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What to Know About Design-Build

The traditional (design-bid-build) approach to building can leave you to make important decisions on your own. You are responsible for finding an architect to draw your project and a contractor to build it. Then, you must ensure that they communicate and work together within your budget and vision.

Design-Build is different. It's a one-stop-shop for all your design and construction needs. You have one contract that adheres to your budget, along with a group of our trustworthy, seasoned professionals to help you with any and all decisions or challenges along the way. Just step back, and watch your vision come to life.

How Will a Design-Builder Help Me?
Designing and building a church can be a complicated and scary process, but it doesn't have to be. A design-builder will work with you to build your facility around your vision. In a guaranteed lump sum contract, the design-builder guarantees to deliver the project at the specified price. They will look over drawings and plans throughout the entire process to make sure there are no mistakes in the building and that everything falls within your budget.

How Long Will It Take?
Building a church is a commercial scale development that requires considerable attention to literally hundreds of details. Historical averages indicate that it takes 18 to 21 months for the entire process. It can take as little as 12 months for a very motivated church.

However, there are many variables that are outside the control of the owner and the design-builder. The most significant of these are civil engineering issues. Every municipality has different requirements and document review times can vary wildly from city to city.

There are three main phases to the life of a project:

* Preliminary Design/Build Services – 3 to 4 months
* Construction Documents – 3 to 8 months
* Construction – 7 to 10 months

What's the First Step?
After you hire a Design-Builder, you will begin making crucial decisions about your facility. Money is saved in the Preliminary Design/Build Services (planning) phase, not in the construction phase. Items addressed in this phase are:

* Needs Assessment
* Master Planning
* Preliminary Design
* Budget Estimate

What Is Needs Assessment?
Also known as “programming,” Needs Assessment includes meetings with the Building Committee and Staff to gather information about ministry objectives, congregation demographics, and budget parameters. This research will help determine the desired exterior image of the new facility, optimal size and character of the spaces, relationship of spaces, and other ministry directed facility issues.

Some Needs Assessment activities are:

* Analysis of the long-range plans and goals of the church
* Recommendation, consulting, revision, and/or development of the church’s long-range ministry pan
* Financial needs and abilities review. Recommendations and guidance and financing and lender options
* Analysis of current and future programming needs
* Recommendation for future space needs
* Analysis and development of a Master Plan of the ministry and traffic flow for the complete build-out of the church’s new property
* Suggested schematic architectural design to suggest the size and character of the design and construction of the project resulting in a Schematic Design package that will include Floor Plans, Elevations, and “Bird’s Eye View” drawings

What Happens Next?
After Needs Assessment is complete, a Master Plan of the existing campus will be developed to document the vision of the church. The Master Plan will identify all future structures, their usage and their placement on the property.

What's It Going to Look Like?
A schematic architectural design will then be developed to further establish the size and character of the project. The schematic design will include the floor plans and elevations for the initial facility of the Master Plan and further define the building layouts.

The schematic design package will provide information to develop a preliminary budget estimate for the initial facility. The design-builder will sometimes solicit bids from consultants and subcontractors to help provide an initial construction estimate for the owner’s review and approval.

How to Pick the Right Builder
Before you start the selection process, understand your congregation’s specific needs. Everyone wants the most space for the least amount of money and would like to build everything at once. However, most churches grow their facilities in phases.

By prioritizing your ministry’s short and long-term needs (e.g., youth center first or bigger sanctuary first), you can make your design-builder selection process easier by matching their experience and expertise with your project requirements.

Be prepared to answer the following questions. They may seem simple but you’d be surprised at how many churches don’t really have a clear or consistent reply.

* Who are we trying to reach?
* What building (or buildings) will help us reach them?
* What can we afford?
* How do we propose to afford it? (Stewardship campaign, financing, sale of existing facility?)
* Where should it be (neighborhood, freeway, inner city)?
* When do we want it finished?
* What do we do with our congregation until it is finished?
* How do we handle the growth once it is built?

What Questions Do I Need to Ask a Design-Builder Before Hiring Them?
Though the construction of church facilities shares many commonalities with retail development, the decision-making and communication processes are VERY different. Accordingly, you should choose a design-builder with specific church experience.

Some suggested questions are:

* Have you had experience designing and building Christian worship facilities?
* Have you worked on projects similar to mine?
* What is your process - how do you determine what we should build?
* What are options to lower square footage costs?
* Will you provide me with a guaranteed maximum cost?
* What are the inevitable challenges you face on every church project?
* What were some of the specific challenges you have encountered on your past church projects?

What Will an Experienced Design-Builder Ask Me?
You can gage the design-builder’s experience by the questions THEY ask of you. Here’s some of the things you should be hearing:

* What is your membership?
* What is your average worship attendance (AWA)?
* How many services do you have on Sunday?
* What are the times of the services?
* What is your average education attendance?
* What times are you offering education?
* What are the age demographics of your congregation?
* What are your historical growth rates?
* What is your current growth rate trend?
* What age demographic is your projected growth coming from?
* What style music do you have? Traditional / Contemporary / Both?
* What kind of musical instruments do you have?

Note that these questions are directed at understanding who your church is. A good church design-builder will capture the essence of your heart and direction and apply their experience to suggest a variety of design and building options that suit your needs.

This information is courtesy of the National Association of Church Design Builders, www.nacdb.com.

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