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Church Plans for Your Building Program

Prerequisite to Developing Church Plans

For a church contemplating building, one of the first things that many churches do is to try to determine what the building will look like - they start looking at church plans.  While there are some things that the church leadership needs to do before they start considering church plans (see Before You Develop a Church Building Plan for more information), there comes the proper time to develop the church floor plan and elevation.  Hopefully you have a realistic understanding of what you can afford and what your ministry needs to build to accomplish the mission of the church - if not, please back up a sentence and click the link.  With an understanding of needs, wants and budget, it is time to develop the church plan for building.

Church Plans: Three Options

There are several ways that your church can get church plans for construction.  The church could hire a church architect, they could find a design/build firm, or they can buy existing church plans from previous building programs.  Each method has its advantages and disadvantages.  There are some interesting posts in the Church Design & Construction Blog on church design that are worth reading.

Your local architect will be happy to tell you why they are the best solution, and a design/build firm will tout the advantages of the design/build process (and there are several) over using an existing church plan.  Both of them will probably tell you it is anything from a bad idea to unethical to consider using an existing set of church plans for your church.  Since they make less money when you save money on design, it is not surprising that they might take this position, so allow me to take the other position and talk about how your church may realize substantial savings in time and cost in developing their church building plans.

Before I go any further, let me first say that there are many times when you will need to find a good and experienced church architect to design a church plan from scratch.  There are times when the complexity of the project requires a local architect who can craft the right solution to the church's needs.  However, for many churches, the process is just not that complex, and what they need to build is remarkably similar to one of the several hundred thousand churches already designed and built.  If there is a reasonable alternative that will save the church time and money in developing church plans, it should be explored.  This is not to say that your church won't need an architect, quite the opposite!  You will need a church architect!

Using Existing Church Plans

As the process of church design changed from paper and pencil to computer, the thought process behind how they price their work did not keep pace with the technology. In the past every church building plan, no matter how much like a previous plan, had to be drawn from scratch. Today, a church architect can pull up church plan off of the computer's hard drive that is similar to the one the church has decided it prefers, make the modifications, and deliver a customized plan in a fraction of the time that it would take to draft it from scratch. However, the price of those services is often priced the old fashioned way, as if the architect had done all the work from scratch. To be fair, this is not true of all architects, nor is making the church's design changes a trivial task, nor is the creation of a church building plan the only design service the architect provides for their fee.

If your church can find a set of building plans that is very close in size and design to what it needs for ministry and can have those floor plans modified and delivered less expensively than design from scratch, then it should seriously consider the option.  It is not uncommon for a church to save 30-50% or more in church design using existing church plans modified to the meet the needs, site requirements and local building codes. If the church plans require little or no modification, or in those states and counties where a set of church plans does not need to be sealed by an architect, the savings can be even greater.

Besides the cost benefit, the church will save time and effort in the design process.  Working drawings that are modified from an existing church plans can often be changed and provided to the church in a matter of a weeks instead of months.  Besides saving time and money, the effort to the church is greatly reduced.  Since it has (hopefully) already determined a reasonable budget and space requirements through a needs and feasibility analysis, if it can find a plan that is close to its needs, it is much quicker to modify than to create. 

If the church has concerns about construction costs (and it should), it can mitigate a great deal of cost and risk by getting a set of unsealed construction/design documents and presenting them to a builder for a quote.  If the price of the building is not in line with their budget, then they can redesign the building into phases, or purchase the correct size of plan.  The advantage lies in not having to spend months and tens of thousands of dollars in design work to find out the church cannot afford to build the plans as designed.

Finding Existing Church Plans

Your church should only buy church plans from the architect that designed the building in the first place.  Many states have very strict laws regarding architectural services.  If the architect supplying the plans is not licensed in your state, you will need to have a local architect do the modifications to the church plans.  If the architect is licensed in your state, the church should have the option of using the original architect or a local architect to make any requested or required changes. Click here to access hundreds of church floor plans.



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