In a recent blog by Seth Godin (my favorite blogger and author), he outlined what I would refer to as Operational Equality (my words not his…so don’t blame him). Read these 4 sentences from his blog and then sit back and ponder them. They are far more impactful and revolutionary than they may seem at first blush:
Something rare is happening, and it might not last long.
Today, right now, anyone with a $300 laptop can use the very same tools as the people at the top of just about any industry.
If you want to write, you have the same writing tools available to you as the most successful writers in the world.
If you want to join a social network, well, the software that connects the titans of your industry is the very same software you can use.
For generations, only the rich or elite or privileged or large organizations had all the “best tools” and access to the leading edge technology. Think about a few examples:
Until the time of the Gutenberg press, only religious elite had access to the Bible and scripture…now many of us carry our Bible in our pockets on our Smart devices in nearly ever translation.
Until recently, only Meteorologists had access to weather forecasts…now with an app on your phone you can get almost as much data
Used to be that only Stock Brokers could assist you with purchasing stocks and bonds…not any more!
10-15 years ago, only the largest facilities had access to building automation systems…today it is rare NOT to have one.
Think about the internet…it does not matter if your organization has 2 people or 2 thousand, we all login to the same internet which means we have the same access. This is one of the first times in society that “operational” equality has been so flat lined…which means, there are very few reasons to not be working, playing, developing, managing, leading, writing, creating, etc. using tools that are available to organizations smaller or larger than your own. How many of you still use a 3″ Yellow Pages to search phone numbers? Have you bought a car lately? Did you only rely on the word of the dealer as to the value, service history or life cycle? Probably not?
Let’s take it another step. Just because we have a tool/system that “works” (or maybe better said is, “USED” to work when we first implemented it) does not mean it is the best or most efficient tool know. My manual screw drivers still work fine and they “can” get the job done…but my battery powered screwdriver is much more efficient for most applications. My 1986 “car phone” could probably still make calls (maybe) but compared to my iPhone 6S, there is no comparison. I have faxing capability on my printer…but I cannot tell you the last time I used it. Just because faxing was the best way to send documents 10-15 years ago does not necessarily make it the most productive today. My old Excel spreadsheet used to be fine for managing our corporate books, but QuickBooks is such a better tool and application for financial accounting
Get my point? I think so.
So as an organizational leader, with responsibility for your physical facilities, are you INTENTIONAL about utilizing the best tools to get the job done? You virtually have access to the same tools, means and methods as the people managing your local mall or downtown office towers. Given the myriad of tools, resources, blogs, articles, etc, there are very few excuses to not be utilizing the most up to date systems and processes to manage your facilities.
Here is a partial list of the tools your organization should be utilizing to increase your Operational Efficiency…and they are all just a click away:
- Facility/Event Scheduling Software
- Facility Management and Work Order Management Software
- Life Cycle Projection Tools
- Some level of Building Automation…at least for your HVAC system…maybe WIFI Thermostats (call me for more details!!!)
Anything less is like living in the stone-age.
A couple weeks ago, Worship Facilities Magazine published an article about the need for churches to have a CMMS program. For those of you not involved with Facility Management on a daily basis, let me explain what CMMS is:
CMMS = Computerized Maintenance Management System
In short, this is your facility management software. How you track work orders, establish preventive maintenance, track inventory and manage your equipment. It is really that simple.
This article was written by Martin Sinderman…and while I am biased…he did a great job to explain the reason why nearly every church needs such a program. Remember, our facilities have been ENTRUSTED to us…and as such we are to steward them the best way we can.
The article started off asking some very basic question:
Are you in charge of overseeing the overall functioning of your worship facilities’ physical plant? Does your facility have multiple rooms with activities going on more than once or twice a week? Do you need to keep track of what’s going on in the maintenance-and-repairs department?
If so, chances are good that a facilities management software program would make your life a lot easier.
Later in the article he quotes Mr. Nathan Parr, Operation Manager at First Baptist Church, Belton Texas. Some of you may recognize Nathan’s name and contribution in our Church Facility Stewardship Manual (make sure you get a copy if you don’t already have one). Nathan provided this quote:
“We’ve gotten busier over the years – and have realized the more streamlined we could make the facilities management part, the easier it would be to accomplish our mission – which is doing the work of our church.” Nathan Parr, FBC Belton
I will not spoil the rest of the article. If you click on the WFX logo below you can see the rest of the article. It is worth the read!
