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Thread: Can we get rid of some codes and regulations?

  1. #1

    Can we get rid of some codes and regulations?

    I've been approached by my church that i attend while at college to "design" their next church, (they will take it to an architect, etc... later) and I've been discussing it with one of the Architects in the firm i'm working at as an intern.

    He brought up some issues such as the fact that going from a 50 person building to a 200 person building will result in codes/regulations requiring an increase in parking (which IMO, is always stupid).

    Also, my church is Eastern Orthodox (OCA specifically) and we have people from Eastern Europe, the Middle East etc... Over there, they've been building these exact type of buildings for thousands of years, and yet, for some stupid reason, those buildings cannot be replicated completely in the United States because of our useless codes and regulations...

    Is there a way for the church to maneuver around those codes and regulations or ignore them entirely?

    The church is going to probably end up being about 4700-5000 square feet. It might have a basement (but the ADA might require an elevator, which is unecessary) for shelter purposes during tornados.
    There is very limited space for parking, every year at Pascha (our easter) we have upwards of 100 people or more (fitting into a sanctuary meant to hold at most 80). But every Sunday they have between a dozen and 40-50 people.

    If you want examples of Eastern European and Middle Eastern churches that we might model the design after, then think of:
    Hagia Sophia (before Muslims took over), Old St. Peter's Basilica (before 1000 A.D.), St. Basil's Cathedral, Church of Christ the Saviour. As well as various churches in Athens, Chernigov, Moscow, and Novgorod.

    Just to give you an idea of where the majority of Orthodox (also sometimes known as Byzantine) architecture is located, here is a list of the % of ppl in countries that have Orthodoxy as a majority religion.
    Greece (98%)
    Moldova (98%)
    Georgia (89%)
    Belarus (88%)
    Romania (87%)
    Montenegro (84%)
    Serbia (84%)
    Bulgaria (83%)
    Russia (80%)
    Republic of Cyprus (80%)
    Ukraine (80%)

    I just don't understand why it is that we have to regulate things so much that you can't really build what has been built for thousands of years, even though it has NEVER had issues before. It also regulates to where you must have things that you don't need.

    This is my Sketchup version of how I see the new building looking (white with black shingles). However I talked to one of the Architects at the firm I work at, and from his perspective, the design isn't that doable, especially with regulations, etc... And then in addition, the fact that I forgot the most important thing they tried to drill into me my freshman year, Form follows Function, and how I forgot to program the building with my church before I designed it.

    Last edited by HeartlandCityBoy; 20 Jun 2008 at 3:14 PM.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian rcgplanner's avatar
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    I am sure the Church will have to follow whatever the development procedure is for the community they are located in. The Planning staff should be able to point out what areas are deficent and work with the Church to figure out the best way to meet the ordinance. This may mean having to apply for a variance to allow for less parking than the ordinance requires. In terms of the ADA codes, it will be difficult to get around those. It seems a bit short-sighted to not install an elevator if the building is more than a single-story. If this building is excepted to last, then it has to think about the future. What if there is someone who wants to come to the church but is unable to get around, they will need an elevator?

    In response to your questions, no you can't just ignore codes and regulations, good luck getting it approved in the planning process or getting a certificate of occupancy from the building department. As much as I am in favor of limiting parking areas, the United States is still an auto-dominant culture and most parking regulations are based on the maximum amount of users of a site, even if a portion of the spaces sit vacant most of the time. But thats a whole other topic.

  3. #3
    But why does this building need all of that stuff when we have gone without it since the first century A.D.?

  4. #4
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    I think you should be a little more specific about the "things" that are being required by the municipality, of which you do not feel are necessary.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian rcgplanner's avatar
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    Because times and society change. We have cars now, which means we need parking spaces. Also the US is not Greece or Russia or any other place that was mentioned in the original post. It would similar to say that since synagogues have been around for centuries, that the construction of a new synagogue would not need to conform to modern codes.

    While religous buildings have to conform to the same codes as any other structure, there is still the freedom to incorporate traditional elements into the building. That is how I would approach this. If the Church feels they have a case for a variance they should use that route to appeal the development standards they are deficient in.

  6. #6
    What makes the United States so much more special than other countries that we feel we need to impose requirements and codes upon building structures that have always worked?

