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The Bottom Line on Fixed Auditorium Seating

Deciding on sanctuary seating that promises to be favorable towards your church’s bottom line can be difficult. After all, you’re involved in a significant financial investment that will affect the comfort of your congregation for years to come. So, where do you begin? How can you be assured your choice of permanently installed theater-style seating will provide your church with years of maintenance-free performance? In this article we’ll familiarize you with some basic advantages of and considerations for this popular trend in seating.

Making Better Use of Your Real Estate
The main reason churches and architects should consider fixed seating, according to Ron Ogden, vice president of marketing and sales for Series USA, is stewardship of space. “Choosing a theater seat is not really about image or being contemporary vs. traditional,” stresses Ogden. “It’s really more about space efficiency. The right kind of theater seat has a very compact envelope. And it will free up a lot of space between the rows compared with what you get with stackable chairs or a conventional pew.” A church can plan for longer rows and fewer aisles adding up to more available floor space for more seats. Ogden adds, “If you are paying 20% more for a theater seat than a pewwhatever the dollar amountit’s far less than spending the added dollars to increase the size of your building to gain the same increase.”

Making Better Use of Your Time
With this type of seating one often hears the term low cost of ownership. This happens in several ways. Ogden estimates, “If you have, say 3,000 seats, your cleaning crew has close to a mile in length of floor space to clean between rows. With the folding seat design of theater seats the paper wads and debris fall to the floor. Eliminating the task of cleaning pew or chair cushions allows for one-pass cleaning,” surmises Ogden. “The folding seat’s 20 or so inch egress compared with the pew’s 12 or so inch egress provides a roomier passageway. This also increases the efficiency factor by allowing easier and faster manipulation of equipment between rows.”

Diligence about Durability
Churches need to be diligent when interviewing prospective seating companies. Ogden advises churches to ask tough questions. “Ask companies to explain their product,” he says, “find out what you are really getting and learn enough about the raw materials to make an educated decision.” Seating Concepts’ National Sales Manager, Robert Manness, advises prospective buyers to inquire about test or lab reports on products. “These tests are performed by independent labs so adherence to high standards is assured,” says Manness. The ANSI/BIFMA X5.4 is the most extensive testing for seating durability in the industry. It is important to ensure that the testing applies to the supplier’s complete chair and not just the components. ISO9001 accreditation and other external quality certification for the supplier producing the products also confirm an expectation of better quality.

Decision makers need educate themselves about seating componentssuch as the seat’s cushion. Knowing the difference between open cell, cut, or laminated foam vs. close celled or cold molded foam is crucial. Cheaply made stackable chairs use slab foam or laminated foam rather than what is referred to as cold molded foam. The former, lacking substantial density, bottoms out and wears faster. Cold molded foam (foam poured into a mold in its liquid form) hardens as it cools. Cells are closed in this process because the method forms the foam in a mold contouring the seat. Foam used on the seat will not have been cut into shape and glued together. The desirable end result is the closed cell foam cushions and seatback components will deter moisture absorption. This process results in a higher density foam and one which also repels moisture. Cold molded foam will delay penetration of stains into the seat, eliminating odor retention and deterring foam degeneration.

Fabric Options to Consider
Ogden is emphatic to clients considering fabric options. “They need to identify two key factors of fabrics rather than getting tied to a particular mill,” he advises. One is a rub test. “We recommend that a fabric has a rub test of at least 50,000 double rubs, and some fabrics offered are up to 250,000 double rubshowever, beyond 50,000, you are not going to have a fabric wear out,” notes Ogden, who also recommends fabrics be solution dyed. In this process the color is an integral feature of the fiber itself. “Think carrot vs. radish,” says Ogden.

Not All Gravity Lifts are Alike
Mannes, whose company has held a presence in the worship market for the past 20 years, points to another advantage of theater seating. “The best seat return mechanisms are gravity lift and provide for lifetime warranties on the mechanism itself. Leading warranties, like ours, will guarantee that the noise of the seat return will be below 50 db for the life of the product, avoiding the squeaking sounds of springs and the clanking sound caused by the breakdown of the damper mechanism.” Executive Director of Sales and Marketing for Bertolini Seating, Bruce Prock, says his company offers a 10-year bumper to bumper warranty. It’s what they refer to as 50 years of silence. “We actually build our chair with an oil impregnated brass bushing which we have cycle tested for beyond 100 years, so we are comfortable telling people that when you get up out of your seat this chair is not going to make noise for the next 50 years of heavy use.”

Ogden explains Series USA’s gravity lift performance and cautions against assuming all gravity lift products are equal in quality and design. “Just because they are gravity lift seats and you’ve eliminated the spring,” surmises Ogden, “doesn’t mean you’ve eliminated all the mechanics that relate to maintenance. Part of our presentation is to explain how our gravity seats are different and how our seat design has eliminated the mechanisms that require care and maintenance down the road.”

Alison Istnick is a contributing writer for Church Production and Worship Facilities magazines. She can be reached at .

Bertolini Inc.
Chair manufacturer
(800) 647-7755

Seating Concepts LLC
Chair manufacturer
(800) 868-8464 or (619) 491-3159

Series USA
Chair manufacturer
(800) 729-1190

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