Congratulations!  Your Church is growing and now you need to expand facilities so more people can be inspired, challenged, and nurtured. As a member of the Building Committee it is your goal to guarantee this happens in a beautiful, functional, affordable building.

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This can be an overwhelming task, but understanding the four phases of building development:

+Conceptual Design
+Working Drawing

can simplify the complexity of a project into manageable parts.



Visioning is a pre-design activity that focuses on defining the spatial needs and goals of your church to develop a reference for what is important during the design process. Hiring an experienced architect during the “visioning” phase helps save time and money by keeping the process focused and informed. An experienced church architect will provide professional insight and guidance while the church plans, brainstorms, and dreams.

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An actual example of Visioning from a previous project:

+More gathering space.  Attractive.  Wow factor.  Central, (close to parking).  A place for downstairs people and upstairs people to connect.

+Improved security for children's ministry area.

+Check to make sure that current children's ministry classrooms are sufficient for your needs. If not, add space.

+Broken, worn out or otherwise dated parts of the building brought up-to-date.

+Renovate older parts of the building to make them look like new, especially in the children's  ministry area and restrooms. The church plans to renovate much of these spaces ourselves.

+Greater cohesion of appearance from one part of the building to another.

+Better flow through the building.  Better way-finding.

+More storage space

+Fix compliance issues with ADA and other code issues, etc.

+Achieve better climate control through a new HVAC system.

Input from staff will help identify concerns, "hot buttons", and "sacred cows." Have leaders in the organization write out projections for possible problems and opportunities they expect for their departments within the next one, five, and ten years. Summarize the staff's expectations and periodically refer to this summary to help keep decisions focused.

Important Things to Consider:

+Meet with government officials to discuss code and zoning issues. Keeping the authorities informed early prevents problems later.

+Know your financial limitations. Discuss the project budget with the architect and a financial advisor. Total project budgets will include land acquisition, building and site costs, professional service fees, furniture, moving expenses, etc.

+Think outside the box. Consider all the possibilities when working to achieve your goals. The congregation will appreciate your thoughtfulness and thoroughness. Sometimes the acquisition of additional property or renting off-site properties can provide greater flexibility and potential to expand ministries.

+Discuss schedules and timelines leading up to a move-in date. Identify the key functions that occur weekly, monthly, and yearly that will need to be worked around. Depending on the size of the project and the availability of funds, the entire building development process may take several years.

After brainstorming, discussing, and analyzing needs, goals and opportunities, write a "Vision Statement" that communicates the vision to your audience and raises support for the project.



Design is a discovery process. Given the physical limitations of the site and the financial parameters of your budget, you and your architect will begin to investigate various opportunities and options for the facility. The architect will test ideas graphically and begin to give form to the church’s needs and desires.

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+If possible, tour similar projects and become familiar with the technologies and expressions demonstrated in them; you are guaranteed to develop an opinion about what you do and do not like. Talk with the staff, record impressions, and document the trip with photos; learn from other projects' successes and failures.

The church will be responsible for providing relevant information the architect needs during this phase. This includes a topographic survey of the property, environmental surveys of the existing building to identify any harmful contaminants, and a soils exploration report to measure the strength and unique conditions of the ground. Your architect will help obtain these services. Past work, such as "as built" record drawings, maintenance manuals, and previously completed master-plan studies provide useful information for the future work of your architect. Acquiring these documents early makes the entire process
run more smoothly.

Expect the architect to prepare a building code analysis that reviews parking, zoning, and stormwater management requirements. Based on the configuration of your site and/or condition of the current building, the architect may also recommend the preparation of feasibility studies, facility condition assessments, traffic studies, etc. Upon examination of demographics, growth trends, and a determination of spatial needs (architectural programming), the architect will prepare conceptual plans that reflect your objectives and also address issues related to security, zoning of specific activities, and the schedule of daily operations.

Because needs often outweigh available funds, the architect will also prepare a long-range master plan to establish building phasing options that conform to funding limitations. With the architect's help, the committee will have the tough job of prioritizing needs and determining which spaces and functions will be addressed first.



This is the highly technical phase of the building process that requires many  skilled professionals to assemble the documents that describe the scope of your building  project. The architect and his consulting engineers will communicate your needs to contractors through construction drawings and product specifications.

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It is during this process that the building committee will approve recommended finishes and materials. Design modifications impact cost, so it is critical to regularly review and update the construction and project budget during this phase.

Discuss the best project delivery method with your architect before finalizing the constructiondrawing and specification documents. Does construction management, or general contracting suit your needs and schedule? The architect will prepare bidding and permit documents based on the selected project delivery method. Hiring the right contractor is key to completing a successful project. The architect can be a good resource for short listing builder candidates.



Upon selecting the method by which your building will be constructed, the project documents will be distributed to contractors for bidding. Allow about three weeks for contractors to prepare bids, followed by a few more weeks to analyze the bids and prepare Owner-Contractor contracts. During this time, distribute the documents to the governing code authorities for permit approval.

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Demolition, renovation, and construction can begin once a building permit is issued. The architect will continue to represent you during construction. He or she will make weekly site visits to observe the general quality and progress of the construction and reports findings back to the building committee.

The duration of construction depends on the size and complexity of the proposed  improvement. Weather plays a large role in how quickly a project can be completed. Inconveniences are inevitable, but try to remain flexible. The contractor will accommodate the church’s schedule to keep it functioning throughout the construction process.

Select one person from your organization to represent your building committee during construction. Your architect and contractors need one main contact to make timely construction related decisions. This person should expect to be at weekly construction progress meetings, to authorize small changes in the design, review monthly applications for payment to contractors, and to communicate the status of the project  to leadership.



In summary, during Visioning the church will develop a strategy to be used throughout the project. During Conceptual Design and Master Planning the architect will illustrate the various opportunities and options  available on your site. During Working Drawings the architect communicates needs to the contractor in detailed construction documents. Then during the Construction Phase, the project is bid and awarded to a contractor who will complete demolition, renovation and construction. 

Whether expanding an existing building or building a new facility, the Building Committee has an exciting time ahead of them.  Understanding the four phases of building development will give everyone confidence as they represent your organization in collaboration  with the architect and contractor.


"Every building is a prototype. No two are alike". - Helmut Jahn