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How to Assemble the Right Building Project Team

How to Assemble the Right Building Project Team

Type-driven approaches to selecting an architect and a builder

Whether you are experienced in the construction process or starting your first campus development project, one of the most important decisions you will make will be the team you choose. But how do you select from all of the qualified teams out there? The reality is that there is no one "right" approach and the path you take may be driven by how you are wired.

From a liturgical church

For liturgical churches, involving the entire parish or congregational body can be especially important, butas anyone who has ever been to a town hall meeting knowsgetting decisions made by large groups can be difficult. St. Patrick Catholic Church in Dallas began the process with a professional within the parish who helped develop the initial ideas for the renovation of the aging sanctuary. "We began our process with a cost consultant, and learned that the cost of our initial improvement list would be too much to finance in a renovation. On his advice, we took it to the people to determine the priorities. We drafted a team of 400 to perform the face-to-face interviews of the survey. We then created the parameters for the project based on that input, "explains Deacon Bob Bonomi, assistant to the pastor at St. Patrick Catholic Church.

Once the surveys had been processed, the selection of the architect was from a pool of firms who were Diocese-approved. As it turned out, each of the firms had professionals who were members of the parish. "We engaged Bob Bowen of [Dallas's] Manhattan Constructiona member of our parishas our owner's representative, and his input proved invaluable. He advised us to instruct each interviewing firm to bring the person who would be managing our project to the interviews," Bonomi reports. "We were also diligent about following up with references and visiting completed projects by the firms."

The selected firmslocal Good Fulton Farrell Architects and Halff Associates of Richardson, Texasdeveloped the concepts that were provided to a short list of general contractors for bid.

The building committee was selected from a mix of leadership and members of the parish. "As in any non-profit, you have those who are avid supporters and you get to know them and their backgrounds and skills," explains Bonomi. "We chose a mix of skills for the selection committee, including long-time parishioners familiar with history, professionals in design for the artistic eye, and experts in finance."

From a contemporary evangelical church

For an elder-led contemporary evangelical church, capturing a plan that facilitates the vision in a way that can be articulated clearly is key. So, the selection process focuses on finding a team who can not only deliver the buildings, but also capture the initial concepts in ways that can be shared. Fellowship Bible Church in Topeka, Kan., began its process with the search for an architect. "We were looking for someone who would listen to uswho would put our vision on the ground rather than their own," explains Joe Hishmeh, Senior Pastor. "We really liked our local architect [Architect One of Topeka] who had built our buildings to date, but the scale of the next phase was significant enough that we wanted to interview firms at a national level to hear how they would sharpen the process. In the end, fees were comparable, and we decided to stay local. As a large church in a medium-sized community, we realized how important that was to us. We felt that Architect One listened to us and that if they didn't know the answer, they would find it."

Fellowship Bible Church selected a builder who was a member of their congregation. "Coal Creek Construction built our first building. The owner is a member here and has been overly fair in everything he does with us, so the elders really wanted to use him again. And because he is here every week he sees the ministry that we do. He knows the flow of traffic. Sees the stress points. He shares the vision," outlines Hishmeh.

Hishmeh also shares what he has learned through the process. "In our first building we approached it from a standpoint of how do you seat 700 people?' But I've learned how much the facility communicates. The experts can help you develop a building that communicates your values. For us that is home, warmth and relationships. If you have a building that doesn't speak to people, then it works against you."

From an owner's representative

Deborah Sweeney with AnchorPointe in Plano, Texas, serves as construction manager and owner's representative for some of the DFW Metroplex's fastest growing churches. "I'm a firm believer in starting with the architect because the firm selected will put real steam to the vision and help the leadership get through the course of action to get to a design, budget and schedule. Begin by asking the leadership team (or engaging an owner's representative) for suggestions of firms to start due diligence on. Much information can be gained through a web search and talking to other churches about their experiences. Start with five to seven firms, [and] then reduce to four for actual interviews. Develop a list of questions to send to each firm prior to the interviews in the form of a Request for Qualifications' (RFQ). Prepare a score card for each member of the leadership team to score the firms during the evaluation of the qualifications."

Sweeney continues, "From there, you can determine a short list to invite back with their initial design ideas through a Request for Proposal (RFP). These meetings allow the firms to come back to the team with design ideas, schedule, fees, and will allow the leadership team to determine a good fit with personalities and like vision."

Sweeney has worked with churches that were very clear with their vision and sent perspective architects a package about the vision prior to the interview process. She has also worked with churches that allowed the architect to help shape the vision for the project. "Sometimes you can't see yourself in any other light than what you have been. Many times professionals can help you see what you don't see about yourselfto help you articulate who you want to become. The architect can help bring about the aha moment,'" Sweeney says.

"There are many opinions on design/build firms, so it is important for the leadership team to vet through those opinions and determine if the church should choose design/build or traditional design/bid/build [or another methodology]. Each method has pros and cons, so weigh them both out on their merits. If the traditional route is selected, a contractor should be selected to help with pre-construction estimating during the process of design so the church has a gauge on costs and budgets," Sweeney concludes.

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