If you have never built a commercial building before, you may think the process is as simple as getting a building design, handing it to a contractor, and waiting for your building to be finished. Nothing could be further from the truth. While a good consultant can help you navigate these confusing waters, it is important for you to know a little about how the design and construction process works.
The end result you are seeking is a quality design that meets your ministry needs, is comfortable and functional, will operate as it is designed, and will last you as long as possible. Each project starts with an architectural design and ends with you moving into your new building. But, there are several ways to get from Point A to Point Z.
The most basic way to get a building designed and built is to start with an architect. The architect will design the floor plan, elevations, and overall layout and "look" of the building. However, there are also engineering costs involved. These may or may not be handled internally with the architect, depending on the firm. Most architects do NOT have in-house engineers and will either charge you extra to have the engineering done or refer you to potential engineers with whom you can contract (and pay) directly for their services. These engineering services will include Civil Engineering (for things like drainage and utilities), Structural Engineering (to make sure components like the foundation and walls will support the load of the building), and Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing (to make sure your HVAC system heats and cools the building, the sinks work, the toilets flush, and the lights don't catch on fire when you flip the switch). Depending on the engineering of the building, some architectural changes may need to be made (to reduce the span of a beam, to move the building to another location on the property to accommodate drainage, or to move a wall to accommodate AC systems or plumbing chases). Every time an architect or an engineer puts pencil to paper (or, cursor to CAD or Revit screen) you are incurring charges. Getting all of these people talking earlier in the process is to your financial benefit. You could easily lose tens of thousands of dollars in design fees that could be spent on construction if your design has to go through several re-draws. Once all of the architectural and engineering drawings are completed, then your contractor can begin constructing your building. Well, that is, after they obtain all of the appropriate permits (which will cost you more time and money).
Now your contractor is ready to begin building your facility. But, what "method" are they going to use? (You mean, there is more than one?) Oh yes, there is more than one. Some of the more common methods are:
#1 - Design-Build - Using this method gets all of the stakeholders in the project involved from the very beginning. In Design-Build, you contract with one entity to design, engineer, and build your building. From the very beginning, engineers are consulting with architects to make sure that their aesthetic design accommodates the engineering requirements of the building. Contractors are involved in conversations about the design and can help value-engineer certain components and systems during the design phase to save you time and money during construction. This delivery method can be quite attractive to churches as they are only dealing with one entity billing for all services. It simplifies things on the church's side. However, not every architect is willing to engage in a Design-Build because of the extra coordination, extra cost, and extra liability they are taking on being involved with the construction portion of the contract. Plus, what money you may save limiting re-draws may be negated in additional administrative costs and fees charged by the Design-Build firm.
#2 - Negotiated Contract with Guaranteed Maximum Price - During this delivery method, you have separate contracts with the architect and General Contractor (and, depending on how your architect chooses to handle the engineering, potentially with the engineers). You contract with the architect to design the building and the General Contractor to build it. The contractor will provide you with a price that she or he is "guaranteed" not to exceed. This price will be in a contract. However, there are items that are not included in the "Guaranteed Maximum Price" such as furnishings and other "owner supplied items." If you don't read carefully, you will be on the hook for tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars in "owner supplied items" that you were expecting to have been paid as part of construction. Plus, the price of the project will change based on field changes (if you approve the contractor to do so) and change orders (initiated by either you or the contractor). So, if you decide you want different flooring than what your designer speced, or if your contractor unearths an archaeological site when he / she excavates to pour your foundation, those extra costs are not covered. Guaranteed Maximum Price is beneficial for helping the church set a budget. It will also lay out payment schedules so you know exactly how much is due and when it is due. Just remember, your Guaranteed Maximum Price may not be your actual maximum price.
#3 - Cost plus Fees (often called just "Cost Plus") - In this method, your General Contractor will bill you separately for every single phase of the project. Each time material is purchased, you will be billed. Each time a skilled trade does work at your site, you will be billed. The contractor will provide proof of the exact cost to you but will add a previously agreed upon percentage to cover the contractor's overhead and profit. For example, if the electrician wires your building and charges the General Contractor $40,000 for the work, your contractor will show you the invoice for $40,000. Then, the contractor will charge you $44,000 (to make the math simple for our example, let's assume a simple 10% "plus" for the cost). This method may allow the contractor to save you money (if, for instance, she estimated that your electrical work would cost $50,000 but she was able to get someone to do it for $40,000). However, some work may cost you more than originally estimated (the contractor estimated $50,000 but it actually cost $60,000). This method makes it very difficult to set a budget for the project and results in MUCH more frequent pay applications to fund the project.
These are just three of the most popular construction delivery methods (believe me, there are several more we could discuss). Each has its pros and cons. The most important thing for the church to understand is what the different delivery options are and to have someone guide them through deciding what is best for their unique circumstances.