Lots of church leaders ask us if they can save money on their church building by “going up” (or down, in the case of a basement) rather than out.

As we continue focusing on ways to save money on your church building project, let’s explore this question, along with some of the considerations involved with trying to save money on your initial site work.

Saving Money with a Multi-Story Church Design: Pros and Cons

At first glance, it seems logical that “building up” would save money, because the church building would have a smaller footprint on the land and require less site preparation. Heating and cooling a multi-story building can also be more efficient.

While those arguments are true, they are not the only considerations. For one thing, since churches are considered commercial buildings, every multi-story church design must include an elevator in order to make it handicap accessible on all floors.

In addition, code requires at least two flights of stairs, at opposite ends of the building, be included in the church design. And if you decide to have a basement level that is below grade, there are additional requirements you need to follow to ensure safe egress from the building.

All of which means that, unless your church building will be larger than around 8,000 square feet per floor, the cost savings of building up or down will be more than offset by the elevator and safety expenses incurred.

There are, however, situations where a multi-story church design does make sense. For example, if you’re constructing a church building on the side of a hill—where the lower story can have exits at grade level—that will change the equation. Or if you’ve got a very small lot to start with, going up or down may be the only way you can fulfill your vision for ministry with the space available to you.

But for a standard-sized lot, building up or down usually doesn’t make sense from a cost saving perspective, except with very large church building projects.

Saving Money on Church Building Site Work

While we’re discussing lot type and size, let’s also consider site work. This includes all the preparation that must take place before a church building project can be started. Some people say this is where you’re “putting money in a hole in the ground,” and it can certainly feel that way.

It is true that every foot of installation costs money, so if your church design places the building far away from the street, the cost for installations related to electricity, gas, sewer, asphalt, etc. will be higher. For that reason, some church leaders choose to put their church building right next to the road.

The trick here is to make sure you’re thinking long term. If you’ll need to expand your church building later, will it be easy to expand behind the existing church building, and will the flow of people around your property then make sense?

If you don’t think about such matters in the very beginning, you could end up with a church building that’s too small and difficult to expand, getting in the way of your vision instead of helping you fulfill it.

Looking Ahead: The DIY Question

Our next post about saving money on church building projects will focus on another question we get asked often. In it, we’ll tackle what you and your church can actually do yourselves on your church building project, and whether a DYI approach is advisable in the first place.

Also coming soon we’ll reveal our 2018 lineup of free i3 webinars, so stay tuned—and visit our website to find out more!