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Religious construction could be about to increase for the first time since 2002
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Construction experts believe 2016 will bring a surge in religion-related building projects. - photo by Kelsey Dallas
This year has been bleak for religious construction. Industry experts predict that 9.3 million square feet of new space for churches, synagogues, temples and mosques will be built this year, an 82 percent decline from 2002, The Wall Street Journal reports.

"A confluence of trends has depressed religious construction over the last 13 years, including falling formal religious participation and changing donation habits," the article notes. "There has also been a shift away from the construction of massive megachurch buildings as more large congregations adopt multi-site models, holding multiple services in smaller often rented spaces."

However, the building forecast for next year indicates the trend has bottomed out. Construction-data firm Dodge Data & Analytics predicts a 3.2 percent increase in religious construction in 2016.

Additionally, Commerce Department data show that construction spending by faith communities increased in the first eight months of 2015, up "2.3 percent compared with the same period in 2014," The Wall Street Journal reports.

While the state of religion isn't typically depicted by construction industry data, physical space can be a key determinant of a faith community's success, as was reported last month.

"All faith traditions are very much linked to their so-called sacred space, whether it's a synagogue or a church or a mosque," noted Richard Vosko, a church architecture consultant, in the article. "It's an expression of who the people are who worship there and what they believe."

Traditional architectural elements like steeples or stained-glass windows can draw in potential new members because they're more spiritually symbolic than a simple sign, Baptist News Global reports. But unique, nontraditional buildings can be effective in other ways, especially when they signal an innovative worship style.

"Non-church-looking architecture will more likely attract a larger percentage of nones and dones," or the people who have had a difficult relationship with a worship community in the past, said congregational consultant George Bullard to Baptist News Global.

And it's not just building design that matters during religious construction. Location is another important consideration, as another article article from July 2013 noted.

"(Churches) often lose prominence as they erect functional but uninspiring buildings far from the community's civic and commercial centers," the article reported. "Religious institutions could reclaim religion's historical influence in the nation's cities, towns and even suburbs by creating sacred spaces in the hearts of communities."
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