Columbarium Space Management and Columbarium Design

Columbarium and cemetery design are specialized fields in the built environment sector, focusing on providing space for the deceased and memorialization for families and loved ones. Unlike other types of spaces, columbarium and cemetery facilities are planned with a long-term view, and there is a need to cater for future capacity and expansion. The design and functionality of these spaces are not only to provide suitability and efficiency for the management and operations but also to offer a tranquil and comforting environment for the visitors. Creative and innovative designs are introduced and implemented to ensure smooth and effective space planning, taking into consideration the limitations of land and the increasing demand for spaces for the deceased. Technology solutions are also advocated to improve operations and generally optimize the utilization of the space, such as digital management systems and space-saving storage solutions. There are a few principal challenges being faced, including the limitation in physical space and the general increase in land costs, the growing demand for columbarium spaces due to the trends in using niche storage as a mode of memorialization, and the inadequacy in applying effective management and technology solutions to make the management of the facilities more efficient. This paper discusses the challenges in space and capacity management in columbarium and cemetery design. Both critical issues and creative solutions will be explored and evaluated. On the one hand, the inefficiency caused by inadequate solutions to the management of space and capacity is observed in many of the existing facilities. On the other hand, innovative designs and new ideas can be realized and contribute to a much more effective and sustainable way of managing columbarium spaces and memorial, particularly to the use of niches. The paper will first analyze the general challenges and practices in space and capacity management. Then, it will introduce contemporary attempts and ideas, either on a more macro urban planning level or on a micro niche level in the facilities. And ultimately, a case study on a recently launched columbarium block in Cape Collinson will be reviewed to exemplify these challenges and the application of new ideas for addressing them.

Understanding the Importance of Columbarium Design

Cemeteries are not just spaces for the interment of the dead; they are important public places that help define the character of a community. Heritage cemeteries, such as the Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto, reflect the culture and art of the 19th and 20th centuries. These cemeteries have graves that are over a hundred years old and are usually considered to be full. In areas where land is scarce or overcrowded, new cemeteries are constantly sought after. Throughout the years, columbarium and cemetery designs have changed dramatically in order to adapt to the ever-changing and diversified needs of the general public and the deceased. For example, there has been a shift away from the traditional form of the cemetery, which is characterized by rows of grave plots and a uniform and thick covering of vegetation. Instead, more modern designs adopt a park-like arrangement, with winding paths, informal plantings, and areas for rest and reflection. Columbarium walls and above-ground tombs have also been introduced to diversify the range of memorial options available to the dead and the living. Due to the limited and non-renewable nature of land, there has been an increase in the use of cremation as a mode of body disposition. This can be evidenced by statistics in Canada, where the rate of cremation far exceeds that of traditional ground burial and is expected to rise even further in the future. As the space taken up by cremation remains is significantly less than that by full body burials, columbarium niches – which are essentially spaces used for the placement of cremation urns containing cremated remains – have become more and more popular. This, in turn, has led to an increase in the use of above-ground memorialization, such as columbarium walls, as these designs are generally more space efficient than traditional in-ground burials. Also, above-ground designs offer increased ease of accessibility for family members and loved ones.