A little over a year ago we posted a blog entitled “30 Things You Don’t Want To Hear From Your Architect.” That got a lot of laughs and smirks. That was a lot of fun…but unfortunately I have heard most if not all of them at different times. Scary!!!
Today we are going to look at the 30 things you do not want to hear from your Facility Manager. Let me know if any of these sound familiar…then let me know what you did to combat it:
- I am too busy to plan ahead.
- I am sure I can Google and figure out how to fix that.
- I haven’t been on the roof in years.
- Where did I put that knife.
- What budget?
- I am never caught up.
- I know a guy…
- Storing gasoline and paint in the same closet is fine.
- That is the way we have always done it.
- Why would we want to “Go Green?”
- Our team spends X hours each week adjusting thermostats in the building.
- I have all that information in my head.
- I don’t like to use technology…that is just who I am.
- To save cost we are changing to single ply toilet paper.
- I don’t answer my phone on the weekends.
- I am not sure how much money is needed to keep our facilities up to speed.
- I don’t know how many square feet is in our facility.
- We’ll just get volunteers to paint the steeple.
- The carpet looks fine to me…we cleaned it 10 years ago.
- I am not sure what that odor is. I am sure it will just go away.
- LED will never become mainstream.
- Life Cycle! Is that a new kind of bike?
- Hello Mr. Fire Marshal. Can you wait here while I go move somethings?
- Let me set up the ladder on this table to reach that high area.
- What is OSHA?
- We are a church so we do not have to comply to codes.
- I am sure we do not need a permit to add on that room.
- HVAC air filters should last at least a year. I only use the building once a week, how much dirt can that produce?
- The smoke detectors kept beeping so I just unplugged them.
- It’s not my job!!!
Any sound familiar?
In order to get started today, we need to step back to our 10th grade English class and make sure we understand the definition of 2 words and the tense of each:
FACILITY (noun) – space or equipment necessary for doing something
FACILITATE (verb) – make (an action or process) easy or easier.
If you are like me, you have slept since 10th grade and so the nuance of the difference of a verb and a noun may be foggy…so let’s recap:
A “noun”, in its simplest form, is a person, place or thing. “Watch SPOT run.” “That TREE is very big.” ” Our CHURCH is located on Main Street.” (Side note…I only use this for example since many of us say that…but in reality the CHURCH is not the building…it is the people)
A “verb”, on the other hand, is a word that shows action. Verbs are the main part of a sentence in the English language. They are the component of any sentence that brings life and meaning to the words.
So back to our 2 words above…
A “facility” is a noun. It is a place…a structure…a building…a location. However, without a verb, it is just a stagnant word. In fact, you can have a sentence without a noun…for example…”Go over there.” You can say those words, point and have your intent conveyed.
What does this have to do with our ministry facilities? Glad you asked.
If a Facility is a noun…then it needs a verb to provide action, meaning and relevance. By itself, a facility is merely a monument…an edifice…an architectural statement (good or bad). Sticks and bricks are inanimate objects. I still believe that our facility (the physical attributes) will tell a story. I am not bending off that premise. I believe in the concept of story and how we need to be intentional related to the storytelling of our facility…but…the reality is that facilities, in and of themselves, are not a living organism.
In order to bring life (action) to a facility, it needs a verb…and I believe the best verb for ministry facilities is that it FACILITATES.
Facilities should facilitate…
- Life change
So…what do your facilities facilitate? Does the facilitation fulfill your vision, mission and goals? If not, may need to step back and re-evaluate.
Many of you, if not most of you, are on staff at a church or are actively involved in Kingdom work. In light of that you may think that this blog has nothing to do with you or your role. Before you close this out…let me challenge you to keep reading a little further.
While we can all make a case for the inaccuracy of the title of this blog…let’s expand out thinking. Churches and ministries don’t have “sales”…right? For just a few minutes, let me share a portion of a blog from Bruce Van Horn. I have never met Bruce but have received permission to repost his blog. I am not going to quote the entire blog….you can see it HERE.
