Renovation Protocol

renovation triage

We’re occasionally asked to help evaluate a “new” old building to help a Church decide if the structure is a good fit for ministry. In response to the last such request, we developed a checklist of critical questions to help them organize, answer, and get help for, the questions that matter most.

It shouldn’t surprise that the questions that matter most, other than the ministry itself, are related to safety and the law. It’s only worth considering appearance and programmatic fit after we’re confident these standards can be (reasonably) met. We ask:

LIFE SAFETY ISSUES

Is the structure sound?NoYesDon’t  know
Nothing else matters if the building doesn’t remain standing and safe for those inside – whether they’re contractors, volunteers, or ministry participants.Engage a
structural
engineer
Consult a
structural
engineer
Is the building envelope intact? 
The condition of buildings doesn’t improve with time; it worsens. Stop or slow deterioration by fixing leaks in the roof, gaps in the walls, or broken windows. If existing windows and doors can’t be secured from intruders, fix or replace them.Engage a contractorEngage an architect or  contractor
Are there hazardous materials that need to be removed? 
“Hazardous materials” in buildings usually means asbestos and lead paint, which require special measures, undertaken by specialists, for abatement. Mold and mildew, if present in sufficient amounts, may also require a specialist.Engage an abatement contractorEngage an environmental testing agency
 Are building systems (electrical/ mechanical/fire protection) safe?
Non- or malfunctioning electrical, mechanical, and fire protection systems can contribute to any of the issues listed above and need to be fixed or stabilized to keep from endangering building occupants – again, whether they’re contractors, volunteers, or ministry participants.Engage a contractorConsult an engineer, or a well-qualified contractor, who specializes in the systems in question

CODE ISSUES

Does (or will) the building comply with
current Building Code requirements
regarding life safety and accessibility?
NoYesDon’t  know
Even if a building doesn’t comply with the Building Code currently in effect, it may be “grandfathered in”, or allowed to remain in its current condition if the use doesn’t change. But sometimes changes are required by an addition to the building or a significant modification that doesn’t add square footage. Even if the law doesn’t require any changes, it’s worth finding out if providing additional exits, upgrading toilets to improve access, or other changes are worth consideration.Engage an architectConsult an architect or the Building Official
Does (or will) the structure comply with current Building Code requirements?
Even if a building doesn’t comply with the Building Code currently in effect, it may be “grandfathered in”, or allowed to remain in its current condition if the use doesn’t change. But sometimes changes are required by an addition to the building or a significant modification that doesn’t add square footage. Even if the law doesn’t require any changes, it’s worth finding out if upgrades to the capacity or rigidity of the structure are worth consideration.Engage a
structural
engineer
Consult a
structural
engineer or the Building Official
Do (or will) building systems (electrical/ mechanical/fire protection) with the current Building Code? Will requirements change due to the intended use of the building?

It is possible that, even if a building’s systems don’t comply with the Building Code currently in effect, they’ll be “grandfathered in”. Sometimes the requirement for changes is triggered, not by a change in use, but by a change in area or the number of people expected to be in attendance. But even if the law doesn’t require that any changes be made, it’s worth finding out if upgrades to the building’s systems are worth consideration.
Engage a
mechanical and/or electrical engineer
Consult a
mechanical and/or electrical engineer or the Building Official
Will the proposed use of the site require revisions or a review due to the requirements of Land Development Rules or the Zoning Ordinance?
Evolving sensitivity to environmental conditions means that adding parking or pavement can trigger the need for new measures to capture and treat altered runoff. Small changes to the building footprint may require a special review before they’ll be permitted, even if other Code-required changes aren’t required.Engage a
civil engineer
Consult a civil engineer or the Zoning Official