Challenges Faced in Managing Space and Capacity

Cemetery space use trends show us that the demand for space is growing faster than local authorities can provide. This isn’t new: historic cemetery expansion programs tended to add large areas of unpurchased, undemanded new burial space, only for the longer term issue to be storage and management of multiple, sometimes near full burial grounds. The situation with mausolea is similarly challenging. As well as the periodic need for new burial space, there are compelling reasons to re-use old or historic grave areas that are full or unused. In my own experience, such areas tend to be high maintenance, often untidy, and difficult to navigate – the very opposite of what many clients wish for. New graves require contractors to return multiple times, potentially over a year or more, and heavy machinery and materials need to be safely stored on site for extended periods during construction. Both of these issues result in a health and safety and amenity minefield for visitors, cemetery staff and contractors alike. Of course, each new cremation plot or burial space will also need to be maintained and ultimately visited, potentially for decades or even centuries. This maintenance impact is often not well understood by clients; it’s our role as designers to present and explain the ongoing challenges and to assist in producing the most efficient, long-term sustainable design solution. Technology exists to show where space is available within a cemetery but it is often standalone or very limited in its graphical capability. A geographic information system (GIS) – commonly used in town and country planning and other property and asset management areas – offers fantastic opportunities for clients and end users to understand and visualize growth plans and areas, both for cemetery management teams and also members of the public looking to buy burial or memorial space. A good GIS will be able to display historic grave register data and show planned new interments or memorials. This not only aids the management of capacity over time but has the potential to provide commercial opportunities; a GIS system online could allow burial space customers to directly choose and purchase preferred spaces. It also creates opportunities for improved public engagement and way-finding; visitors could access touchscreens or kiosks on site or access the system via the web to find and navigate to graves or memorials of interest. This in turn has potential to drive increased footfall through a cemetery, increasing the perceived success of different areas and, in time, assisting cemetery management teams when addressing requests for future change or extension. These tools help all of us: clients can understand more about what we propose and the ongoing nature of space management, and local authorities can use their burial grounds and cemeteries to foster an appreciation of the heritage value and social history within their communities.

Innovative Solutions for Efficient Design

Maximizing space utilization through vertical design involves designing multi-storey structures or taller buildings for columbariums and cemeteries. By doing so, the land area to be dedicated for such use can then be reduced. In addition, vertical design enhances the functionality of the space by providing different levels or floors for different activities, such as having the ground level for traditional or religious activities, the upper floor for more private columbarium niches, and the lower floor for storage and operations. This is especially advantageous in urban areas where land scarcity is a common issue. The concept of vertical design is also readily applicable to cemetery building. For instance, a new cemetery project may consider employing vertical methods such as having multi-storey carpark, or building a multi-storey office or building for exhumation and grave relocation purposes. This will allow better space planning and improve the productivity in the cemetery operation. On the other hand, existing cemeteries that are facing issues of depleting land area such as those situated in matured housing estate can consider the construction of new building for the purpose of storage and office, and converting the existing office and storage area for exhumation and cremation usage. And by relocating and centralizing all office, storage and operations into a single building, it opens up more empty land that can be used for grave expansion and other purposes. Such approach transforms and maximizes the use of spaces in existing facilities, allows the application of technology in the design of new cemetery. For example, Building Information Modeling technology can be used to provide a three-dimensional visualization of the end product, hence, maximizing the building design and construction efficiency through the detailed study of spatial planning and work flow. It also allows the different party of stakeholders including authority, design team and construction team to have a better understanding and coordination. Another possible innovative solution is the use of portable or modular columbarium. This approach provides utmost flexibility in the sense that the columbarium can be relocated and reconfigured at any time to suit different functions or space. It is especially useful when the land lease period is short, or when there is a need to vacate the land for other alternative development. The design can come in different creative and modern forms, and the columbarium can be made of various materials such as stainless steel, wood, glass or polycarbonate. With different combination of standard units and provisions for customization, the resultant product can be truly unique and personalized. It is also cost-efficient as the manufacturers normally would provide a comprehensive package of services that inclusive of the customization, installation and maintenance of the columbarium. On the contrary, permanent columbarium requires a higher sum of initial capital for construction and development. However, with the provision of customization and personalization, permanent columbarium will always be the preferred choice to cater for the long term needs and requirements for placement of urns and memorials. It is worth to note that customized design shall incorporate the needs of various group of users in city, such as the provision of barrier free access for elderly and persons with disabilities, and the consideration of different religious practices and beliefs. Simple and user-friendly designs such as the provision of clear signage and well-lit pathways should also be taken into account to ensure a pleasant and comfortable environment for visitors.