When I was leading a team for a national church builder, I used to tell our team that they were ALL sales people for the organization. Some grasped that and some never could wrap their arms around the concept…but I believed it then and am even more convinced of this fact. Let me share a portion of Bruce’s blog:
Did you know that you are self-employed? Well, whether you know it or not, you are!
You might be thinking, “No, I work for a company [church/ministry – Tim Cool added] and I’m not even a shareholder let alone the owner.”
I want you to read this next sentence, then sit still for a minute and let it seep into the crevices of your brain: It does not matter who signs your paycheck or what company you work for or what your job is at that company; everyone is self-employed and everyone is in sales.
You might not like the idea of “selling yourself,” but that really is what we do every day. If you have friends, it is because you have shown them something about yourself that makes them want to be around you. If you have a spouse or a very serious “significant other,” it is because there is something about you that makes that person want to be around and, perhaps, spend the rest of their life with you. Whether you are aware of it or did it intentionally, you convinced those people, or that person, that they should choose you out of all of the other people they know. They “bought” you!
If you think of yourself as self-employed while you are at your “job,” you will see the work you do and the company you work for differently. Your “job” is to provide a product or service that meets the needs of, and adds value to, your customer. When your company hired you, they did so because of what you could provide. During the interview process, you convinced (sold) them to use your service instead of that of other candidates. If they fire you, it is because your product or service did not meet their needs or they no longer need your product or service.
Being in “sales” doesn’t mean begging, pleading, or trying to manipulate people into buying something they don’t need. The most successful salespeople know the value of the product or service they provide and try to find a match between what they sell and those people who need, will benefit from, and are looking what they have to offer.
I know you may be thinking I am twisting words again…that is not my intent. Let’s break it down in life applications that may make more sense:
- If you work in a church or ministry, you sold someone to hire you.
- For most of us, the purpose of our organization is to help others and to further the Kingdom. This is done through a series of “sales” opportunities from inviting someone to church, to presenting the gospel, to offering discipleship to further the previous life changing “sales.”
- Anyone that walks through the doors of your organization is going to make a judgement based on their interaction with those they encounter…so are you representing the value, vision, mission and beliefs of your organization. You may be the only “salesperson” they encounter which may impact their evaluation of the value proposition…which should be a new life in Christ Jesus.
- As a “self-employed” person, you must be self-motivated…know the end goal…live and breathe the values of your personal organization…walk the walk…be positive about your “company” (remember…you are self employed so it is YOUR company).
How does those concepts adjust your mindset and overall approach to your daily life? If it has no impact…then you missed the point…so call me so we can talk more about it.
What is “slack” and why do you need it?
Here are 4 variations on how you might use the word SLACK:
- Lazy…someone who does not get things done. – “Your slack” or “Don’t slack off”
- Give me a break. – “Cut me some slack”
- Create “margin”. – “Give the rope a little slack”
- Real Time Messaging Software – #slack (The the way our team uses #slack a TON…love this product…thank you Michael Hyatt for putting us on to it a couple years ago)
I was recently reading a blog by my favorite blogger…Seth Godin…and he referenced “slack” using a variation on #3 above. I have never used it this way…but it works. Below is what he said (or you can read it on his blog HERE)
Avoiding a problem with foresight and good design is a cheap, highly leveraged way to do your work.
Extinguishing a problem before it gets expensive and difficult is almost as good, and far better than paying a premium when there’s an emergency.
Fretting about an impending problem, worrying about it, imagining the implications of it… all of this is worthless.
The magic of slack (a little extra time in the chain, a few extra dollars in the bank) is that it gives you the resources to stop and avoid a problem or fix it when it’s small. The over-optimized organization misunderstands the value of slack, so it always waits until something is a screaming emergency, because it doesn’t think it has a moment to spare. Expensive.
Action is almost always cheaper now than it is later.
This got me thinking about how most churches and other organizations do not account for slack in their facility management or facility stewardship initiates. In this context, slack = margin.
In his excellent book, Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, Richard Swenson, M.D. describes margin (i.e. slack) like this:
Margin is the space between our load and our limits. It is the amount allowed beyond that which is needed. It is something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations. Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating.
