Increased Facilities Use and Operating Costs

Don’t Miss this Potential Budget Breaker

Ministries have started using their facilities in new and unique ways, both as a result of COVID-19 and as they’ve reimagined their building needs. As building use increases, it’s important for ministries to consider the increased operational costs, lifecycle planning, and capital budgeting.

Brotherhood Mutual® recently spoke with Tim Cool, chief solutions officer with Smart Church Solutions, about what he’s experienced working with many ministries over the past several months.

Wear and Tear Takes a Toll

The first thing Cool has noticed is that many ministries began to use more of their facility space in order to maintain social distancing. As a result, Cool noted that “we’ve seen an increase in wear and tear and cleaning needs.” He recommends adjusting budgets to plan for increased cleaning costs, equipment repair, and light repair of rooms. Additionally, Cool explained that, “people have become accustomed to having free reign of your facility, but as your operations get back to normal, you may have to remind your people that certain rooms may only be available during specific days and times.” This helps reduce cleaning time and wear and tear on the space.

HVAC Equipment Retirement Planning

Increased use not only affects your floors, doors, and tables, but puts added strain on your building’s mechanical systems, too. To keep air circulating, ministries may have left HVAC blower fans running for longer periods of time, or even 24/7. This additional use can lead to a shortened lifecycle.

Cool recommends that ministries increase regular inspection of their HVAC units or have them professionally serviced, especially if they’re older. “If an A/C unit is getting close to the end of its service life, you may think about replacing it soon,” said Cool. Most older units use a refrigerant that’s no longer made, so recharging an aging unit may likely cost more than in the past. Couple that with rising demand for parts to repair older units, and ministries could be waiting several weeks or even months for a fix, especially for larger units.

When looking at a new air conditioning system, Cool says ministries should budget $3,000 to $4,000 per ton of cooling power. To find the capacity of your current system, look for an information label on the outdoor unit - in the case of a split system or rooftop unit. The label may clearly state the cooling capacity, but it’s often found in the serial or model number. “If you haven’t budgeted to replace your heating and air conditioning equipment, now is the time.” Smart Church Solutions offers a handy capital reserves planning guide that can help you get started today.

Rethinking Your Space

Cool has also seen a trend with ministries looking to add or renovate building space. “Some churches are seeing an increase in attendance and now have a space issue,” said Cool. Before hiring a contractor to knock down walls or build new structure, he recommends that ministries perform a thorough facilities condition assessment to understand their current space utilization and needs.

While it’s exciting to start a new construction or renovation project, Cool advises ministries to look at more than just the construction costs. “Any time you add space, you’ll have additional operations cost. Before the first shovel hits the ground, find out what your additional personnel, utility, janitorial, and equipment replacement costs will be,” Cool added. “You don’t want your short-term gain to turn into long-term pain.”

For more information about stewarding your ministry facilities, visit today.

Posted June 29, 2021.

The information provided in this article is intended to be helpful, but it does not constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for the advice from a licensed attorney in your area. We encourage you to regularly consult with a local attorney as part of your risk management program.