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Build a Community Centre!
- A to Z tips from someone who has been there
Report by: Sharon Browne, Tralee CDP

The most important thing about building or renovating a Community Centre building is to see this as a core piece of work. It now is the work plan, not just an addition to it.
Developing community resources is a core function of CDPs and Family Resource Centres. By providing basic community infrastructures you can attract other services and thus become more sustainable yourselves.
Plan the building carefully. Decide who the users will be and what activities they will be involved in. Obviously no matter how well you plan, the needs of your community will change over time. So you also have to think multi-purpose! Aim high. You may never get the chance to do this again.


  • Involve local people
  • Use local labour. The electricians, carpenters and so on who build your building will know it best. You may need them again down the road. SO make sure they are local.
  • Pick the right architect. Plan for future usage
  • Make sure rooms are big enough
  • Maximum storage/ lockable cupboards for groups
  • Put in solid floors. This will reduce the level of noise between floors.
  • Put glass panels on all your internal doors (frosted glass on the toilet doors). This is very important for child protection and other reasons. Obviously make sure only safety glass goes in.


  • Bike rack
  • Ample car park spaces
  • Near the front door reserve some disabled driver spaces
  • Wheelie Bin Storage for two bins.
  • Out door play area
  • Fire assembly point at a safe distance from the building.

  • Universal design principles
  • Use 'Buildings for Everyone'. But remember the legal minimum is not always best practice.
  • Get access right. Ramps are very often too steep for people with mobility impairments. You need to think beyond the wheelchair user.

  • Agree costs at the beginning, in writing.
  • Allow for an increase in costs
  • Have regular finance meetings while the project is going on.
  • If using grants to build / kit out, make sure that you clarify at the start what is and what is not eligible spending.

  • Strong premises committee. Organise site meetings with the builder to monitor progress. Or at least get minutes of all their site meetings.
  • Co-ordinator and Administrator time demands are huge.
  • You will need to prepare a whole set of policies about your new building…for example, what is the criteria for using the building? Can any group ask for a room? What are your charges? (need to project and work out your running costs). Internet & telephone use policy. Health & Safety. Recruitment & Selection. Etc. etc.
  • Have you though out the usage - service plan.
  • Have you got a staffing plan to resource your service plan? If not start now. For example have you applied for a CE scheme.

  • Make sure you have a good fire alarm system wired into the electrical set up. Also install flashing beacons linked to the fire alarm system in every room for deaf people.
  • Pick a company to supply and service all your fire fighting equipment. Do fire training, keep records of regular fire drills.
  • Safe access/ egress of children/ older people. Do a very careful safety audit and take all necessary steps to address potential hazards.
  • Health and Safety training & policy. Safety statements are really important. Make sure you get a Safety File from the builder when they are finished.
  • Pick a hygiene company that you will maintain a relationship with. Get them to kit out your toilets, hand dryers etc.
  • Don't forget to build a space as a Janitor Store Room. Where are you going to lock away detergents, mops, hoover, buffer etc. Electrical & IT
  • Plenty electrical points. More than you need now.
  • Plenty of internet access points other than in IT/PC room
  • Put in the wiring for a computer server and Broadband. Plan for a minimum of 18 people/computers. Think minimum class size for FAS requirements etc. Think about hiring an IT Consultant / trouble shooter on a maintenance contract.
  • Put in a phone system large enough to take extra lines in the future.

  • Put in a floor or wall safe for storing cheques.
    Make sure it is big enough
  • Magnets on doors and codes for keypad access.
  • Care-taking/sustainable night time usage.
  • Have good lighting outside for night time usage.
  • Coded Grouped Keys - can be handy for giving people a key that will open sets of doors and restrict access to other areas. This will impact on your caretaking / security arrangements. We got ours from Total Iron Mongery Solutions, Cork.
  • If you are using shutters, put them on the inside of the windows/doors. Ones on the outside send the wrong message for
    a community project. You don't want to look like you're in the middle of a war zone / ghetto.
  • Have you thought about CCTV? While you don't want to over do it you might want just one camera on the front door?
  • Make sure that you have adequate public liability insurance when you are ready to open the doors.
  • Check the status of your insurance during the building works. At this stage it is usually the builder who insures the site, but your own insurance must kick in on hand over day. You will need buildings, contents, public liability, maybe payroll, what about crèche, groups, outings etc. Give it thought and shop around.
  • If you have a lift you will need Engineering Insurance.
  • If you have a PC lab / IT room you will need Data Insurance.