Part of the above references “time” and how we need to provide margin/slack in our calendar to avoid burnout and overload. But the area highlighted is very real in facility management. What struck me is that this principle is relevant across a myriad of applications for a facility manager or other person responsible with stewarding their facilities. Here are a few applications:
- The most important slack is time…I agree with that. If your team is working 6-7 days a week with little to no down time…you need some slack.
- If your calendar is so full with activities that you do not have the time to prepare, lead, plan, forecast and the like…you need some slack.
- If your budget is so tight that any deviation will send you into a tail spin…you need some slack.
- Monetarily…if your organization does not have a Capital Reserve fund that is growing to prepare you for future known expenses (You will replace every HVAC unit…you will replace every roof…you will replace all flooring. These are FACTS of facility life cycle.)…you need a lot of SLACK.
Do you need some slack? Are you or your facilities suffering from a lack of slack?
Have you ever walk into a restaurant that you read about online or someone recommended…full of anticipation and excitement…to then be turned off by the lack of care of the facility? I have been disappointed more times than I can list when I was in a mid to upper priced establishment, to then visit their restroom and be totally repulsed by the lack of care and cleanliness…or to look up at their ceilings (that is a habit for me…so if you invite me to your facility, know I am looking at your ceilings. You have been warned.) to see stained ceiling tiles…or worse…dirty HVAC grills and cobwebs. What does that say about you and your church? What does it say that you value? Obviously you do not value the health and well being of your guests and occupants if you are “Okay” allowing dirt and dust to blow down on their heads or have them breathe dirty air.
What story is that communicating?
To me it indicates that either you do not care about your facilities…or are not intentional about their care…or are in poor financial condition, where you cannot maintain them. Now that is just me…but could that message also be the one conveyed to your guests?
Not a great witness or example in my opinion.
In his book “First Impressions: Creating WOW Experiences”, Mark Waltz, pastor of connection at Granger Community Church in Granger, IN, addresses what it may be like to be a guest in our churches and how the first impression may not always convey the story we desire. In addition, the first impression may be the only chance we have to impact their lives. He writes;
“When your guests are distracted from the real purpose of their visit to your church, you’ll have a difficult time re-engaging them. In order for people to see Jesus, potential distractions must be identified and eliminated.”
Have you ever considered that the condition of your facilities could affect your ability to engage and minister to people? In previous blogs I have focused on the physical attributes related to the built environment. We have looked at the design, way finding, weenies and other attributes of the campus and structures. But what about the condition?
Over my 30-year career of planning and building church facilities, I have witnessed firsthand the use, abuse and misuse of ministry facilities. I have seen churches spend millions of dollars on new facilities and then neglect to change the HVAC filters, repair leaks, change light bulbs, caulk annually as required and so on. In my opinion, this is similar to collecting the offering during our worship services and taking 10%-20% of the monies out of the offering plate or basket and setting it on fire. We would all agree that that kind of action would be ridiculous and obscene.
“We would never do that… that is God’s money.”
I ask, who provided the funds to build your facilities? We all know the answer: God provided the resources. It was and is His money. And they are His buildings. Yet, we too often act irresponsibly with these assets.
I find that many church members take better care of their homes, boats, cars, motorcycles and even their pets than they do their ministry facilities. Is this acceptable to you? It is not to me, and I suggest that the church (big “C”) wake up, take notice and do something about it. I believe that God will hold each of us responsible and accountable for how we steward every resource entrusted to us.
For most organizations, one of the most impactful aspects of their facility management and operations is their HVAC systems and the associated energy costs. Given that, it is always a front of mind issue for facility managers, Business Administrators and other leaders. When you realize that 50-75% of an organizations utility bill is due to the HVAC system, it becomes a really important aspect to understand.
Early in my career, I had a mechanical engineer tell me that the only thing I needed to know about HVAC systems is that they “suck and blow.” In essence, that is accurate…they suck air in through return vents and blow it back out through supply access points. Seems pretty simple. But technology, energy codes, environmental considerations and desire for efficiency has changed the landscape of the HVAC industry.
Below are trends that every facility owner, facility manager and organizational leader responsible for the stewarding of their facility should be aware of.
