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Church Design Tips


The Secret of Effective Church Building Design


The secret to efficient and cost effective church design is proper process.   As I detail in the book, Preparing to Build, an already difficult task becomes quite painful when you don’t understand and adhere to a good building process.

Church design is a step in a church building program, but it is not the first step.  The design of your church must follow after  the prerequisite steps of understanding ministry needs and financial ability.  Until you have a qualified and justifiable understanding of what your church really needs to build, and a realistic understanding of what it can afford to build and how it will pay for it, no church design process will be valid.

In a building program, the goal of church design is to create a church floor plan or church building plan that, while sensitive to the history and heritage of the church, focuses on meeting future needs.  When the church design process proceeds forward without an objective and measurable understanding of what the church needs and can afford to build, bad things happen: the initial church building plans drawn up by the architect or church designer exceed the church's financial ability to build, or, the design of the building does not meet the objective ministry needs.  In either case, you did not get the proper results from your church design.

Remember, functionality is far more important than appearance.  This does not mean you need to design your church to be ugly, but that subjective appearance must be made subservient to objective need.  The best way to get these issues in balance is through a needs and feasibility study that will provide an objective, qualified understanding of the church's needs so it may have good information on which to begin the church design process.

 

The following is excerpted from the book "Preparing to Build: Practical Tips and Advice to Prepare Your Church for a Building Program"

The Key to a Better Building Program

Performing a needs and feasibility study tends to create a more satisfactory outcome.

Quoting from the 2006 FIRSt study done by the Rainer Group, “We did find a strong correlation in overall satisfaction with the building project if a feasibility study was conducted. The disappointment, however, is that only one-third of the churches conducted a feasibility study.

When a consultant says there is a strong correlation, the implication is that of cause and effect.   In this case, the operative phrase is “if a feasibility study was conducted.”  This then squarely identifies the causal relationship between proper preparation and maximized satisfaction.  They were satisfied because they conducted a feasibility study. 

According to the study, 33% of the churches conducted feasibility studies, which correlates closely to the 35% that considered the building process as “excellent”, and the 40% that indicated the building program created no conflict in the church.  

Poor planning is also at the heart of cost overruns and financial duress.  Failure to properly research and understand the needs of the church and its financial ability can cause the church to build facilities that are too small, too large, or otherwise inadequate.  Failure to take adequate preparation in hiring the architect or builder can yoke the church to a poor performer or an improper relational fit.  Failure to ask the right questions during the planning process will cost the church time, effort, and money…or worse.

The Cost of Project Changes

If we divide the building process up into three sweeping categories, they would be: Research & Planning, Design, and Construction. As the following chart demonstrates, the further along the church is in the building program, the higher the cost of implementing change:

The cost to affect changes in the project increase dramatically as the project progresses.  The cheapest and easiest time to make changes is before you get too far into the design process.

... Meanwhile, the church’s ability to cost-effectively control the outcome of the building program decreases quickly.

What these two diagrams clearly demonstrate is that the church achieves the most impact for the least cost early in the planning and design process. Unfortunately, this is the area in which the majority of churches most often elect not to get professional assistance. This decision results in changes and corrections getting pushed into the more expensive part of the project, thereby raising the total cost of the project.  Sometimes changes cannot be effected because the church is too far into the project to make cost effective changes.

Excerpted from the book, "Preparing to Build". All rights reserved.

Church Design: Conclusion

In summary, we see that the church should implement an objective process that will properly define its needs and financial ability before proceeding into the church design process.  Doing so will lower the cost of the building program while improving the church's satisfaction with the design and building process.  It will most often be in the church's best interest to engage an outside consultant with the tools and experience to assist the church in objectively determining needs and ability. Click here to learn more about a church needs and feasibility study as part of the church design process.


Additional Resources:

Preparing to Build, by Stephen Anderson. Available in eBook or Paperback editions.

Insights on Achieving a Positive Church Construction Experience

Church Building Guidelines

Church Floor Plans

Church Consulting Services Website

Church Construction Blog

 

 

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