Although higher in cost than pews or chairs, auditorium or theater-style seating forchurches has enjoyed a surge of popularity in recent years. With so many choices available, there are some important questions for every church committee to ask potential suppliers before making a decision.
1. Company: How much experience does the manufacturer have with churches? Most auditorium seating was originally designed for theaters and stadiums. Churches have unique needs that are not always understood by firms with little worship seating experience. There are distinct advantages to working with a company that has a reputation for professional church project management.
2. Domestic Production: Is the product produced in the US or does the company rely on foreign parts and assembly? The latter may be subject to political issues or shipping delays. Look for companies that source at least 75% of component parts domestically and perform 100% of assembly in a US location.
3. Comfort: What materials are used in the seat and back cushions? Are they shaped to follow the body contour? Is the seat substrate also contoured? Cold molded foam designed specifically for the seats and backs allows ergonomic contouring and will hold its shape better than other foams over time. A contoured seat substrate will be more comfortable than a flat seat base.
4. Quiet Operation: Does the system rely on a mechanical (springs) lift or is it designed to let gravity retract the seat? Gravity-lift systems are quiet and will stay quiet, while mechanical methods tend to be noisier – especially after years of use.
5. Renewability: Are the cushions designed for easy removal and is there provision for replacing the seat and back covers without the cost of a professional upholsterer? Can the various seating component parts be easily replaced if needed? The cost of ownership is much less if the answer to these questions is “yes”.
6. Flexibility: Can the seating be aligned with aisles without the use of several different seat sizes, which affects overall appearance? Are wider seats available for specified areas if you want to provide for larger people? Are removable units offered? Can arms, drink holders, or other accessories be added later if needed? Many churches see their needs change over time and need seating that can grow with them.
7. Profile: When seats are in the up position, is the profile 19” deep or less? A slim profile provides for more standing and walking space, and comfort does not have to be sacrificed if the seats and backs are contoured with good quality foam.
8. Maintenance: How much maintenance will be needed or required? For seating systems with springs, some manufacturers require regular lubrication to maintain the warranty. This can be time-consuming if the mechanism is not easy to reach, adding cost to ownership.
9. On-time Delivery and Installation: Does the company have a reputation for timely performance or have there been issues from time to time? Ask an architect who works on church projects in your area for input. Insist on reference installation locations.
10. Samples: Is the company willing to send a professional representative with samples or will they simply ship them to you for inspection? Most churches have little or no experience with this type of seating, making it difficult to understand what they are seeing – and the samples cannot speak! Take the time to schedule a meeting with an experienced professional who can provide the information you need, and to answer questions that inevitably arise.
With a myriad of choices in the auditorium seating market, asking the right questions can eliminate confusion, help to narrow your search, and save time. Auditorium seating is a major investment and worth the effort to make an informed decision.