Building Code Changes – Depending on what state you are in, some of these code items are currently mandatory while in others, it is coming:
- > Primary entrance doors to access rooms that are over 3,000 SF must have a vestibule (sanctuaries, gathering, large classrooms, etc.). Some people call this an “air/light lock”…but it is basically the requirement to have 2 sets of doors with the vestibule in between the sets of doors for any assembly space over 3,000 SF
- > Demand control ventilation, using CO2 sensors that control and provide increase outdoor air for high occupancy spaces (i.e. worship, gathering large classrooms, etc). If you are building a new assembly space, you have to add CO2 sensors that will engage the fresh air intake portion of your system when CO2 leaves reach a certain level.
Open Protocol – The days of proprietary control systems is rapidly coming to a close thanks in part to the introduction and development of open protocol systems such as LON and BACnet:
LON – Local Operating Network – was one of the pioneers in this space, but its use is being overshadowed with the introduction and rapid adoption of BACnet
BACnet – Building Automation Control Network – has become the most popular open protocol and is widely supported by developers and ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers)
Integration – You may wonder why “Open Protocol” is a trend on this list. The reason this is so critical is due to what is called the Internet of Things (IoT). One definition is: “The Internet of Things (IoT) is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.” Things talking to things. In the HVAC world, it is thermostats talking to controllers and JACE’s. It is BACnet compatible systems talking to your Event Scheduling Software. The open protocol systems allow for more freedom in developing “things” that talk to each other. More on this another time.
Wireless – This should be surprise given all the wireless applications we use in nearly every aspect of our lives. However…in the world of HVAC, wireless is NOT synonymous with Wi-Fi. Let me explain.
- Wi-Fi – is a technology that allows electronic devices to connect to a wireless LAN (WLAN) network. The Wi-Fi Alliance defines Wi-Fi as any “wireless local area network” (WLAN) product based on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ (IEEE) 802.11 standards. In short, it is what most of us use to connect to the internet when at work, home or a coffee shop.
- ZigBee – Wireless language for device connectivity. ZigBee is an IEEE 802.15.4-based specification for a suite of high-level communication protocols used to create personal area networks with small, low-power digital radios. It Is NOT Wi-Fi.
- BACnet systems offer wireless components that use the BACnet protocol
VRV/VRF –Variable Refrigerant Volume (Flow) – The simplest example of this technology is what most of us might refer to a “mini-split” system. But this category of HVAC units is far more encompassing than that and it is gaining popularity and acceptance at an increasing rate. VRF is an HVAC technology invented in Japan by the Daikin company in 1982. Like ductless mini-splits VRFs use refrigerant as the cooling and heating medium. This refrigerant is conditioned by a single outdoor condensing unit, and is circulated within the building to multiple fan-coil units (FCUs). This technology is on the move and will do so for years to come.
HVAC vs. AVLA (Audio, Video, Lighting and Acoustics) – if you have a sound system, then you know that in many cases the AVLA system is the tail that wages many facility and budget decisions. I am not being critical. We have just come to expect a higher level of sound in our spaces than just that of a megaphone or and AM radio sounding system. With this requirement comes several considerations in the ambient noise that can be caused by the HVAC systems. As such, attention must be given to:
- Vibration of units on the roof or in close proximity
- Installation of isolation curbs to assist in the reduction of vibration
- Air velocity…which incorporates fan speeds, duct size, duct location, register locations and design/shape.
- Larger lined ducts
- How to address “haze”. If your church uses haze, then you know what I mean. If you do not use haze, then just ignore this. The particulate size of the haze can impact the “duct sensors” in your return air vents thus making the system think there is smoke, triggering the fire alarm…OOPS!
Refrigerant is changing…AGAIN!!! – Yep…that is right! Once we had R-22 Freon that was phased out (although you can still get it) and replaced with R-410A as it was better for the environment. This is the current refrigerant…but only until 2025 when ASHRAE will introduce a new format referred to as a “2L Flammable Refrigerant” (Name TBD). Do you ever feel like the HVAC industry has learned a lesson from the computer industry? They change to “operation system” every so often making the old systems obsolete. BROTHER!