    Orthodox Churches around the world that weren't built under codes and regulations that are completely unnecessary:





    We today are no more special than those that came before us, we don't NEED some of the stuff that they require today.

    I guess I just am wishing our country can be persuaded to become special and extraordinary, more like our Eastern and Western European counterparts.

    No wonder the United States is home to some of the WORST architecture in the world... We effectively killed great Architecture in the 1940s and 1950s...

  7. #7
    Cyburbian rcgplanner's avatar
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    Impressive architecture. I am not so sure the US is so special in terms of having requirements for buildings. What 'things' exactly do you feel are unneeded? If a building is greater than a single story, why is an elevator unneeded? Is this more of a situation where the church is just trying save money?

  8. #8
    Look at Europe, and many older, inner-city American buildings, they are multi stories, even up to 7 stories, and do not have elevators. We do not need elevators...

    Take the Orthodox monastic area of Meteora, the monestaries are all up on plateaus. Only accessable by climbing, walking, stairs, or sometimes even baskets.

    Why allow people to be lazy and take elevators when they can stay healthy and strong by using stairs? If they are unable to climb stairs, then they don't really need to go up to the upper levels, unless the building is extra tall (which I'm also sort of opposed to skyscrapers).

    As for regulations... One example is that my parent's church was going to build a ramp... Well the city told them there had to be about 12 ft for every 1ft it went down. This meant it had to be really long. However we got around it by making it in a Z pattern.

    My architect friend/boss told me that if the church i'm designing were to have a basement for protection during tornados, then they would need an elevator/chair lift because of ADA regulations. However, I'm willing to bet that most of the older people that attend our church are able to go down and up one flight of stairs. They stand most of the 2 hour Sunday service as it is (older people are the only ones that are encouraged to use the chairs along the walls). I'm willing to bet that our nation would have much better longevity for our elderly if we encouraged more physical activity. (contrary to those retarded scooter commercials)

    Something else that is just stupid, is how some regulations are based on how things are NOW. Orthodox churches are not very similar to Protestand or Catholic churches, and will never be. The attitude is preserving what the Orthodox Church has done since about 33 A.D. (in their view at least) This includes architecture, which is always encouraged to be the same as it always has been.

    Another requirement that bugs me, is some cities require flood lights if you have over a certain number of occupants. Now I don't see anything wrong with adding them... But for thousands of years, churches were based soley on natural lighting and candles. Because they were mostly made of stone, or other non-flammable material fires were rare but certainly occured, especially in the smaller churches made of wood.

    I'm sure there are other regulations that are dumb, but I'm certainly not aware of even a small percentage of regulations.

    In my opinion, all the requirements we put on buildings, and constructing buildings only makes us worse than other countries... But then again, I really dislike capitalism and a lot of things that exist in America.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    In regards to ADA requirements: They were not developed so elderly people didn't have to use the stairs. They are for people with disabilities that are physically unable to use stairs. So for me personally, no, we can't get rid of ADA regulations.

    I don't really know that much about flood light requirements, but it seems to me a good architect could incorporate the modern inconvenience of flood lights into a quality Orthodox structure.

    Are there any other codes and regulations besides flood lights and ADA regs you are concerned with?

  10. #10
    Just tell me what is so wrong with this design... I haven't included the bathrooms in the Narthex yet in the plan.

    My Plan:


    Existing:


    Plan:


    On the plan, I didn't notice it, but I haven't yet removed some of the columns because they are too close together for people to walk through.

    This is a picture of the sanctuary area of the current church, looking towards the iconostasis (the "wall" with 3 doors and all the icons) and altar area (behind the iconostasis w/ the letters ICXC).

  11. #11
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    ADA = Americans with Disabilities Act = Unavoidable except in very special circumstances (this is not one of them)

    The requirements are for disabled people. When you do enough work on an old building, requirements are triggered for retrofits. Many of those old buildings you refer to have either not had enough work to trigger, ADA was poorly enforced, or the building use (residential condos, not a business for public access, etc.) triggered an exemption. Disabled people not being able to access those buildings is part of why that law was created in the first place--those buildings weren't working for them. ADA is not an "old, lazy person empowerment act". In fact, you can probably get away with a 1-2 person elevator. This would discourage able-bodies folks from using the elevator, meet ADA, and provide your disabled folks access. You might even ask if you can get away with a residential-grade elevator rather than commercial.

