Tricks Of The Trade: Pew Sprawl - Facility Executive Magazine - Creating Intelligent Buildings

TFM Columnist Jim Elledge explains everything you ever wanted to know about pew sprawl.
TFM Columnist Jim Elledge explains everything you ever wanted to know about pew sprawl.

Tricks Of The Trade: Pew Sprawl

Tricks Of The Trade: Pew Sprawl - Facility Executive Magazine - Creating Intelligent Buildings

By James C. Elledge, IFMA Fellow, CFM, FMA, RPA, RIAQM
Published in the October 2007 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Q Our church is in the process of remodeling and adding squarefootage. We’ve come up against a parking issue with the city because ofthe capacity of our sanctuary.

The sanctuary isn’tchanging in our construction plans, but the capacity makes us short ofparking spaces based on city requirements. If we could cut down seatingcapacity, all of our parking problems would be solved.

I’vehad some interesting conversations and correspondence with prominentmanufacturers and providers of church seating. In the past, thestandard was 18″ or 19″ per person seated in a pew. I’m told thatstandard has been increased, due to the “growing” of Americans.

Canyou help me estimate the proper seating requirements for our facilityand town? Anything you can offer on the subject will be greatlyappreciated—we’re in a jam!

Judy Jordan
Facility Planning Team Member
Unity Church of the Valley
Vacaville, CA

A You state that the sanctuary is not being changed, but it is nowcausing the issue of building capacity versus allocated parking space.Here is what I have been able to determine:

The City ofVacaville, CA uses the California Building Code Volumes I, II, and III,2001 Edition, including Volume I Appendix Chapters 1, 4, 15, 33, andDivision II and III of Appendix Chapter 31, published and copyrightedby the International Conference of Building Officials.

Thedocuments identified in this Section are adopted in their entiretyexcepting additions, revisions, and omissions listed in Section14.20.251.040 of this Chapter.

Regardless of building code,no one fits into 18″ of space without some kind of physical separation.People compensate for this need for personal space through a phenomenonbetter known as “pew sprawl.” Sprawl will consume about one third ofyour code calculated seating positions.

Newer 21″ theaterseats are now being used to combat against pew sprawl. But until thebuilding code is updated and adopted by your city, the larger seat sizewill be difficult to use.

Although I do not know thedetails of the remodeling and additional square footage, I can stillmake the following general observations and recommendations.

  1. Are the pews in the sanctuary bolted to the floor? If not, can thefloor plan be changed to show wider aisles with fewer pews to bringcapacity down?
  2. Since the sanctuary has not changed, haveyou had a building inspector meet with your facility planning team togo over what parts of the project have triggered the parking capacityproblem?
  3. Have you considered a remote parkingarrangement? Perhaps you could set up a formal agreement withbusinesses close to your church that would allow you to use theirparking during worship hours.
  4. Could you break the pewsprawl habit? Define the seating on the pews by using a paper sheet,tape, or fabric to assign or define a larger width for each “seat” onthe pew. The inspector might work with your church if you can show avisible area assigned as one seat in each row of pews. Depending on thelength, you may have to use 21″ or 22″ as your desired width.

Elledge,facility/office services manager for Dallas, TX-based Summit AllianceCompanies, is the recipient of the Distinguished Author Award from theInternational Facility Management Association (IFMA), is an IFMA Fellow, and isa member of TFM’sEditorial Advisory Board. All questions have been submitted via the “Ask TheExpert” portion of the magazine’s Web site. To pose a question, visit this link.

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