Maximizing Space Utilization through Vertical Design

Maximizing space utilization through vertical design means that the design allows for the greatest number of niches in the least amount of space. There are two main ways to achieve this. The first way is to create a double-sided structure. In this design, niches are placed back to back and can be accessed from both the front and the back of the structure. By doing this, the number of corridors in the columbarium can be minimized and eliminated altogether in some cases. The second way to maximize space is to build upward with multi-storied structures. This means that each niche level is positioned on a floor with open space between levels. The level of open space does not need to be very high—just enough to give a feeling of openness and to allow for convenient access to niches. There are no standard sizes for niches or niche covers. They are available in multiple sizes. Usually, the cover size one picks will be close to the inside dimensions of the niche. However, to ensure a proper fit, it is best to measure the niche at the cemetery. Cemetery staff can guide in deciding what size niche cover would best suit one’s needs based on the specific niche. A good vertical design approach helps to address the problem of limited space. First, such an approach can help address the fact that more and more people are choosing cremation. With new cremation niches, or even a new building dedicated to cremation niches, it is possible to create a beautiful space by combining traditional architecture and natural light with a thoughtful design to facilitate individual and family visitation. Second, a vertical design approach that includes more niches can help with the financial health of the cemetery and provide for future operational and capital needs. This is particularly important for cemeteries that are running out of space. Finally, good vertical design planning will provide predictability and flexibility in the long term use and planning of the cemetery property. This will ensure the active and ongoing care of the cemetery for generations to come.

Implementing Creative Storage Solutions

In the larger scale of cemetery and columbarium design, there are also several creative storage solutions that can be implemented to maximize the available space and improve the overall storage capacity. Besides the more commonly seen straight wall designs, there is a curved niche design called the “Hollywood” design. This design allows all the cremation niches to be set on a continuous curve and then the radius of the curve can be adjusted to fit the size of the building, leaving an empty middle space for the caretakers and visitors to move around and offering a feature wall as well. Another creative storage method is to stack the niches on top of each other with the help of special steel rackings, saving a lot of horizontal walking space. There are different types of racking systems and one of them is the “lift and lock” racking system that allows a niche to be pushed easily with just one hand and it is very user-friendly. Besides, some steel racking systems come with casters so that the niches can be moved around and provide great flexibility in selecting different niche sizes and storage arrangement in future. Also, the mobility of the niches does not compromise the safety issue because casters can be easily locked. Such flexible design can help accommodate future increasing demand or changes and it is quite a practical and cost-effective solution that can minimize the potential future renovation work. However, the various kinds of practical and effective storage solutions are only the physical implementations. Modern technology can also being incorporated to provide a smarter management system to further improve the overall arrangement and operation in any storage facilities. The most direct and apparent benefit of having a niche location indicating system is to minimize the occurrence of human errors when trying to locate a niche. With a more reliable and efficient operation, the time and effort spend on searching a particular niche can be reduced, leading to a more pleasant visiting experience and a efficient working environment as well. Also, most of the system provides a user-friendly interface and searching process can be done by entering partial or full information of the deceased person, making the whole system even more accessible and intuitive. A location map is normally shown on the screen with the search result being highlighted, showing the location of the selected niche and the suggested route from the current position, just like those advanced car GPS systems. Last but not least, the system today is designed to allow seamless integration with other add-on features such as digital photo decorations and touch screen memorial services, providing avenues for future technology expansion. Such flexible platform can help the operators or the administrators to transform the storage facility into a technology enriched and dynamic place of commemoration, creating a unique user experience and meeting the different needs of visitors.

Incorporating Technology for Streamlined Operations

As today’s world becomes increasingly digital and automated, advanced technology is being incorporated into many aspects of daily life. In the case of cemetery and columbarium management, implementing technology not only leads to streamlining of operations, but also better use of space and facilities due to improved efficiency. One of the common technologies introduced in the context of cemetery and columbarium management is the use of cemetery management software, which is designed to help manage, record keeping, and mapping of the space. Such digital solutions can be tailored to different needs and can be used to create a complete dataset of information to aid in the effective management and planning of the cemetery site. With the introduction of such software, gone are the days of manually searching and correlating information. These data-driven systems allow users to access precise, up-to-date information in a few simple clicks, thus reducing errors and substantially increasing efficiency in operations. Advanced systems such as touch-screen kiosks can be used on site to help visitors find particular graves or points of interest within the cemetery plot. These interactive kiosks are regularly being installed to aid visitors and are placed at particular locations throughout the cemetery. The advanced software can also come with the flexibility of offering mobile device access for system users. This would further enhance efficiency as ground staff can use mobile devices to update the digital site and information will be synchronized and updated in the central system in real time. Last but not least, these technology-driven solutions can be harnessed to design and plan cemeteries and burial grounds more effectively. Geographical information systems (GIS) are increasingly used as a tool to determine the most effective use of space, taking into consideration factors like ground conditions and the environmental impact of new burials. Such analysis will help to create a more intuitive and effective use of the available land, which is extremely useful particularly in land-scarce countries like Singapore. The Mount Vernon Columbarium Complex is one of the examples in which a brand new state-of-the-art columbarium facility and management system will be introduced. Employing modern technology in such a facility, it is expected that the operations and management of niches would be well taken care of, thus providing peace of mind and that the final resting place will be kept in good order for families and descendants.

