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 three phases of building development:

●    Conceptual Design
●    Working Drawing
●    Construction

can simplify the complexity of a project into manageable parts.



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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●    Visioning must occur prior to any space planning. In this phase of the process, you will focus on the task of developing goals and strategies to be used throughout the life of the project. What has your committee been called to do? What is the desired outcome? The vision that you create will be a critical reference throughout the life of the project. A key element of Visioning is to communicate your objectives back to the community you serve for confirmation and validation. It is important to know that you are on the same page as the community you serve.

●    Have key leaders in your organization write out where they see their departments in one, five, and ten years. What new or expanded opportunities do they anticipate? Seeking input from staff will help identify concerns, “hot buttons,” and “sacred cows” that can be addressed during the process. It will also give you insight into their expectations for the project. Summarize the staff’s goals and objectives. Referring to this summary periodically will help you stay focused.

●    Discuss desired schedules and timelines leading to a move-in date. Recognize the key functions that occur each week, month and year that you will have to work around. Depending on the size of the project and the availability of funds to build it, the entire process may take up to several years to move through the three phases of building development.

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

●    The cost of construction is an equation that you control two of three factors: size, quality, and cost. Decide which two are most important to the church. Think outside the box. When it comes to meeting your objectives, consider all the possibilities. Your church community will appreciate and respect your thoughtfulness and thoroughness. Sometimes the acquisition of additional property or renting off-site properties can yield great flexibility and potential to expand your services.

●    Meet with City officials to discuss code and zoning issues. Keeping the authorities informed can save a lot of grief down the line. There’s nothing worse than getting to the end of the process and having to re-configure your carefully made plans because you don’t have the city’s support and approval.

●    Hire an architect prior to the Concept phase to partner with you as you dream and brainstorm. Having an experienced, professional partner can be a comforting and valuable asset. It will save you time and money in the long run. Refine and develop a “Vision Statement” that reflects your goals and objectives. This useful communication tool conveys your vision to your congregation and gives you a point of reference throughout the process.

●    Planning is also a key activity in the Concept Design Phase. It is the crucial process where discoveries are made. Given the physical limitations of your site and the financial limitations of your budget, you and your architect will begin to investigate the various opportunities and options for your facility. In Planning, your architect will begin to test your ideas on paper and illustrate your ideas in graphic form. He will begin to add his creative touch to give form to your needs and desires.

●    Your church may not have experienced a building expansion or improvement project in quite some time. As a part of this process, if possible, tour other facilities and become familiar with the technologies and expressions demonstrated in them. Talk to the staff about other churches. Record your impressions and document your trip with photos. You’re guaranteed to develop an opinion about what you like and don’t like. There is much to learn from other church’s successes and failures.

●    As the owner, you are responsible for providing certain information to be used by the architect. These include a topographic survey of the property, environmental surveys of the existing building to identify any harmful contaminants, and a soils exploration report to measure underground conditions. Your architect will help you obtain these services. Assembling past work such as “as-built” record drawings, maintenance manuals, and previously completed master plan studies can be useful stepping stones for your architect. Acquiring these items early on will make the entire process run more smoothly.

●    During the Planning phase, expect your architect to prepare a Building Code Analysis. He will review parking, zoning, and storm water management requirements. Based on the configuration of your site and/or condition of your current building, he may also recommend the preparation of feasibility studies, facility condition assessments, traffic studies, etc. Upon examination of demographics and growth trends and a determination of space needs (architectural programming), the architect prepares conceptual plans reflecting the overall objectives of your church. Issues such as security, the zoning of specific activities, and the schedule of daily operations are taken into consideration during Planning.

●    Because needs often outweigh available funding, your architect will prepare a long-range master plan. This will establish building phasing options that conform to funding limitations. With the architect’s help, you will have the tough job of prioritizing needs, and determining which spaces and functions make the first cut.

●    Before your architect and his consultants finalize the concept drawings, discuss the best project delivery method with your architect. Does construction management, or general contracting suit your needs and schedule? The architect will prepare working drawings for bidding and permit based on the selected project delivery method. Selecting the right delivery method and hiring a qualified contractor is key in completing a successful project.



Working drawings are the highly technical phase of the building process. It requires many skilled professionals to assemble documents that describe the scope of your building project. Your architect and his consulting engineers will communicate your needs to contractors in construction drawings and product specifications. The further you move into the design process, the more detailed decisions become. It is during this process that you and your committee will have input into the selection of finishes and materials used in your building. Design modifications have a tremendous impact on costs. It is critical to continually review and update the construction and project budget during this phase.

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●    Your architect will prepare schematic design options from your approved conceptual plans and project budget. The scope of the work during schematic design is typically illustrated in site plans, floor plans, and exterior renderings. Often, a model may be built to aid in fundraising or marketing efforts. Your architect will continue to update the statement of probable construction cost to accompany the new illustrations.

●    When you reach a point where you are comfortable with the building’s appearance and how it functions, present the design to your community for criticism and feedback. Developing a consensus for a project is critical to the way it is perceived and accepted at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

●  During the schematic design process, discuss and select which technologies you want incorporated into the building. You may need to hire specialized consultants to help integrate those technologies. Acousticians, lighting consultants, security consultants, independent cost estimators, and others, can help resolve issues that are unique to your design or building type. In addition, determine if you need to delegate responsibilities by forming specialized committees (Interiors, Parking, etc.). Specialized committees will help distribute the workload and expand a sense of ownership in the project to more members of your church.

●    After your architect assembles a qualified team of consultants, he will prepare design development drawings. He will outline product and material specifications that further detail the scope of the project and submit these to you for your review and approval. This should also include reviewing the types of plumbing and light fixtures integrated into the building.

●   If you’re renovating an existing building, establish an operations plan and schedule for the building’s use during construction. Knowing which space or spaces will be unavailable, and when, is essential to maintaining a sense of control in a process that can be perceived as chaotic.

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



Upon selecting the method by which your building will be constructed, you will release the Working Drawings for bid. Drawings, specifications, and bid forms are distributed to contractors for pricing. Depending on the size and complexity of your project, as well as current bidding climate, allow about three to four weeks for contractors to prepare bids for your project. Once the bids are received, allow a few weeks to analyze the bids and prepare Owner-Contractor contracts. During the bidding process, you may also distribute the documents to the governing code authorities for permit approvals.

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●    Consider celebrating this milestone with a ground breaking service. Invite members of your community, and acknowledge all the hard work invested to date. Allow your congregation to participate as much as possible to take ownership of their new home.

●    Once a building permit is issued, demolition, renovation, and construction can begin. The duration of construction is dependent upon the size and complexity of the proposed improvement. Your architect will continue to represent you during construction. He will make weekly site visits to observe the general quality and progress of the construction completed and reports his findings back to you.

●    Construction is a messy business. Weather often plays a large role in how quickly a project can be completed. Be prepared to be inconvenienced and try to remain flexible. Let your contractor know about your planned schedule of activities for the year (camps, weddings, conferences, etc.) and what accommodations need to be made to keep you functioning throughout the construction process.



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 three 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