Project Delivery Method: How are We Building? (Part 1)

Save Your Church Money Blog

A church decides to build or remodel a facility. The one part of the building that will determine its integrity is the foundation. Just as the quality of a building is affected by its foundation, the success of a building project is greatly affected by the process used in designing and constructing the project. In this endeavor, most churches tend to naturally focus on the physical plant instead of the process used to build it. Choosing the wrong process could lead to negative, even heartbreaking consequences. From unmet expectations such as inadequate parking to exceeding the budget or even a church split; the results of inattention to this foundational step can be devastating. God used a methodical process for building His church which can be traced from the Gospels, thru Acts and the Epistles culminating in Revelations. In the same way, a church needs to be methodical in its process, learning to make good decisions along the way. One of the most important decisions needs to be consideration of the appropriate process to use. Psalm 90:13 says, “….that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”

Although there are a number of variations, most of the project delivery methods fall into one of four categories: 1) Design-Bid-Build, 2) Construction Management, 3) Design-Build, and 4) Bridging. In the information to follow, we will attempt to briefly define these delivery methods individually and help evaluate their strengths and weaknesses as they pertain to church facility development. It is important to remember that due to space; only a brief treatment can be given. It is our intention to highlight the major methods and their characteristics.

This method has been the most common and conventional method for project delivery during recent history. Its name summarizes the process. The church selects an architect to design the facility in accordance with the church’s needs and desires. The architect produces Construction Documents to use in bidding out the construction of the project. The church selects the lowest responsible bidder and the project is built in accordance with the architects drawings and oversight. The relationship between the parties is illustrated below. The red arrows signify contractual relationships with potential risk back to the church. The green arrows signify lines of communication between the parties.

It can be clearly seen that the church has two entities working for it, thus creating two contracts and two lines of risk. It is also evident that the designer (architect) and builder (general contractor) may not have adequate communication with each other until after the contract for construction is awarded., so the contractor has little or no input in the design.

• Strengths
o Functional Plan & pleasing aesthetics
o Familiarity due to widespread use
o Clearly defined roles assigned to each party
o Design is complete prior to construction
o Linear process
• Weaknesses
o Change orders (increased cost) more likely
o Delays more likely
o Lengthy process
o Restricts optimal communication
o Potential for adversarial relationships

According to statistics, approximately forty nine percent of churches who invest in architectural services using this method will start construction in five years or less. Of this, only thirty percent of those that do build will construct the original design. These statistics highlight the likelihood of delays and cost overruns that can be associated with this method. That is not to say that this method cannot be used very effectively. Many churches have had very good experiences with this method, but it is vitally important that a highly qualified and experienced church architect is retained. This author strongly advises against searching for “cheap” architectural services if you decide to employ this method.

As mentioned, in this process, the selection of the architect will be one of the most important decisions the church will make. Next time we will discuss what to look for in a church architect.