Residential Thermostats – How many of you have bought a Nest or other wireless stat for your home. They are pretty cool and in some cases the will work in a small commercial setting. But before you rush out to Lowes to get your wireless stat, here are some considerations:
- Multiple Stages of Heating and Cooling
- Size of the building
- Number of buildings
- Ability of occupants to adjust temperature
- Variations in weekly/annual usage
- Type and age of the HVAC equipment
*These are all factors that need to be considered and vetted before investing in these residential options.
These 8 trends represent areas of consideration that you, as the steward of your facilities, must become familiar with and determine the best application of them for your facility.
I am sure you have heard the adage that to some people every task looks like a nail, as such the only tool you need is a hammer.
I have been in the church construction and facility management/stewardship world for over 30 years and I have never seen a construction professional or a FM professional that did not perform their best work without having the right tools in their tool box. I, on the other hand, have tried to use a screwdriver handle to drive a nail and hacksaw to demo a wall instead of a Sawzall. Big mistakes. What should have been a 3-4 minute task took far longer and the results were equally as incompetent. FAIL!!!!!
So, why are so many churches and other facility owners/managers not as intentional with their facility managerial tools? I believe the same applies to these tools as to the above example. Why would you try to process and manage work orders and preventive maintenance with antiquated or inefficient tools when the “right tools” are available? Are we just stubborn with a mindset that “what worked in the past is good enough now?” Or is it a lack of knowledge as to what is available?
Regardless of the reason…there is a better way. Below is a list of tools that should be in every facility owner’s toolbox. Remember, these facilities have been ENTRUSTED to you to STEWARD. Should we not be using the right tools?
- The Right Mindset – In her book, “Switch On Your Brain”, Dr. Caroline Leaf says – “Your mind tells your brain what to do. It is mind over matter.” In short, your mind is the catalyst for everything that we do. The same applies to Facility Stewardship. If you believe, in your mind, that being a good steward requires intentionality and diligence, then being proactive will come natural. However, if your mindset is based on “just get by” or “DIY” paradigms, you will likely be playing catch-up constantly.
- Others…don’t go it alone – There are thousands…maybe millions…of facility managers in the country and my guess is that there are dozens right in your back yard. I love the quote by Ken Blanchard – “None of us is as smart as all of us.” Find other professionals to gain information and lessons learned. Join groups like IFMA, BOMA or The Church Network. Don’t go it alone.
- Proactive Facility Management Check list – This is a simple, and free recourse to get you started. DOWNLOAD HERE
- Event Scheduling Software – I have been surprised how many organization still use a paper calendar or a whiteboard or Outlook/Google Calendar. If you use your facility more than one day a week, they you need a tool to help you be proactive in managing its use. Here is an article on the 10 Reasons to Tear-up Your Old Event Scheduler. This is an easy step for you to gain control as to how your facility is utilized. Check out an affordable and intentional tool HERE
- Work Order Management Software – How do you track and process work requests at your facility? Legal Pad? Excel spreadsheet? Post-it Notes? Cross your fingers, then hope and pray? There is a better way! There are a number of CMMS (Computerized Maintenance Management System) available on the market, but only one developed by church facility professionals…check it out HERE
- Life Cycle Calculator – How much should you set aside each year for capital improvements? Check back with me in Fall 2016 for my recommendation on an incredible tool. In the meantime, here is a simple tool to help you plan for your future capital needs.
- HVAC Integration – For most churches, 50-75% of your utility cost can be attributed to HVAC usage. That is a big number and one that should get your attention. If you are looking to save operational dollars, this is the most obvious place. I suggest finding a tool that will allow you to integrate our Event/Room Scheduling software to your HVAC system to reduce energy consumption and increase staff efficiency. Here is a great example of such a TOOL.
- Facility Stewardship Manual – If your church owns your facilities, then you must get this 300 page manual. If you are not up for the full manual but want a primer…get this FREE e-book to get you started.
Don’t steward your facilities with the wrong tools. Be intentional!
Has your church ever thought of starting a school? I have worked with dozens of churches that at some point thought they would best serve their local community by starting a school…usually in their existing church facilities. While this can be exciting, there are also many considerations that you most address and vet. One of the most critical facility questions is if your facilities meet fire codes for a “school” which is different than those of a “Sunday School” or an assembly occupancy (which is what most church facilities are classified).