Enhancing Capacity and Accessibility

One approach for addressing the pressures on space is to expand the physical area. This could involve building in areas not currently used for burials or repurposing existing sections of the cemetery. The key is to create a masterplan for any expansion and ensure that new areas are designed to integrate with the existing cemetery in terms of both aesthetics and practical considerations. This could mean that the aesthetics of the existing cemetery are disrupted for several years while building work is ongoing. Families may have concerns about disruption or access to their loved one’s grave or ashes. However, it is important to communicate the long-term benefits of any expansion and the care that is being taken to ensure that the cemetery remains a peaceful and respectful place throughout any building work. New buildings or graves could become an opportunity to increase revenue and footfall through providing community facilities. For example, a new building could be let out as a venue for weddings or meetings and a coffee shop could be opened. Such facilities could attract people to the cemetery who might not usually visit and could provide a welcome space for both visitors and those caring for graves. This not only opens up new income streams but also helps to create a more sustainable future for the cemetery. New buildings or graves could become an opportunity to increase revenue and footfall through providing community facilities. For example, a new building could be let out as a venue for weddings or meetings and a coffee shop could be opened. Such facilities could attract people to the cemetery who might not usually visit and could provide a welcome space for both visitors and those caring for graves. This not only opens up new income streams but also helps to create a more sustainable future for the cemetery.

Expanding Existing Facilities to Accommodate Growing Demand

In existing cemeteries and columbariums, one way to cater to the increasing demand for space is to expand upwards, in a vertical direction. There are several ways of creating more niches and columbarium space. For example, a low-rise mausoleum can be expanded by adding more stories using lightweight concrete or steel stud construction. Meanwhile, niche walls can be built up and additional tiers added to maximize the number of niches available. This approach is very cost-effective and is able to create almost double the number of niches in the same space. By placing the new niches behind or on top of the existing niches, disruption to the existing columbarium spaces is minimized. After construction, when a client selects a space for interment, the family will be able to choose from brand new niches or those typically considered less desirable. By doing so, the older spaces will be utilized quicker, optimizing the use of existing facilities while spaces in the new or more popular areas can be left available for future use. This method is popular with developers and cemetery clients due to the very low disruption to the day-to-day operations of the cemetery; existing niches can still be used and visited by families and the construction work is often out of sight and mind. As such, many expansion projects are carried out without the need for the columbarium or mausoleum to ever close to the public. Technology can also be integrated to enhance capacity and accessibility. For instance, a web-based management system can help to increase the efficiency in which cemetery and columbarium spaces are utilized. By providing an easy-to-use repository of deceased records (including the plot or niche in which they are located), families and staff can quickly search for the information they require. This not only makes administrative tasks easier but it can also encourage families to discover long-lost relatives who may have niches in the same columbarium, thus ensuring that every niche is used to its maximum potential. Also, staff in the cemetery or columbarium can quickly log the allocation of a new niche to the database, thus updating the availability of spaces in real time which can be accessed by those families looking to purchase a niche. This method saves time and maximizes the potential of the space available. In addition, some cemetery authorities have introduced the option for families to purchase exclusive rights to an interment space for 50 or 100 years. This means that families can pre-select their niche without the worry of spaces running out in the future. In return, the income generated from such licenses can be reinvested into the cemetery, helping to fund expansion projects and ensuring that the cemetery remains self-sustainable. This approach is particularly useful when there is limited space for future expansions. By committing to a plan for sustainable development over a long period of time, a place in a cemetery or columbarium can be guaranteed to a family and capacity can be effectively managed.

