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Part 1: Collaborative Design in Action Cause for Celebration

Part 1: Collaborative Design in Action Cause for Celebration

Too many church leaders today understand first-hand the frustration of trying to resurrect a stalled building project. And yet, according to the latest report released by the American Institute of Architects in Washington, D.C., the Architecture Billings Index, or ABI, has shown an appreciable upward spike in design inquiries to architects for institutional projects—the commercial construction sector that church facilities fall into—for the first time since August of 2008.

That means that economically shell-shocked churches are beginning to come out from under cover and dust off their architectural dreams or, in some cases, actual designs that went onto the shelf during the recession when funding, tithing, and confidence fell prey to a stranglehold of doubt.

Worship Facilities Magazine (WFM) reports on the journey of one church, Celebration Church in Jacksonville, Fla., to get back on track with its much-needed building plans. When staff at Celebration renewed their resolve to build, they found a welcome solution to help them get a better building for ministry at a better price. Here’s Part 1 of their story, with Part 2 to come after the church celebrates its grand opening worship service in the new facility.

In the beginning

According to A/V/L designer Armando Fullwood, principal with Design 2020 in Harrisburg, N.C., “Celebration Church had designed the project in the traditional format of [design/bid/build] to start with, and it was over-budget.”

So Fullwood suggested to Celebration’s leadership that they rethink the way they were going about their building project—essentially, that they begin anew with a fast-tracked process called Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), whereby all parties involved in the design and building of Celebration’s new facility would sit down together and collaboratively craft a new design for the building that would both fill the church’s needs and expectations for ministry space and fit within the budget.

For a builder, the team selected Brice Building Co. of Birmingham, Ala., a general contracting and construction management firm that was already on Celebration’s radar as a builder of choice.

Brice Building Co. then introduced Celebration’s leaders to Live Design Group, also of Birmingham, formerly the Garrison Barrett Group, led by President Aubrey Garrison. Live Design was also recommended by Celebration’s main affiliation of churches, the Association of Related Churches or ARC. “Live Design Group was already practicing IPD,” Fullwood notes, making the choice of architectural firm a solid fit with the team. Whereas Design 2020 convinced Celebration staff to adopt the IPD approach, Live Design Group further urged the church to consider using BIM software in the process.

Brice Building, too, was versed in the new BIM software technology that the team would use to accompany their IPD project approach. “We’ve used BIM for about a year and a half on our projects,” says Bruce Adams, vice president of operations for Brice Building. “It’s a tremendous benefit. Typically, with the old methods of design and building, we’ll get some of the design information after a great deal of the design is already put together.”

But with the Celebration project and others utilizing BIM, Adams reports that his company has a handle on and a say in the architectural design during the actual design process. “Any [builder] not currently using BIM in today’s industry will be left behind,” he adds.

BIM benefits

What were the benefits of using a collaborative, IPD approach coupled with BIM technology, and how did the combination help Celebration’s staff get an improved and affordable design for building? These are the questions that WFM posed to the design and building team.

According to Garrison, “We completed a schematic design in eight days (six working days) with the church leader present in our ‘creative suite’ and issued a pricing set to Brice Building. The church’s representative sat side by side with our project architect and designed the project in real time together. The final construction cost after bidding to local subcontractors was under $10 million, while the church’s goal for the project was $11.3 million.”

Garrison adds, “BIM enhances the collaboration to an incredible level. Everyone is looking at the same model [on the computer screen] and coordinating their work.”

The new IPD-derived design reflects a 79,330-square-foot facility, including a new 23,870-square-foot worship area.

Prior to beginning work on Celebration, Garrison notes that Live Design Group was working on a theater project using the IPD approach accompanied with BIM software for design. “We could see conflicts between the structural and mechanical systems in three dimensions [through BIM], and we could fix it right then and there. Because of the real-time coordination, there was minimal coordination required at the completion of construction documents.”