This week we are going to share a guest blog from Aaron Johnson. Aaron is “a fire strategist and the “peace of mind” expert in fire protection and life safety.” Given his experience, I thought he would be an excellent source to guide us in this discussion. In addition, Aaron is offering a FREE guide to fire safety for worship space. You will want to get a copy!
Thanks Aaron…hope you all enjoy:
I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend my school years in Christ centered, Bible based schools. Kindergarten through high-school, my entire education has been faith-based.
Many churches set out to start a school as an extension of their ministry within the community. This is a worthy goal. However, prior to starting an endeavor of this magnitude, the ministry should closely examine the regulations, requirements, and costs.
A primary concern should be facilities. Where will this school be physically located? Is the space required available? Does this space meet fire protection and life safety requirements? There have been many ambitious ministries that have started out down the education path, only to have to shutter their doors due to high costs associated with an inability to meet code requirements. In your planning stages, as you consider the costs to start out on this endeavor, there are 5 critical fire protection and life safety questions that must be answered.
- Definition – Are you really a school?
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) defines educational occupancies as any building “used for educational purposes through the twelfth grade by six or more persons for 4 or more hours per day or more than 12 hours per week.” This definition is further expanded to include preschools and kindergartens used primarily for educational purposes of children over 24 months of age. In essence, if you have six or more students between 24 months old and the twelfth grade the requirements of NFPA 101, chapter 14, for educational occupancies, must be met.
- Occupant Load – How many students will you have?
The first step in determining space needs and code requirements is to calculate the occupant load of the space, or determine how large the space will need to be based on potential number of students your school will host. The code requires 20 square feet per person. For example, if you anticipate that your school will enroll 50 students, then you know that you will need a minimum area of 1,000 sq. ft. Or, if you have an 8,000 sq.ft. facility available you know that you could potentially host up to 400 students.
Questions to ask in the planning stage: How much space will you need (based on potential or target student enrollment)? Is this space available? How much will this space cost (if it must be built, leased, or purchased)?
- Fire Alarm System – Will a fire alarm system need to be installed?
The majority of educational facilities will require a fire alarm system. If the facility is not equipped with a fire alarm system, all of the following conditions must be met:
- >The building must not be larger than 1,000 sq.ft.
- >The building must contain only a single classroom.
- >The building is located no closer than 30 feet from another building.
Questions to ask in the planning stage: Will our facility require a fire alarm system? What will be the cost of this system?
- Fire Sprinkler System – Will the building need to be sprinklered?
Structures used for educational purposes that are greater than 12,000 sq.ft., or four or more stories high, or in basement areas are required to have a fire sprinkler system installed.
Questions to ask in the planning stage: Will our facility require a fire sprinkler system? Can the square footage (if 12,000 sq.ft. or greater) be reduced to not require this installation? What will be the cost of this system?
- Emergency Action Plan – Do we have an emergency action plan in place?
Prior to opening the school doors an emergency action plan (EAP) is required to be submitted to the local fire authority, or fire marshal’s office. The EAP outlines what actions must occur in the event of various types of emergencies. Minimally, the following information is required in the EAP:
- Procedure for reporting emergencies
- Occupant and staff response to emergencies
- Evacuation, relocation, and shelter-in-place procedures.
- Appropriate use of elevators.
- Design and conduct of fire drills.
- Type and coverage areas of building fire protection systems.
- Any other information required by the local jurisdiction or fire authority.
Some discussion should be had on who will head up the EAP creation process, what each staff position will be responsible for in an emergency event, and the availability or cost of any necessary emergency preparedness items.
Starting a faith-based educational center in your community is definitely a worth-while undertaking. It is important to ensure that you count the cost before starting. Equally important is the determination that systems, inspections, and processes will be conducted and maintained for the protection of the facility, and safety of its occupants.
For more information and resources on worship facility fire and life safety, download the FREE guide, Fire Safe Worship Space.
Aaron Johnson is a fire strategist and the “peace of mind” expert in fire protection and life safety. He has more than a decade of fire protection/life safety/code compliance experience. Aaron is active on several fire code development and technical committees and holds multiple fire service certifications. His expertise spans multiple occupancy types and use functions. He regularly writes on fire protection/life safety issues at, www.TheCodeCoach.com.