How many churches have you dealt with that had construction documents prepared for a facility that is much larger than they can afford or justify? This happens every day. The lack of communication or understanding between the architect and the church about their financial ability concerning the project budget is the cause. I have been asked, but I strongly urge against starting the construction document process until the capital funds campaign (CFC) has ended its pledge drive and a financial lender has met with the church to give them an idea of their borrowing potential. I have had churches want to jump the gun for the sake of the “schedule” and request me to prepare detailed construction drawing for a phase one scope of work prior to knowing what the phase one financial resources will be. Many churches and architects fall into this trap which leads to frustration, finger-pointing, delays and expensive drawing revisions.
On the other hand I have met with churches that had their architect prepare construction documents for the entire Master Planned facility! NEVER should a church pay to have the architect prepare construction documents for the entire Master Plan unless they have the funds to build the entire Master Plan. This results in contractor confusion as to what is and is not being bid on, and most importantly if only a portion of the drawings are actually being built, by the time the church is ready for the next phase of construction, the codes will have changed and building systems that were called out in the specifications may no longer available or applicable. But more typically, ministry needs will have changed. My position is that the construction documents being prepared should be only for phase one based on the churches known financial resources.
Then the only wild card left is the cost of construction.
To help manage this unknown, I build into our drawings what are referred to as add and deduct alternates. An add alternate is something that would be nice to have if the finances are there; if the fundraising turns out better than expected or the bid prices lower than projected. Deduct alternates are items that will hurt when removed from the project, but that a church could live without, for a time. All of these alternates are discussed with and approved by the committee. I share with them that when it comes to negotiating the bids, if the contractors have given prices for these alternates during the bid process, then we are not at their mercy when it come to reducing or adding to the contract. I also work with the contractor during the negotiation process to designate dates on their construction schedule that will inform the church the amount of time they have to raise additional funds to place those alternates back into the contract if desired.
HOWEVER, over the past five years we have seen rampant daily increases in material and labor costs. Bids that were given for work no longer could be held for the traditional forty-five day period. In some cases, steel prices quoted for projects have been only good for ten days at the most. Churches have been hit hard. On top of that, in some regions the permitting process has gone significantly past the traditional thirty-day approval period while government agencies purposely delay and add additional requirements to the church projects. Unfortunately, a number of my client’s projects have come to a screeching halt due to the uncertainty of the construction cost and their finances. Contractors were so busy they were not sharpening their pencils to give these projects a competitive price. Sometimes they would not even show up to bid. As the economy changed, so has the construction industry and so must our approach to solving these issues.
John W.G. Rosecrans, AIA is the Owner and President of DIMENSIONAL DYNAMICS, Architects and Planners, Inc. located at 455 Old Baltimore Pike, Chadds Ford, PA 19317. phone: 610.388.0755 fax 610.388.2761 email: firstname.lastname@example.org webpage: www.dimdyn.com