The COVID-19 pandemic has focused attention on the safety and security of church buildings in new ways. As churches around America have emerged from the pandemic, church leaders are thinking about health and safety, social distancing, and a patchwork of different regional regulations. But there’s a lot more to safety and security than keeping guests and attendees healthy. Here are some of the many ways that your church design can be impacted by safety and security concerns.
First, Some Definitions
Before we get too far, let’s define safety and security. Safety is an overarching term that refers to all the types of ways that a church building could be made safer for everyone who enters the property. There are the potential medical issues like disease spread, but also physical hazards (such as weather-related slipperiness), environmental disasters, fire safety, and building security. There are church design elements that specifically impact safety, such as the strength of roofs in snowy climates and the structural integrity to withstand high winds in the midwestern and southern parts of the country.
Church building security is a subset of safety. It relates specifically to dealing with human threats, such as crime and vehicular safety issues.
Counting on the Codes for Your Church Design
Safety is partially addressed by building codes. Every state and incorporated city or town has a set of building codes. Many states (such as Ohio, where our business is officially based) follow the International Building Code (IBC), and you can learn more about how it could impact your church building here. The IBC dictates minimum standards for all sorts of safety elements, ranging from the number of egresses (exit doors) and windows you must have to the type of fire suppression system you must incorporate into your church design.
Why Building Codes Matter
Recently, we’ve all gotten a taste of why building safety codes matter in the news. The terrifying and sad partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South condos in Surfside, Florida is being investigated with many factors in mind. While Champlain Towers was not a church building, this disaster stresses the need for and importance of local building codes to keep everyone safe in buildings of all types.
It’s also important to understand that building codes provide a minimum of protection. Church leaders may choose to do more than is required to preserve the life of their church building and invest in the future of their church community. In our next post, we will explore some of the ways church leaders are choosing to go above and beyond with their church design choices.
We regularly update church leaders on our latest church design safety and security suggestions. We do this here on our blog, but also through our free i3 webinars, which focus not just on innovations and ideas, but also on the insights that arise from keeping an eye on the safety and security issues that arise in buildings across the country, such as in Surfside. So, stay informed by signing up for our free i3 webinars, where we are also happy to answer your questions about church design and building recommendations.