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Project team member combinations to avoid

In the world of church facility construction, renovation and development, there are several integral roles and responsibilities that are required for every project.

avoid-300x225They might or might not be paid professionals for each role, but they are present and the responsibilities to the project are no less important.

Here are the basics that virtually every project must have as part of the church’s team:

1) Architect / Designer: To plan, program, design, develop drawings, obtain permits and do compliance inspections

2) Engineers: To engineer the building components such as structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection

3) Interior design: To pull it all together and put the “top coat” on the project…what is visible

4) Civil Engineer: To develop all the required site (land) related engineering

5) Geo-technical Engineer: To investigate the soil conditions and make recommendations

6) Surveyor: To verify property attributes such as property boundaries, topography, tree locations, easements, etc

7) General Contractor (sometimes referred to as a Construction Manager): The entity that is licensed to pull the permit and direct/take responsibility for the construction activities of the project

8) Sub/Trade Contractors: The firms performing the actual construction duties under the direction of the General Contractor

9) Special Inspector: This is new since 2000 when the International Building Code was released, and adopted by most municipalities. Their role is to provide milestone inspections of predetermined requirements of the project. These inspections are different than the inspections performed by the local building inspector…and these are a cost to the church.

10) Specialty engineers, consultants and integrators: This can include entities such as A/V/L (Audio, Video and Theatrical Lighting), kitchen consultants, cafe consultants, environmental graphics, acoustician, vision clarity, generosity/stewardship, financing, etc, etc, etc.

11) Owners Rep: The person who is the liaison/advocate for the church to all the above as well as the translator of all things project related. This should be an independent third party.

Now, I have seen some of these hats worn by the same firm or person. For example, some civil engineers also do surveying. Most integrated architects also have interior designers on their staff, which makes perfect sense. Some architects have engineering disciplines in their studio. Some general contractors also perform certain sub-contractor scopes of work.

Another combination of roles that has been used in many church projects is where the General Contractor is also the Designer / Architect. In this format, referred to as “Design / Build”, the contractor and architect are either the same entity or they are under one contractual agreement with the church. This format can work and I have firsthand experience where it has served many churches well. But the church is giving up the checks and balances that come from independent entities, each with their own contractual and moral obligation to the church. Again, I come from this world (23 years), but it is critical for your church to understand not only the upside of this dual role, but also the things that will be inherently different.

Finally, here are the two combinations of roles that need to be avoided whenever possible. I have seen more projects go sideways when these combinations are implemented:

1) “We have a guy.” Lord have mercy! I cannot begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard this and watched churches engage their “guy” to do a major role in the project — only to witness things go terribly wrong. Again … I am not saying it always go poorly … I have seen where, by God’s grace, it worked … but that it is far more the exception than the rule.

I have written about this previously, so check out the pitfalls HERE. I have seen more “Jack-leg” work and weekend warrior projects that ultimately have to be re-done (usually at even higher cost than they would have invested from the onset) due to poor workmanship … or design … or acoustics … or blah, blah, blah. In the end, have we really been good stewards (remember our discussion about the Precursors of Facility Stewardship) of what God has entrusted to us? Was it worth saving a buck to damage a relationship? Is it worth doing segments of the project DIY but, in turn, have sub-par aspects of the final project?

2) Architect as Owner’s Rep. This is one that I really struggle with: I have actually been kept awake at night thinking of it. This is the epitome of the classic phrase “fox in the hen house.” Here are the primary reasons why I feel this way:

  • As a general rule, architects are poor cost estimators. Ask any of them — they will readily admit this.
  • The preponderance of the project budget is spent pre-construction. The construction is merely the fulfillment of the lines drawn on paper (or in a computer) during the design phase. Given that, do you want the financial viability of your project to be laid in the hands of the entity drawing the lines?
  • Accountability. Who will hold the design professional accountable if they are also the Owner’s Rep? What if there is a problem with the design drawings? If the Owner’s Rep is responsible to be the advocate for the church and translator of all things project-related, how can the design professional (as Owner’s Rep) be objective if the issue is going to impact them in an adverse manner?

Does your project needs an architect? No question! Get a good one. Call me if you need some recommendations.

Does your project needs an Owner’s Rep? Absolutely!

Just be cautious about commingling these roles — and stay clear of the “guy.”

TimCool-newphotoTim Cool is founder of Cool solutions Group, and has assisted nearly 400 U.S. churches (equating to more than 4 million square feet) with their facility needs. He has collaborated with churches in the areas of facility needs analysis, design coordination, pre construction and construction management, as well as life cycle planning / facility management. Cool solutions Group is also the developer of eSPACE software products, including Event Scheduler, Work Order Management and HVAC integration.

Cool has written three books: Successful Master Planning: More Than Pretty Pictures;Why Church Buildings Matter: The Story of Your Spaceand Church Locality, which is co-written by Jim Tomberlin, as well as a manual series entitled “Intentional Church.”


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