    Regarding the parking, with the variance you will need to prove a hardship (unless your BOA aren't real sticklers). I think the hardship is a tough sell here. You might check the code though to see if it will allow a joint parking agreement with an adjacent property if the business on that property is not open during the church's regular hours. It would be a way for you to meet the parking standard without actually having to construct all of the parking.

    Check to see if they have a special exception clause for the parking requirement that allows you to submit an alternative parking study. In the existing building, you could track attendance vs. occupied parking spaces, then apply that ratio to the capacity of the new building. Ask about whether you can credit any on-street parking toward the requirement.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  12. #12
    See, the thing is that with parking... The one time in the year that our attendance doubles/triples is our Pascha (Easter). And even then, people ride with family members and friends to the service because they normally stay with friends and family anyway.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian rcgplanner's avatar
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    If parking is your biggest concern and the church feels they have a legitimate hardship then they should look into applying for a variance. What is unique about the site, is it too small to fit the required amount of parking? Just saying that the parking will not be needed is usually not looked at as a hardship. It is unfortunate, but most parking codes are set for a required minimum.

  14. #14
    I think we only own a little portion of the site, so pretty much we can only double the current parking if that is true.

    But what is so wrong with the design I have come up with? My architect friend basically told me it wasn't that doable... What isn't doable about it?

    Hopefully European countries are smarter than the United States and don't do stuff like that (restrictions wise)... Unless it's promoting what has always been done over changing things.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by HeartlandCityBoy View post
    I think we only own a little portion of the site, so pretty much we can only double the current parking if that is true.

    But what is so wrong with the design I have come up with? My architect friend basically told me it wasn't that doable... What isn't doable about it?

    Hopefully European countries are smarter than the United States and don't do stuff like that (restrictions wise)... Unless it's promoting what has always been done over changing things.
    I'm not trying to be a jackass, but you need to stop speaking in such vague terms. I understand your "architect friend" said it isn't doable. But what exactly did he mean? We can't read your mind, let alone his.

    I'm not saying your design is wrong, but unless you have specific examples of things the municipalities won't allow, this whole thread seems to be a knock agains modern architecture, and nothing to do with parking, ADA, etc.

    Or maybe that's just my biased opinion.

  16. #16
    Thats just it though, he mainly talked about the ADA requirements... and how I really need to program the building with the church before I design anything.
    He also suggested a drop off for elderly in front of the church, but while it seems like a nice idea, I don't think it's really necessary.

    He said my design has a lot of merit to it, but isn't doable as is.

    Of course, the other thing is my church told me they have a budget of $1 million or $2 million (can't remember, think it's 1 mil)

    found this site and thought it was pretty cool, but my church wants influences from all countries, and not just Greece and Byzantine architecture.
    http://www.orthodoxchurchbuilder.com/home.html

    I contacted one of the guys i've been working with on the building at the church. Hopefully I can start talking to him about the function and program the building.

  17. #17
    I don't know a lot about building regulation, but while a city can waive parking requirements, they may not be able to waive ADA requirements, which are a matter of federal law. Or at any rate, cities are much less likely to be sympathetic to an appeal on ADA, expecially in new construction.

    Yes those old buildings are much more beautiful, but they fell down a lot (wasn't the church in Istanbul built on the site of an older one that collapsed in an earthquake?)

  18. #18
    I wouldn't say they fell down a lot...

    The Church of Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) in Constantinople has been standing since 537 A.D.
    The Church of St. Basil has been standing since 1561.

    Many Orthodox Churches have been standing for over a thousand years. However, many are not in existence today because of the Turks and Soviet Russia. (Soviets especially)

    Those churches you see in Athens are some of the oldest out there.

    As I said before, America is nothing special and is requiring things we do not need.

  19. #19
         
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    HCB - you have quite a bee in your bonnet...take a breath lad

    For what its worth, you aren't going to overcome ADA requirements. Get used to that.

    If parking requirements are like anything over here (the UK), you will need to supply parking relevant to the size of your building. You want less parking? Build a smaller church.

