To build is to “form by ordering and uniting materials by gradual means into a composite whole,” according to Merriam-Webster. It sounds simple, but we all know it’s not. For a church building projectwhether new construction or renovationthe verb takes on even greater meaning, because according to the experts, building has as much to do with relationships between people as it does with the manifestation of a new structure upon the ground.
To find out how church staff can select an architect and builder that help build up a multi-functional, in-budget house of worshipone that glorifies God and leaves man with a deeper sense of purposeWorship Facilities Magazine asked leading professionals to cut through the clutter. Here, they share how to build with success.
Integrity and Chemistry is Key
Bill Derrick, president of New Richmond, Wisconsin’s Derrick Commercial Contracting, a developer and residential/commercial/industrial contractor with two church Consultants on staff, says that integrity is the primary ingredient a church should look for in picking builders and architects. “Can you trust the company to act in your best interest and protect’ you during the project? Make sure that the firm you’re hiring is always going to be open and honest with you,” he recommends.
Kurt B. Williams, head of project development with Indianapolis, Indiana based T&W Church Solutions agrees that good communication and sound relationshipsthe people factorare key to getting the best building. He relates the top three things church staff should consider when narrowing down architect/builder prospects: “[First is] the experience of the individual team members that you will be working with. [Second is] the relationship with those key individuals, [third is] the willingness of the firm to be open’ with the bids and related costs of a project.”
And he adds, “A partnered approach’ of teaming with the designer and the builder from day-one resolves many of the budget-buster situations that occur when the architect is without the assistance of a reputable builder.”
Houston and Dallas, Texas-based Churchworx Inc.‘s David Hatton, founder and CEO, concurs. Churchworx is a professional project management firm that focuses on leading the development process for large building construction projects. “Be certain you sense group chemistry within the company when you listen to them interact with each other,” he advises church staff as they choose a company to build their facilities. “Insist upon meeting the exact personnel they intend to put on the job.” Hatton has another tip for telling if a company’s team will mesh with a given church. As he relates, “Remind them that they will be handling God’s money, and note their reaction to that. Building a church is always a spiritual venture.”
Choosing Your Model
Another important variable in putting together the right team to build (or build on to) a house of worship is deciding which building method to use. There are three basic types: design/ build, design/bid/build, and construction management.
With the design/build model, churches will get a one-stop-shop company whose architects design projects solely that their company builds. In the design/bid/build approach, the process typically starts with the church selecting a designer or architect.
Under the design/bid/build approach, according to Williams, who spoke on the topic of all three methods at WFX 2006 (www.wfxweb.com), the designer will discover the needs of the church, create a design, and then use the plans and specifications to solicit bids from a handful of builders. During the construction phase, the designer inspects for quality control and works as a key agent for the church.
Under the third model, construction management, a third party company will referee the discussions between designers, builders, and subcontractors and act as an agent for the church, oftentimes in the category of design/ bid/build.
Naturally, each method has its proponents and its opponents. Greg Doolin, managing architect and vice president of East Peoria, Illinois’s River City Design Group, an integrated design/build firm, has some tips to help church staff choose the right delivery method. “Get information from peer organizations other churches. Talk to [them] and learn from their mistakes,” he suggests.
Doolin says that when his own church, Northwoods Community Church in Peoria, Illinois, built its buildings, different methods were utilized in different phases. And he advises that each individual church needs to thoroughly investigate companies before making a selection of building model/method and a corresponding company.
Hatton, a proponent of the design/ bid/build (DBB) approach, says, “[DBB] provides a clear competitive project environment, which is very healthy, thus fostering project accountability, especially when one considers these projects are spiritual ventures funded by sacrificed dollars [from] hard-working church members.”
Yet Thomas C. Panzica, executive vice president of Panzica Building Corp., South Bend, Indiana believes the Design/ build method holds the strongest merit, because it “provides early real world’ cost input from the design/builder” along with the “opportunity to have a guaranteed maximum cost,” helping foster a cooperative team effort.
Derrick, also a proponent of the design/build approach, concurs that the method ignites team-cohesion: “Bottom line is that the church project will be the most successful when the church has a team of architect and contractor put together up front starting with the design phase.”
Hope Community Church’s Mary Ann Sibley, who acted as owner’s representative for the Raleigh, North Carolina based house of worship, has this bit of advice for church staff as they go about selecting a builder and architect, regardless of building model: “At the end of the day, it’s going to be the two key components that you focused on: your general contractor and your architect. Research these two components, using word of mouth, [calling other churches] and asking Who did you use?’”
It’s also crucial to visit the churches you contact, Sibley reports. “It’s worth taking the overnight trip to go visit a church and see it yourself. That’s what we did. We did a lot of looking around and going, That was good. Who did that?’”
Sibley should know a good bit about the process. In her role as owner/rep for Hope, she oversaw construction of two phases equaling 89,000 square feet. The church’s first phase included children’s ministry areas, an area for high school youth programs, a college room, staff offices, gathering spaces, and eating areas. Phase II included a new auditorium.
The Crucial Owner/Rep
How important is a role like Sibley’s in the church building process? Vital, the experts say. According to Williams, “A problem on the jobsite is not a question of if, but when. When the problem or need for a key [decision-maker] arises, the church’s representative becomes a key member of the [team].”
Hatton says his firm’s very job is to act as the church’s owner/rep, a vital role especially on large projects. “We do this stuff everyday; we know the tricks of the trade. A quality [project manager or owner rep] should save the project their fee at least once during the process of development.”
Panzica has this to say about the importance of the church owner/rep: “A building project cannot be successful unless the client directs the architect and builder in one voicewith decisiveness and consistency.”
And Panzica further reports that the owner/rep can save the day when committees tend to muddy the decision-making waters. “In today’s largely committee- run congregations, an abundance of actively involved stakeholders is ideal for serving a diversity of ministries, but this runs counter to the focused, linear goals of a building project.”
“[The owner/rep] can still be a part of a committee, but he/she needs to be the only one authorized to give direction during construction to avoid confusion and cost overruns,” Derrick weighs in. “It’s important to have people on building committees that understand the vision of the church.”
The characteristics of a good owner/rep are fairly straightforward, according to Sibley. Yet she also reports that it’s extremely important for an owner/rep to have building experience.
“You can’t just have a note-taker,” Sibley states. “There [must be] leadership qualities, some administrative qualities, and then just general knowledge and a background in the building process.”
Before overseeing the building project for Hope, Sibley worked in banking for 15 years and managed the building of a facility. She also has a degree in accounting and was the CFO of a computer company, and she put these attributes to good use for Hope when it came to budgeting the project.
As a successful owner/rep in Hope’s extensive building projects, Sibley has some good advice for the day that church staff sit down to interview prospective architects and builders.
“Come ahead of time prepared with questions for them. Read the proposals. And make them come face-to-face and ask all the hard questions,” Sibley emphasizes. “And then you balance that with, Are we in sync? Do we click?’”
In closing, pray for guidance as part of the process. After all, this building relationship must work well and last for the next two to three years until the building is complete.
Professional project management firm
(713)647-8899 Houston; (972)302-2715 Dallas
Derrick Commercial Contracting
a subsidiary of Derrick Cos.
Developer and residential/commercial/industrial contractor
Hope Community Church
Panzica Building Corp.
Architect-led design/build organization
(574) 234-0124 www.panzica.net
River City Design Group
Integrated design/build firm
(309) 694-3120 www.rcdgllc.com
T&W Church Solutions*
Design/build firm for churches
(317) 244-7637 www.tw-corp.com