Just simply, a columbarium niche is an indoor or outdoor wall or unit containing recessed compartments to hold urns that contain cremains. The most commonly used niche is 12 by 12 by 12 but there are many other sizes that are available. The 12 by 12 by 12 niche size typically allows for two urns to be put in the same niche.
A columbarium can be almost any size and can be put in areas you may not think to use. They do not take much space and can be located in unused areas. There are endless options. A church recently put niches behind their altar in a chapel. It works perfectly for them. A cemetery recently included a columbarium as a retaining wall. Another church put a columbarium in their prayer garden, making it a place of reflection, prayer and a place to remember the loved ones of the church members who are memorialized there.
The columbarium niche can be constructed of various materials. They can be stainless steel, aluminum, PVC liner, granite, polymers, and concrete. The niche front can be made of various materials as well. This depends whether the columbarium is located inside a building or outside. Granite is usually used, but marble, concrete, bronze, slate, glass or limestone are also materials used depending on location.
When you decide you want a columbarium at your church or organization, it is best to work with a company that can help inform you of the many different options available so you can make an educated decision.
The success of the columbarium program is multi-faceted and overall design is one of the critical criteria in the project. Select an organization that offers a complete program: consulting, planning, directing, providing input for the complete program including architectural services as part of their overall program. By choosing this type of organization you will have a partner that will go through the process with you hand-in-hand. An architect that has completed several columbarium projects in various states and various locations should be part of this organization. A qualified architect or project designer is your best decision for moving forward with your plan.
Dimensions, material selection, perspective, details for installation, access to the project site, consideration for utilities, dealing with the site conditions, analyzing any cut and fill on the site to allow for a site that has handicapped access is the assurance provided by consulting with a professional organization.
The professional columbarium organizations have a project designer or an architect within the company and they will provide your committee with the facts needed to make a good business decision for the project to move forward. Do not eliminate this critical step in the committees list of responsibilities for the columbarium program; it could end up costing more money in the long run.