In our next article, we look at building hardening from the inside. Meanwhile, click here to learn more about the many church building topics we will cover in our upcoming i3 webinars.

2020-02-04T17:08:33+00:00 February 4th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Safety, Security|

Building Hardening and Why It Should Be Part of a Church Design

There are many perspectives that need to be considered in the development of an effective and inspired church design. In this post, we continue our series on the need to include church safety and security needs in your church building.

What is Building Hardening?

All architects complete continuing education, including Philip Tipton, Vice President of Architecture at The McKnight Group. One of the topics he has studied is how to integrate some aspects of governmental level security into church design.

Building hardening is a term used to describe ways that buildings can be designed to include security features like perimeter protection, forced-entry projection, bullet resistance, and blast resistance, among other threats. Early detection of threats is always the first line of defense, but when it comes to physical building design, perimeter controls are the first line of defense. This is usually accomplished using physical barriers that prevent a vehicle from getting close enough to a church building to do catastrophic damage—whether it’s targeting pedestrians, breaching a secure entry point, or transporting weapons or an explosive device of some type. With perimeter controls, any possible assailant would be forced to get out of their vehicle and walk up to the church building rather than drive close enough to do significant damage.

Incorporating Perimeter Controls into Your Church Design

The most common type of perimeter control is a bollard, a short, vertical post. A series of bollards can be installed in front of any building to prevent vehicles from driving closer. You’ve likely seen bollards, whether metal or concrete, round or square, in front of all sorts of buildings today – airports, office buildings, shopping malls, arenas, governmental buildings, etc. Between partial-height walls, which can enclose some terraced landscaping (it is also impossible to drive upon), and bollards in front of the entrance, you can easily create a hardened perimeter around your church building if needed.

Integrating Beauty, Functionality and Church Safety

The good news is that bollards and other church perimeter controls don’t have to be ugly. As you can see here, bollards can have lights, thereby serving multiple functions. In addition to preventing vehicles from getting too close to your church building, they provide helpful lighting for evening events and draw attention to your church building.

Bollards can also take many other forms, beyond simple posts. These concrete spheres are more than decorative. They are secured into the ground with deep foundations. They are designed to resist a direct impact from a car or a truck. Even though they appear to be decorative only, those spheres are not going anywhere—but they don’t leave the first impression of church safety, and they can be incorporated into an overall exterior design for your church.

Finally, architects have gotten creative about bollards in other ways. In the last example (the image on the lower right), these bollards make attractive, and still very strong, planters. Despite their beauty, these function as more than just planters. Like the concrete spheres, they are anchored to deep foundations in the ground and are designed to resist a direct impact by a vehicle.

As you can see, incorporating church safety into your church design doesn’t have to be conspicuous. Building hardening, and perimeter controls specifically, can also provide a reassuring welcome to any guests who recognize bollards as church safety elements. Those guests will know that you care about the security of all who visit your church building.

Over the course of each year, we share our church building experience and new trends through our free i3 webinars. Sign up today to keep informed!


2020-01-28T21:12:11+00:00 January 28th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Safety, Security|