Designing Accessible Spaces for All

In the case of a cemetery project, it is likely that deviations from the strict ADA standards will be necessary as a result of unique design features, site constraints, or the historic nature of the existing facilities. In such cases, a professional landscape architect or architect with experience in accessibility design is likely to have a good understanding of the various solutions that may be acceptable under the law. Also, local codes and regulations, which may provide some variation from the ADA standards, must be consulted and their requirements followed as well.

Although the ADA contains specific requirements for accessible design, some flexibility is allowed and it is possible to deviate from the strict technical requirements if an equivalent or greater level of access can be achieved. However, any variance from the standards set for in the ADA must be properly documented and justified in writing by a qualified professional.

First, it is important to recognize that just because a cemetery is an older facility or that it is designated as a historic site, this should not be an excuse for avoiding compliance with contemporary design standards for accessibility. In fact, the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities, and it specifically mandates that public facilities, including cemeteries and columbaria, be designed and constructed to provide access to all individuals. This means that any new construction as well as alterations to existing facilities must be made with accessibility in mind.

With its unique function and special role in the community, it is common for a cemetery or columbarium to have features not typically found in other types of development. From slight level changes to major grade changes and unique design features like water features and statuary, the built environment of most cemeteries presents design challenges that must be overcome when creating accessible routes to and throughout the site. When faced with these challenges, there are general guidelines that designers can reference to ensure that their site layouts and building designs take accessibility into consideration. These guidelines, as well as the federal and local regulations that influence cemetery and columbarium design, are discussed in the following paragraphs.

Creating Flexible Options for Future Expansion

That it is simply much more different than traditional burial. The society and environment are changing everyday, so as the funeral and burial sector, the urn has to be placed in columbarium respectfully. It is really not that difficult to imagine as when you go to a columbarium to pay respect to the ancestors, you will see that all the family members’ urns are actually placed together and on top of each other. Therefore, it is really important that when a columbarium is going to be designed or constructed, a thoughtful and good design should be in place so that the future expansion can be facilitated. Usually, these types of design will cause a lot of space to be wasted and there is a lack of personal touch or spiritual feeling for the users when visiting the ancestors. Alternatively, if the dimension of the niche passes a certain limit that the layout permits further expansion, authority will request the developer to submit a report to explain why the dimension is exceeding the limit and what the result is. It is understandable that since space in urban areas is really valuable and at the same time, there is always demand for more columbariums in Hong Kong. It is no doubt that developing a private columbarium that allows profit making is a good investment, however, the developer should always remember to promote and provide a dignified and thoughtful environment for the clients’ ancestors. This is not just about the increasingly stringent legislative regulations but also from the user experience point of view. It is hoped that good columbarium design with innovative ideas can be widely adopted. For example, some columbariums adopt the concept of a family alcove wherein a feature wall is given for the family to place photos or small gadgets which represent the ancestors while the urns are placed behind the glass door. This physically creates a private and serene place for the users to pay respect to their ancestors and at the same time, a dignified and organized space is provided. Also, a more efficient method for placing urns is applied and that being said future expansion can be simulated as even if there is a need to add more niches, the layout of the existing niches will not be affected. This is important for the private columbarium which is operating in a commercial manner as it strikes a good balance point that is respect to the ancestors and at the same time, maximum capacity and efficiency in operation can be achieved. Another example will be the application of modern technology in columbarium design. In Shanghai, a large-scale public columbarium is designed and 3D computer simulation is used to present the design in order to facilitate discussion among the design team, the operator, and the authority. And as a result of using technology as a communication tool, the actual work progress of the columbarium is under close monitoring and proper supervision can be achieved. It is deduced that advanced technology successfully transforms the conventional plan-based design process into a more dynamic and close loop design and implementation. It is easy to see how technology demonstrates the power in improving and upgrading the standard of columbarium design. For example, the adoption of an intelligent surveillance system which is in line with the Government integrated building plan can benefit the columbarium attendants and at the same time achieve efficient management. Such a system will allow the use of smart card access to the niches and whenever a user is paying respect to their ancestors, the system will record the visiting time. On the other hand, video taking on each niche is also in place and this will facilitate the authority inspection as well as the routine check by the staff. Also, the electronic card and video taking mechanism provide good security features to the ancestors’ urns. With the utilization of the niche area and the space for walkways will be used in a more reasonable manner and the passageway and visiting flow will be more organized as there is no longer need for the attendants to arrange and keep the keys.

