How does the church administrator, working with his designers and builders in developing a new church design, work through the labyrinth of possibilities and make the right decisions balancing up-front costs with long-term energy and maintenance costs? It's not easy, but worth all the time and effort you'll put into it. Experienced church designers and builders have a lot to say on this subject, in terms of both general principles and specific tips.
High Means Dry
A good place to start is the ground elevation, that is to say, the height of the lowest floor above the surrounding grade. "The ground elevation can almost never go too high," says Albert R. Luper of Worship Concepts. "But it can go too low. If the ground elevation is too low you will always have moisture problems, which means rot and mold."
Most big churches have concrete floors, and Luper explains that these floors should be a minimum of 12 inches above grade. This will keep the water away and give the building a "chance to breathe." Luper says a wood floor should go 20 inches or higher above grade.
The most important energy consideration in the design of exterior walls and a roof is insulation. "You are always struggling with thermodynamics," says Luper. The basic concept we are all familiar with is that if there is heat on one side of the wall and cold on the other, the natural tendency is for both sides to balance out. The warmer side gets cooler while the cooler side gets warmer. The more extreme the difference, the more extreme must be the insulating barrier of the walls and roof.