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The Construction of First Christian Church of Huntington Beach, Huntington Beach, Calif.

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While the design of a new church facility often gets the most attention in the media, the construction process is just as important, and the firm chosen to build the project can greatly influence the level of success.

On the recommendation of Visioneering Studios, First Christian Church of Huntington Beach (FCCHB) chose Newell Builders Inc. of Lake Forest, Calif., for the construction phase of its campus overhaul.

“We always maintain our focus on the needs and desires of our clients so their visions do not get lost in the communication between designer, architect, engineer, inspector, subcontractor, etc.,” states President Brad Newell. “We generally finish a project with lasting friendships, in addition to continued professional relationships. Keeping our overhead low as a relatively small company, at any given time we run only the amount of projects that allow us to operate efficiently and devote substantial personal attention to each client and project. Our goals are to produce exceptional work within the available budget, while making the whole process enjoyable for the client. We measure our success by the impact our projects have on their communities.”

To ensure the most cost-effective and efficient build phase, Newell was brought into the project early on to participate in the design.

“This approach eliminates the potential for finger-pointing and ensuing change orders,” explains Newell. “With this project, the church had already begun working with design firms whom we then assisted alongside our subcontractors to facilitate the engineering process.”

The FCCHB project had some challenges that many new church facility projects don’t face. FCCHB is located in the center of Huntington Beach, right on Main Street. As a major construction project on an existing, active church campus, current church activities needed to be taken into consideration during the project.

“Being in close proximity to housing, a high school, and city offices, in addition to fronting a prominent city street, there were many eyes and ears on this project,” Newell says. “The biggest challenge was to cause as little disruption as possible in regards to noise and tidiness of the site to the church’s neighbors and members alike.”

Newell continues, “Operating on a functioning site, especially one with youth facilities, our foremost concern was safety. Fully fencing in each building during the building process, requiring all subcontractors to wear clearly identified company shirts, scheduling particularly disruptive trades during less active church hours, and limiting construction parking to a small designated area were just some of the strategies we implemented to help the church operate as usual.”

While best efforts are always made to anticipate problems in advance, the FCCHB project encountered a substantial surprise that no one could have predicted. “We ran into perhaps our biggest challenge when we literally ‘broke ground,’” Newell describes. “In the process of preparing the site, two abandoned oil wells required re-capping and extensive soil remediation was necessary to remove contaminated earth. The unforeseeable extent of soil contamination caused an unfortunate extension in grading time and cost, although it did not affect the final outcome of the building plan.”

To ensure efficient project progress, the church designated Norm Dyson from its construction committee to act as the owner’s representative. In this role, Dyson was the single point of contact for the construction company, ensuring fast responses to any issues. “His in-depth involvement with the project allowed us to work together as a team, solving problems quickly as they arose, and keeping the project on the fast track,” says Newell.

“We can’t say enough good things about Newell,” says Curtis Templeton, Executive Pastor of Worship and Communications at FCCHB. “They are an experienced general contractor that ‘gets’ both churches and construction. They were super-sensitive to our needs as a church and how we still needed to use the facility during the week.”

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