    Pascha, according to yourself, would result in the church reaching capacity for the only time in the year. So why do you require a larger church for the rest of the year? It seems perverse to build (at higher cost) a larger church to accommodate 200 for one event per year. Is there scope for the erection of a temporary structure to stand for the length of Pascha, with capacity to hold these extras?

    As for 'we didn't need these requirements in the first century AD', I'm not aware of too many disabled people whizzing about in wheelchairs or mobility scooters way back then...

  20. #20
    Cyburbian rcgplanner's avatar
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    HCB-

    I am not sure you are going to be able to get around the ADA requirements so you should get that idea out of your head. I am not sure what you think a drop-off area is a nice idea, but not really needed. This is not about lazy people, its about giving those who want access, but have some difficulty with mobility, to the church. With the aging demographics in this country (and in many countries) these are things that architects are going to have to think about.

    If you are planning on making a career out of this, you need to get used to people being critical of your work. The best way to counteract critical comments is to have justifiable reasons, backed up with evidence of why the criticisms are not vaild. Comments like I think it is stupid or I don't think I should have to follow the ADA requirements, are one of the easiest ways for a project to not be approved by a Planning Commission.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Something to remember is that if a new church were to built in these European countries today, there would surely be building codes and restrictions to follow that weren't around 1,000 years ago.

    ADA is very important in a church. I've seen lots of elderly people struggling up old church steps.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Random Traffic Guy's avatar
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    Don't let the fire marshal know you are fitting 100 people into a space made for 80. Or was that just the existing space.

    From the codes point of view, in most other uses when the size goes up, so does the number of users. If you can make a case that this is not so, or if you can show you will have some kind of TDM like a bus shuttle system to reduce number of people parking, then you can probably get some relief from the government. If you have residential adjacent to your site, it will be more difficult. With good neighbors some kind of shared parking agreement might cover you for the busy days. Or look into allowing parking on the grass, perhaps even showing the spaces on the plan ("overflow parking") and marking them out with stones or something. Or if you've got $2mil (that's kind of important to know), go for a grasscrete variant.

    Quote Originally posted by HeartlandCityBoy View post
    I just don't understand why it is that we have to regulate things so much
    Welcome to the reality of trying to actually do things, rather than just talk about them.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Why do we need all those regulations when we didn't have them way back when?

    Because those magnificent buildings were constructed by artisans and slaves or near slaves at a time when the way a building looked and the feeling it communicated were as important as the quantity of its construction. The cost of construction and the profit the builder would realize were not factors in the design and construction.

    I do not think you can cite a few magnificent structures that have survived as proof that medieval buildings did not need building regulations. Sure, those magnificent temples and churches did survive. But because they are so magnificent. 99.9999 of those medieval buildings crumbled, decayed and fell down long ago.

    Today, cost and profit regularly trump form and function. Contractors will cut corners to maximize their profit and clients will cut corner to minimize costs.

    ADA requirements are necessary and the right thing to do. The disabled amd the elderly are some of a church's best customers.

    In short, we have regulations because we see a need for them. Building requirements assure that the people who frequent those buildings have adequate access, including those who are less able, have structure safe from earthquake, fire, and other disasters, and have adequate parking. Adequate parking is very important for the neighbors. I am all for religious observation, but I do not want my driveway blocked or parked cars lined up along my property twice a week because the local church did not plan for adequate parking.

    Inadequate parking leads to the neighbors breaking the Third Commandment every Sunday.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  24. #24
    Gunfighter Mastiff's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by HeartlandCityBoy View post
    In my opinion, all the requirements we put on buildings, and constructing buildings only makes us worse than other countries... But then again, I really dislike capitalism and a lot of things that exist in America.
    When it gets too much you you to bear, we'll see how much we can chip in for a plane ticket to Europe for you.
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  25. #25
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by HeartlandCityBoy View post
    One of these things is not like the other.

    Heartland, the second picture you have posted is the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. The original was built in the 19th century and demolished in the early 20th. The picture you are showing is a replica that was just re-opened in 2000. I am pretty sure that Moscow and Russia have some experience in regulating "stuff"

    I took a course in Byzantine/Orthodox Architecture in college. Let me dig up my notes at home and I will get back to you regarding your design.

    Moderator note:
    Suburb Repairman
    removed quoted picture links other than the Cathedral of Christ the Savior for thread readability.

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