Properties Highlight – Let’s Do Better – Part 3

This will be a continuing series of articles on various aspects of the properties we own, lease, care for, and look to make better.  As we all know, the program of Scouting is valuable to the growth of youth in this country and around the world.  Where we deliver that program needs to convey that value and the coming articles are intended to assist us all in making that conveyance to our current users, as well as all of our future users and their families. 

This series ended last month intending to bring two structures on our properties into focus with this month’s article: pavilions and restrooms.  However, in the process of developing the article it became clear for a ‘short’ length article only one of the two would ‘fit’, if you will.  So, we’ll look at pavilions this month and explore restrooms in May. 

Why do we have pavilions?  Notably, many of our programs occur under a pavilion roof.  In some situations, more than one program will happen under a larger roof along with storage of materials for the programs that occur in them.  In other cases, we have a simple pavilion that serves hardly much more than a gathering space to get out of the sun, rain, or other inclement weather.  Many Scouts have had great learning experiences under a pavilion roof, as well as some great discussions both serious and light, and probably some laughs so good their bellies hurt while they shed tears of joy too! 

First thing we need to decide is the purpose of this new structure.  That will help drive the size and to some degree, the configuration of the pavilion.  Currently, we have all types of pavilions.  Some are singular in purpose such as an eating pavilion where meals are consumed.  Programs such as first aid, 1st-year camper, nature, art, leather craft, woodworking, photography, and others have been observed in a pavilion.  And yes, there are those larger pavilions where a combination of programs will occur.  So, knowing purpose will determine how big of a structure needed to serve the program, or programs. 

To help size the area you should know approximately how many participants at any one time would attend.  Also knowing the program and how much space each participant would take up to actively participate in that program will determine how large an area needed.  For instance, if one only needs a chair and table space immediately in front of them that’s one thing.  But, if they require standing space and a work area of 10 – 15 square feet, that’s different. 

Let’s take a program with a participant load of 15.  If tables and chairs will suffice, conceivably we could provide 2 tables at minimum, and as we use picnic tables that are 5’ x 8’, you already have 80 square feet.  Put some circulation space around the two of 4’ on all sides, you now have two spaces that are 13’ x 16’, or a total square footage of 416sf.  This could be a 20’ x 20’ structure, or a 16’ x 26’ structure which would accommodate the two tables better.

If storage is needed, then that must be determined size-wise and added to what we already have.  This is where rectangular structures help as adding is easier, especially if there is an already existing pavilion.  So, we’ll add an extra 4’ onto the length for a storage closet, now making the building 16’ x 30’, or 480sf.

With a size determined for the purpose of the structure in the first place we can move to the foundation.  Highly recommended is a slab-on-grade solution for longevity as well as, to some degree, cleanliness.  Depth and reinforcement will come from local building codes and soils.  Most important item around foundations and something the organization has not been good about in the past, is placing the top of the foundation at a height above the surrounding soil.

Typically, drainage around our structures is very poor!  We have water and what it brings with it, flowing towards buildings, including pavilions, and not away as it should.  To alleviate this issue we should build an elevated pad where this, or any structure, will be placed.  The pad should be larger than the foundation by approximately 5’ on all sides, so our 16×30 pavilion above would then have a pad of approximately 26×40.  The height of the pad would ideally be 12” – 18” above the surrounding grade.  In this way once the construction is complete we can backfill to the pad, and slope the grade to natural grade, or to a swale that’s been installed to take uphill water and force it around our pad and building.

Materials used in pavilions are typically wood, although we’re seeing more steel columns and roofs being used now which provides additional longevity.  Does it cost more?  Yes, in the front end, but considering how maintenance free these materials are you’ll save dollars in the long run.  Recommended would be steel columns welded to a baseplate which is then bolted to the slab with pre-set anchor bolts placed during the foundation pour.  It is NOT recommended to place the column and then pour concrete around it!  This causes an open joint in which water will enter, freeze and thaw, and ultimately crack the concrete.

By installing a gable roof as shown in the isometrics the roof structure can be a standard truss which makes installation quick and easy.  These are very affordable too.  Put a metal roof on it and you’ve got a pavilion that should last 40 to 50 years with very little in the way of maintenance costs. 

Siding for the closet should be a cement-fiber material such as the Hardi products, although there are now several others on the market so don’t necessarily buy the name, buy the material.  T1-11 is NOT recommended!  Or be prepared to replace the siding about every seven years or so.  Yes, low cost but considering what you’ll spend to replace it six to seven times not a good choice at all! 

There will be bracing and if you want, a ceiling structure to help finish out the space.  Consider electrical for lighting and fans that are sized for the space as well as being exterior grade.  Plumbing could be run if the program could use a sink and running water. 

So, you want to build a pavilion?  Thought it’d be easy?  It is easy considering how many more items have to be considered and planned for in larger and more complex structures.  You’ll see this in the next series article on restrooms. 


This was a quick look at pavilions in general.  If you’re considering the need for a new pavilion or two give us a call or drop a line and let’s discuss what it is you’re looking to accomplish.  You may find the time well worth the effort and the end result better than if you just go out and throw up a pavilion.  That way we get the financial side of the project addressed too.  As was stated earlier, it may cost more upfront, but in the long run the structure will present better, last longer, and require less maintenance.  That addresses our three guiding principles of Sustainability, Conservation, and Stewardship.  See you next month!

Dave Cornell


March ’21

The Outdoor Programs / Properties Team is ready to assist and guide in any respect to making the program of Scouting the best youth program!  Reach out to any member of the team and we’ll endeavor to provide quality answers to any issue you may have and/or facing.  We look forward to working together to make the program the best ever!