Ensuring Peace of Mind for Families

Ensuring peace of mind for families. There are various ways a well-designed cemetery or columbarium can help comfort the family members of the deceased. From the provision of a serene and tranquil environment to the introduction of technology into the management system, the different user focus strategies discussed can help give the families peace of mind. By integrating nature with the built environment, a serene and tranquil setting is created. The use of water features and different kinds of plants and trees is encouraged. Research has shown that the natural environment can soothe and calm people. By stimulating humans’ inborn affection for the natural world through visual and non-visual (smell, hearing, and touch) enjoyment, their stress and negative emotions can be reduced. Therefore, whimsical and serene landscaping in the cemetery, such as meandering paths, naturalistic landscaping, a special area for different religious statues, and a landscape that can tell the story of the deceased, should be adopted for the well-being of the families. Also, the design and management intention of encouraging family visits and strolling rather than mere mourning and crying should be emphasized. In addition, the landscape should be integrated with the spreading and location of the niches and the mass background of solemnity and peace. The divergence from the classic formal rows of niches that the families would often see in the high density and rigid cemetery should be aimed. Rather, several smaller buildings and many niches should be set in a landscape where many alternative pockets of different settings and tranquility are created. These can encourage families to walk to different areas and make discoveries during their strolling. Outdoor seating and little shrines for rest and meditation should also be provided adjacently to the niches.

Providing a Serene and Tranquil Environment

It is important for the columbarium and cemetery to provide a serene and tranquil environment for families to pay their respect to their beloved ones. It has to be a peaceful place for people to find comfort. One technique in achieving this goal is the application of the biophilic concept into the design. Biophilic design is essentially integrating natural elements and views of the outside world into the built environment. Studies have shown that exposure to nature or nature’s elements has a powerful and positive impact on human psychology and health. For example, natural sunlight, vegetation, and natural landscapes can reduce stress, improve concentration, and expedite the healing process. In fact, by bringing the usable outdoor area closer to the building, research shows that the apparent social-biophilic community environment can grow to include the building and its surrounds. This benefits the building users with the green outdoors which can provide safe, restorative spaces on the open spaces. By transferring the benefit of a view, the chance for secondary glazing can be taken to provide excellent insulation and reduce radiant heat loss, and make good use of the natural light available. Such approach to cater for the human nature and psychology can be observed in the design of the Blue House, a post school campus in Singapore. It has been awarded the Green Mark Platinum accolade by Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority. Well, it is not just the greenery in our living environment, the application of natural elements in design including the indoor landscaping, water bodies, natural ventilation and glazing can also enhance the friendship among us. For example, a number of biophilic charging stations have been set up at the University of Washington Seattle Campus. These charging stations are designed with live plants wrapping around the charging module. Users can sit down in the shaded area with natural sunlight and hang out with the delightful gardening scenes, and at the mean time, they can enjoy the electrical facilities provided by the charging module to charge their electrical devices. With the introduction of different interactive orientations and seating arrangements, it is found in the study that the redesign have yielded an increase in the air quality in occupied adjacent spaces by around 10 to 20 percent. The revitalizing effect of sunlight, ventilation and view to the outdoor has the potential to create meaningful and delightful user experience in workplace, schools or simply any communal area. In creating a culture of health for the building inhabitants, the clearing of the attachment to our built environment and the appreciation of nature is vital. Well, an inclusive diagnosis, participative design approach and repeated stakeholders’ communication are to be established in the course of implementing biophilic design. Biophilic design approach should not be taken only at the later stage of the building design as a green feature. It should start at the early stage of site evaluation and project inception to create a truly mutual relationship between human and nature. With the benefits and technology available to us nowadays, it is hoped that we can see more well established green features and biophilic elements in new developments and community projects in the future.

