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Designing Technology Into Your Church Building
By: Gary Nicholson

Churches are incorporating more and more technology into their buildings. From the fairly common video projector in many churches now, to high-tech robotic lighting systems and computer networks, the technology going into churches today could not have been imagined a few years ago. Churches undertaking a building program or major remodeling usually take advantage of that opportunity to get caught up on the technology they have been missing.

Your architect will help coordinate the technology in the building. Architects, however, are usually generalists, knowing something about a lot of things. This enables them to work with the various systems that go into the building, leaning on specialists in each field to provide details and expertise, which the architect coordinates and incorporates into the plans.

Your architect will usually be able to recommend consultants who are specialists in the technologies you desire and can design the systems you need. The consultants will then communicate to the architect what is required to provide that technology for now, and for future expansion.

From the air conditioning system to the computer networks, the technology that goes into your building is usually designed by these consultants that work with your architect. The church, the architect, and each consultant must communicate and coordinate their work to prevent one from conflicting with the work of another, and to be sure some aspect of the project doesn't get left out. Knowing who is responsible for each aspect of the project is extremely important.

Consultants are used on virtually every project of any size, although some are only used on special projects and very large buildings. Some of the most common consultants you might encounter and their areas of expertise are:

* Mechanical Engineer - Air conditioning and heating systems
* Electrical Engineer - Power and lighting electrical systems
* Plumbing Engineer - Piping systems for fresh hot and cold water, sewer, and gas systems
* Structural Engineer - Foundation, columns, beams, and framing members that support the structure
* Civil Engineer - Site drainage, parking, lighting and traffic
* Interior Design - Interior features, finishes, and furnishings
* Kitchen Consultant - Kitchen layout and equipment selection
* Landscaping Consultant - Planting materials and treatments
* Acoustical Engineer - Treatments to enhance or control reverberation and sound transmissions
* Sound System Consultant - Electronic sound reinforcement and transmission systems and sometimes video systems
* Theatrical Lighting Consultant - Stage and special effects lighting systems and video
* Computer Network Consultant - Computer servers, work stations, and connections

Typically, the first four of these consultants are included in the architect's basic scope of services and fee. The others may or may not be included, so you will need to negotiate with your architect which of these you want to include in the process. The architect may then include their services in his contract with you, or you may pay them directly.

Some may provide services for no fee if you purchase equipment from them. In these cases you may get a good deal, but you may not get a totally objective opinion about what is the best equipment for your project. You can usually get the very best design from someone who does not have the potential to gain from the sale of a particular piece of equipment.

Although an advantage, your architect's knowledge of each of the particular technologies you want to use in your building is not necessary, and should not be the major determining factor of which architect to hire. It is more important that the architect be good at designing functional and attractive spaces that serve your ministry needs.

Having the right architect on your team will help assure that you get the most efficient building with the technology you need to be effective. Here are some things related to technology that are appropriate to know before you commit to an architectural firm to design your building.

You should know:

* Is the architecture firm made up of techno-junkies that want to put the latest cutting-edge technology in every building, or are they behind the curve so much they have no idea what you are talking about? If you are not on the same wave-length here, you will probably spend a lot of energy trying to overcome it throughout the planning and construction process.

* Do they have experience and working relationships with specialists in the technology you desire: video, theatrical lighting, sound, communications, security, computer networking, or others?

* Are they able to communicate with you and your ministry team in terms you understand about the technical aspects of the design that are important to you? Remember, communication means listening as well as talking! Even if you are new to some of the technologies you are exploring, you should be able to find someone who can explain it in terms you understand.

* Are they equipped to design an effective solution that can be flexible and grow with you as your needs change, finances expand, and technology changes? You may not be able to afford to put all of the technology you want in the building during construction, but you will want to add some later. Also, as technology changes, you will need to upgrade. Do they have a track record of planning to make these upgrades easy, or difficult?

Find an architect that is in tune with your needs, and you will make getting the technology you need a much easier task. Your building will be an effective tool that can multiply your efforts in ministry.

This information is courtesy of Lifeway Christian Resources, www.lifeway.com.

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