Fullwood adds that using BIM in the IPD method of design and building allows each member of the design team—from A/V/L designer, to architect, to builder, to structural engineers, other subcontractors, and the church’s chosen design leader—to have equal access to communication. “For Celebration’s church project, through collaboration and equal access [and having everyone present in the same room], we created a complex worship space room in an amazingly short amount of time,” he says.

As a result of everyone being present while the design is coming together using the BIM 3D model, the church client has an infinitely enhanced understanding of what he or she is going to get.

In terms of the A/V/L needed for a modern worship space, BIM helps worship leaders, too, understand what they’ll experience as a finished look on stage. As Fullwood explains, “Justin [Hames] and my partner Paul [Henderson] with Design 2020 could export [A/V/L elements] into Revit [the BIM software of choice for the team]. So for the Celebration project we could program our lighting and provide the finished look for our worship leader. We were able to actually show the worship leader how the lighting will look on the stage.”

One can imagine the benefits of a BIM model for church video directors, as well. “Being able to show a video director what his or her stage will look like from a certain camera perspective is great. We’ve all seen beautiful rooms that have the personality of a mud fence when seen by a camera,” Fullwood says. With BIM, Celebration’s technical team and video producers were able to see what their congregation would experience from the viewpoint of the cameras capturing the service for display on the big screens.

Even down to minute details of architectural interior design, the team reports that BIM was able to show the church what they’d be getting—and give them a chance to make changes in real time if the finishes weren’t accurately helping to convey the desired look, branding and personality of the church.

“If you want a handrail in a mezzanine, for example, you can put it in [the BIM design] or take it back out,” Garrison says. “You wouldn’t be able to do that in [traditional architectural] drawings; the church client wouldn’t see that rail until the facility was built and it’s too late to change.”

Builder Adams sums up the benefits of BIM for a church owner by saying that BIM’s most readily identifiable strength is its ability to help magnify potential collisions in the initial design of a facility. “Maybe there was a structural steel beam, but if you overlay your HVAC data there may be a pipe running through the beam. You can correct that before any work gets under way. And that makes for a better quality job, and a less expensive job from the get-go.”

Focused vision, stronger fundraising

One of the biggest benefits of the IPD approach using BIM, according to Adams, is the opportunity for the design team to “get inside the church owner’s head and get a reading.”

As he explains from his company’s perspective, “Many times only the design team will hear those comments and that passion [from the church representative, Alex Castro, on Celebration’s team, for example]. As a general contractor or construction manager using IPD, you get to hear the client’s needs—the big thoughts, the small thoughts.” To have the church present and represented in these discussions is indispensable to getting an on-target finished project that’s in tune with the church’s mission. “They know what they want the church to look like, feel like, what experience they want their members to have,” Adams adds.

In the Celebration project, especially, Castro, the church representative, was given the necessary authority to make decisions, in real time, on how the facility would be put together. “It wasn’t like the design team had to stop and email stuff down to a committee. We were working in real time, moment by moment, with everybody there,” Adams says.

And he closes, “There are those benefits to the church in terms of cost and delivery, and then they get to take a snapshot, during the design process, back to the membership and use it as a tool for fundraising, to accentuate it. This is tremendous.”


Celebration Church At a Glance

Beginnings: Founded in 1998 with seven people

Model: Multi-site; one church with 10 locations and a global presence

Attendance: 11,000 weekend worshippers

Church plant: Association of Related Churches (ARC); www.arcchurches.com

Broadcasting: Local and in more than 200 countries

Ministries: Kids, Youth, Young Adults, Singles, Marriage/Family, Women, Men, Leadership/College, Outreach/Missions


What’s Building Information Modeling, or BIM, and how can it aid in church design?

BIM is software used to create a 3D model of a building, constructed in real time on a computer screen, as a design and building team collaborates on a building project. BIM is oftentimes the chosen tool for the Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) approach, where all members of a design and building team for a new project or renovation sit together in one room and collaborate on a project. During this collaborative IPD process where BIM software is used, BIM creates a little virtual building model.

Learn more about the use of IPD and BIM in church design and construction at:


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