Offering Personalization and Customization Options

One of the ways to ensure peace of mind for families is by offering personalization and customization options. This can come in the form of various memorial designs, such as plaques and niche front designs, and private family estates with tailored landscaping and design features. For example, a niche front may be designed for the application of a photograph or porcelain portrait, and recessed or raised vases. As a start, the niche itself shall be designed with a chamfer, so that custom frames can be fitted onto the niche front. This means that families may choose to install custom frames around the standardized niche front, effectively personalizing the niche fronts to their respective personal tastes. Such frames are often made of bronze, and designs are highly customizable as well. On the niche front, the opening shall have a standard size, with minor tolerances allowed depending on the material used for the niche front. For example, a granite niche front may have a slightly different opening size compared to a metal niche front. As such, if frames are to be installed onto the niche front, precise measurements have to be taken to ensure that the holes on the frames align with the openings on the niche front. This means that when families are presented with these personalization and customization options, they can be at ease knowing that memorialization is unique and special, in memory of their loved ones. Also, the process of selecting and customizing the memorial items may aid families in dealing with their grief, as they are actively doing something to cherish the memory of their loved ones. This can overall help to improve the experience for both the family and the cemetery or the crematorium staff, fostering better relationships and a sense of community.

Implementing Efficient Management Systems for Ease of Use

In terms of operational management of the cemetery, in a personal yet public environment, it is essential to ensure that tasks, particularly those of a physical nature, are allocated and redrawn effectively and efficiently. It is also important to ensure that decisions are made quickly and that the delivery of services is undertaken in a compassionate and friendly manner. The need to deliver services and carry out physical tasks in good time, and yet leave an appropriate period of reflection and avoidance of other machinery and activities during a burial, all place considerable demands on management of the workplace.

The problems of space and planning in modern cemeteries, which are often based upon elements of a traditional sequential spatial approach to the creation of formal layouts, can be overcome by the adoption of efficient and continuous spatial property technology.

Frequent usage and modification to record locations by cemetery staff is partly achieved by the use of the Global Positioning System (GPS) on-site vehicles and the employment of graphical workflow tools that have transferable principles and methods to other facilities, such as the cell management routines and resources in offshore manufacturing plants. By employing such methods, it is possible to optimize the spacing between graves to a considerably smaller distance, and space management is enhanced. Ease of burial, with direct access routes to a grave available, is now a reality even in traditional cemeteries with narrow pathways, styles, and other restrictive areas.

The project allowed the scanning of deeds and grave registration details, placement maps, and over one hundred years of burial books. The information is stored on a number of servers across the site and backed up periodically for extra security. Subsequent phases of the project are starting to include the use of palm-top computers for grave location, and funeral directors have been given restricted access to the database for use in their own businesses.

The lack of any efficient record taking on the electronic-based management system meant that it was difficult to keep abreast of day-to-day amendments. After a period of poor record keeping and the inability of paper-based systems to supply details accurately and efficiently, the first phase of a large transitional program of digitalization and organizational change was implemented. This included a review of the office layout and the installation of networked computers and high-speed scanners to allow for the electronic storage of the current paper plans and deeds.

The cemetery operated a very traditional system where paper deeds and plans were stored in large, leather-bound books. The deed register was maintained in numerical order. When a burial was required, the relevant information was recorded in a diary that contained pre-printed pages with details of the deceased, location of grave, and those attending. However, when the cemetery tried to search for the next available burial plot in a specific area, it found that the process was very time-consuming and plot plans were often inaccurate.

In a cemetery, the type of operation varies greatly at different times of the year. The days leading up to Memorial Day and Father’s Day see an increase in the number of burial services. Conversely, there can often be days in the middle of winter when no outdoor burials are possible due to frozen ground conditions. Winter burial was a significant issue in the Woodmere Cemetery in Detroit, Michigan.

Implementing efficient management systems for ease of use. The third key area of efficient design is in relation to the operation of the facility. Systems should be organized in such a way that the day to day workload of laborers, who often work in hot and uncomfortable conditions, is minimized.