As funeral directors welcome in the New Year, many will be questioning how they can set themselves apart from their competition. Significant changes in architectural and interior design over the last decade have paved the way for funeral directors from coast to coast to step out of the lines of the traditional funeral home and venture in to new and exciting spaces. Growths in the industry and consumer awareness have forced funeral directors to look to the future and commit to that next step of increasing their share of the market. Architectural trends in the funeral industry are focusing on creating an atmosphere that is welcoming to the celebration of life and giving the funeral director a better opportunity to service their families.
Reception Centers have become increasingly popular among funeral directors. Whether they are a part of the existing funeral home or stand alone buildings, these multipurpose facilities offer a great deal more than the traditional lounges of yesterday. The new centers typically consist of large gathering rooms which can be used for anything from non-traditional services and funeral lunches, to town meetings. Most are equipped with warming kitchens, oversized refrigeration units and separate catering access. Space permitting, outdoor patios can offer an added touch complete with an outside dining area and the warmth of a fireplace. Free standing structures will typically have designated parking so as not to interfere with parking or lining of the vehicles for a funeral service. With the addition of a designated reception center space, funeral directors now have the opportunity to add a significant new profit center to their business along with providing their families a convenient venue for luncheons or family gatherings following a funeral service.
It’s of no surprise that cremation is on the rise and is the continuing hot topic in the industry. In an effort to accommodate the increasing numbers of cremations and the increased consumer awareness, funeral directors are addressing cremations much differently than they did a decade ago. State regulations vary throughout the country regarding the ownership, location and zoning districts, but in those states that allow cremation facilities as an ancillary business to funeral homes, they are often an additional service worth strongly considering. In most states, cremation facilities can be either a part of the existing funeral home or a free standing structure near the funeral home. Dedicated cremation chapels designed for physical viewing of the loading process have also become very popular in order to serve those segments of the community that prefer a personal involvement in the process, as part of the committal service. When designing these areas, the architect must consider the location of the unit for noise control, size and placement of the stack, proper air handling, and adequate space for the processing. Addressing key issues to make cremation services more profitable has become the primary focus. Additionally, the advancement of expanding the business model to include pet cremation has also played an important part in recent development trends.
For the funeral director who is concerned with meeting the competition, a space- lift is often the answer. In most areas, land prices are continuing to soar making it more difficult for business owners to consider relocating to a new facility. With a proper design and cost-effective approach, funeral directors can transform their existing structure into state of the art facilities which consequently compete well in their particular market. The process begins with detailed programming, addressing all of the issues from curb appeal and accessibility to interior process flow. With the guidance of an experienced funeral home architect, the transformation in most cases will often be significantly less costly than building a new facility, thereby often regaining lost market share and profitability from an aging property. The ultimate goal in any case is to create a space that looks, feels, and operates like a new building, yet maintains the warmth and comfort to which the community is accustomed.
Funeral homes today are adapting rapidly to the advancement in technology. The funeral director is now dealing with the family members whose day to day life revolves around the use of computers, cell phones, flat screens and just about anything wireless. The days of the old letter boards above the register stand are gone. The TV cart being wheeled from the viewing room to the chapel is a thing of the past. Funeral homes today are being equipped with monitors at the register stands, flat screens with articulating mounts recessed in the chapel walls, motorized screens and HD projectors, wireless microphones and docking stations for phones, tablets and laptops. Custom A/V rooms are designed to house all of the equipment needed to efficiently man multiple services or visitations from one location with the use of remote cameras and microphones mounted throughout the funeral home and conveniently operated from one central location in the building. Regardless of the facility the wireless capabilities today allow any funeral director to keep up with the latest technological trends which helps them stay on the cutting edge in their market. When looking ahead, from a design perspective, it is clear that the modern funeral home now represents a multipurpose, brightly lit, open atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable, whether the purpose is celebrating the life of a loved one, or attending a town meeting. With the right direction, every funeral director is able to take that next step in modernizing their new or existing facility and meeting the demand of the ever changing trends in funeral home design.