lol that would be my letter...
Wow, I came across that letter months ago! Truly, everything happens for a reason. I thought Troy was a suburb of Washington D.C. (due to its reference of the Capital Region). I am impressed though, that they did print both the letter and the response on the website - as many boards of directors try to suppress differences or oppositions, rather than accommodate them.
The problem now is that there is a well known quality rule that affects all projects.
It's known as the 1:10:100 rule, and it was developed in the IT industry but the rule can be applied in all aspects of life.
Basically, if you discover a problem in the design phase, that is, when it's only on paper, will cost you one unit of money to fix (example $1)
If you discover the problem during the construction/build phase, that same problem will now cost you 10 units of money to fix (that $1 problem will now cost $10)
If you discover the problem once it's completed, that same problem will cost 100 units of money to fix (that $1 problem now costs $100)
May be you can use our experiences to benefit your community…
Since land is significantly more expensive in Canada than in the USA, we have to build multistory mosques rather than a single floor facility ($600 000 - $1 000 000 / acre of land zoned for religious purposes – that would mean that Al-Hidaya would cost $6-12 million for the land alone if it was in Canada). The mosque that was built in our community is a three level mosque – however, all prayers except Jumaah are prayed on the same floor. Currently we pray in banquet room, located on the lower level. In fact, the banquet hall is carpeted and we have put lines on the carpet to indicate rows. The banquet hall follows the same floor plan as the musalla space above, so there is a space for the imam in the banquet hall in the exact spot.
Benefits we have found from this setup:
1.) It saves on heating costs - save heating costs on two additional floors.
2.) Easier to keep one floor of the masjid clean – one floor to vacuum, wet shoes, etc…
3.) Husband and wife can pray together, and leave together
4.) Both husband and wives can watch the kids as they crawl or walk between both genders – most kids stand in prayer with their fathers as they know their mother is a few rows behind them.
5.) We get to meet children of the opposite gender after prayer. I’ve met little girls who have given genuine great ideas about improving the mosques.
6.) Ideas and announcement are easier to communicate. Prayer time changes are decided by the people attending that prayer (example Fajr jamaat decides Fajr changes) which include men and women – effective the next Saturday and only if it’s announce in Jummah.
7.) We have one single door handicap accessible entrance from the lower level used as the entrance for the whole week for both brothers and sisters .. It means we have to only shovel the snow from one pathway from the parking lot to the door, until the next Jumaah.
8.) All washroom stalls are lockable from the outside (key door). Masjid keeps all but one locked in the brothers, and two available for sisters. This reduces housekeeping and maintenance costs, and it’s easier to identify the problem people who don’t keep the masjid clean.
9.) Even in Jumaah the handicap sisters pray in the lower level. There seems to be an unusually large amount of sisters that have arthritis and thus needs to pray on chairs, having them walk up the stairs adds another barrier to entering the masjid.
10.) We don’t have a kids discipline issue inside the mosques (the reason why mosques built closed off area for sisters) – perhaps it’s because their father or imam is only a few feet away! Hmm…
Disadvantage we have found from this setup:
1.) Most people don’t know where the main entrance is (both brothers and sisters)
2.) This setup can not be used during peak conditions – although we are using it currently by forcing the late brothers to go upstairs!
3.) Sisters/brothers who don’t like the openness don’t come to this masjid … but they can choose from the other 126 mosques and mussala in the Greater Toronto Area with different degrees of separation
Perhaps have the sisters pray underneath the balcony floor for your facility for all prayers but jumaah might be an easy solution. There is a door from stair case to the main prayer hall, easily the women who require privacy can go upstairs – that is the “women with noisy kids room” and area underneath the balcony for all other women. For peak conditions, the LATE brothers can pray in your massively large lobby area in front of the pool or the multipurpose room.
A really great design is the ISNA Canada headquarters masjid area. They have a one level prayer hall with beautiful partitions that are only 2 feet tall between the brothers and sisters. During the womens’ Friday night halaqa, the imam puts a chair on the brother side of the partition and gives nasheeha to the sisters and they asks very private women related questions in the masjid. While the men generally pray in the lobby leading into the masjid during this time (example late Isha people)
They also have a separate room attached on the women side with a glass wall for women who want more privacy.
I hope your community can benefit from these observations, inshallah.