By: John Sorenson, The Tribute Companies – Catholic Cemetery magazine, July 2015
The Age of the Consumer properly reflects the philosophy of the baby boomers that shape so much of the decisions that are made in many different industries. Consumers control everything, including what our profession offers within cemetery and funeral home design. Since the early 2000’s, Baby Boomers have become the most demanding generation of purchasers ever and if cemeteries and funeral homes have not yet responded to this, they are likely behind in times, but still have time to adapt to respond to what the next decades will adamantly insist on, which is personalization and customization.
For those owners and operators who have responded to the needs of this market, it is clear that there are a dizzying amount of options and can potentially be overwhelming to all parties in the process. Space layout, tree placement, landscaping options, water drainage and features, road layout, traffic flow, memorialization options and future care needs all need to be considered when trying to offer unique burial options for this generation of consumer. For owners and operators who understand this profession, these choices are easier than they are for the consumer, but still can be daunting when considering a proper layout.
Mausoleum options also offer variety and personalization, but to the consumer, this is a much easier and simpler choice since so many variable factors can be eliminated from the process; the real choices are private estate vs. community mausoleum, interior vs. exterior (garden) crypts, side by side vs. head to head layout and level or height within the bay. The ability to offer a simplistic, dignified and everlasting burial choices such as this, while also allowing personalization helps this choice become clearer for the consumer who already is unfamiliar with what is involved with this purchase. Ultimately, this results in quicker decisions and higher volume sales since most consumers, particularly baby boomers, seek value and simplicity.
Telling a personal story is simple with mausoleum choices. It is up to cemetery owners and operators to keep an open mind to be able to develop mausoleum buildings that build the proper choices into the layout of the building and the type of memorialization allowed on the crypt front, which serves as the consumer’s permanent memorial. What to consider on the layout of a mausoleum building:
- Size: Over or underbuilding a mausoleum building can be detrimental when it comes to the ability to sell it properly. If over-built, the building will look empty and neglected if consumers see that there are many crypt fronts without memorialization. Humans are social creatures, even within the aspect of cemetery planning and they will make choices that lean towards what is more “socially acceptable”. When they see others have invested in this same type of decision, it makes them feel more confident that it is the right decision for them too.
If a mausoleum building is under-built, the construction costs will become too great to be able to make a profit.
- Shape: Traditional “cookie-cutter” garden buildings may be what your cemetery’s consumer will support due to the budget, the size of the cemetery and the market it serves. However, there are many ways to take the same amount of crypt spaces and shape the building into one that has more architectural appeal and aesthetic interest than a simple, rectangular building. Architectural features such as curved niche fronts, fluted pillars, non-traditional granite colors, feature/focal points and landscaping/hardscaping interest make a building go from “ho-hum” to “wow” with minimal added cost.
- Garden crypts (all exterior fronts) are wonderful options to help keep costs down and year round visitation options available.
- Chapel crypts generally include garden crypt options, but expand the choices to allow enhanced spaces to allow year round comfort and convenience for visitation purposes, but also for gathering spaces for the rest of your lot owners and community members. Chapels should be considered for purposes other than simply a space for crypt owners under that rooftop; the space should be designed and planned for other functions such as full funerals and visitations, grief and bereavement support groups, small community church spaces, seminars and educational series, community organizational spaces or weddings. The possibilities are endless and your design should be planned out so that boomers, as well as other consumers, feel comfortable and welcome in the space. Think light, air, warmth, fireplaces, windows, etc.
- Memorialization options such as crypt plates or lettering, emblem and photo choices, vase and flower selections and decoration policies.
- Height and Levels: Proper equipment is critical for the safety and operation of crypt entombments. The amount of levels will shape the decision on what type of equipment is necessary in order to perform a professional and safe entombment. Additionally, mausoleum buildings can also be constructed with several floors of crypt spaces. This consideration is one to make when space within the cemetery is extremely limited and when local ordinances allow for this type of structure.
- Environmental factors: Baby boomers seek to consume products that align with their values, one of which tends to be concern with environmental health. Mausoleum buildings, by default, are environmentally sound. Many of the products, such as natural stone, that make up mausoleum buildings are eco-friendly and tremendously long lasting. Mausoleum buildings can be designed to be energy efficient or even energy producing, with the usage of solar panels or products designed for this purpose. Additionally, when burial options are being weighed out for environmental benefit purposes, above ground mausoleum entombment allows the human body’s fluids to evaporate naturally, eliminating any possibility of contact with the ground and earth.
Incorporating the Proper Design with a Mausoleum Development
Canarsie Cemetery has serviced the Brooklyn, New York community for over 170 years. When it came time to developing the cemetery’s first mausoleum building in 2012, it was proposed that a phased mausoleum garden complex comprised of five buildings be planned out and developed over time. Having the multiple buildings had two beneficial effects:
1. The phasing approach allowed for cemetery owners to properly budget for the project and better understand what the market would support.
2. The development of the multiple buildings took shape to create a nostalgic city-like setting common to the area of Brooklyn during the cemetery’s first years in operation. Using brick veneer and limestone fascia complemented by a gray polished granite, the five structures will complement the surrounding cemetery while integrating architecture from the area’s local history.
PRIVATE ESTATE DEVELOPMENT:
From a private family estate option, the Thom’s family wanted to create an everlasting memorialization legacy by adding a unique, contemporary family mausoleum that would allow generations of their family to enjoy within Chippianock Cemetery in Rock Island, Illinois. With the close assistance of the cemetery and the family, a design was developed that created a building that included 38 crypt spaces, 48 niche spaces, 30 traditional in ground interment options and 16 in ground cremation options, allowing for the many different preferences for future generations to be able to utilize the spaces being developed. This development was a classic case of blending “old and new” options, while creating an aesthetically pleasing focal point for the cemetery and constructing an area that reflected a perfect way to bring this family’s vision together.
ADDING ONTO EXISTING BUILDING DEVELOPMENT:
Resurrection Catholic Cemetery in Geneva, Illinois was seeking an update for the diocese’s existing chapel mausoleum. Since management was interested in adding inventory to their mausoleum building, timing was ideal to also incorporate some updates which would add to the appeal of the building. In addition to updating the front half of the building with a new roof and flashing, several retrofitted crypts were integrated off the backside of the chapel building and a unique cremation walk way and pergola brought the entire project together. This development added nearly 100 crypts and 456 cremation spaces to the inventory for the Diocese of Rockford. In doing so, the beauty from the initial mausoleum development was restored and renewed.
The key to designing any mausoleum building is to listen to overall goal and vision of the project and then think differently in order to bring a fresh design to a traditional concept. Suppliers within this profession have progressed tremendously over the past years in order to provide products that allow personalization. They can help cemeteries and funeral homes create revenue generation by focusing on the individual needs of that organization. Cemetery sales success comes from a team that embraces the vision, provides valuable, educational information to the community and that believe in the importance and significance of cemeteries and funerals. Mausoleum construction continues to present incredible burial alternatives to the next generation of consumers who are practical, educated and value-oriented with their purchases. These simple facts solidify the significance of mausoleum structures being planned now and for the future within cemeteries across the globe.
The Tribute Companies offers full-service cemetery development including design, construction administration, cemetery management consulting and structural precast concrete interment products used in cemeteries across the United States and into Canada. President, Christine Toson Hentges represents the fourth generation of her family to own and operate cemeteries in the State of Wisconsin.