Included below are a number of questions churches have asked in the past concerning their projects and what to expect during the project.  Just click on the question for a brief answer that can serve as a starting point for further discussions.

A.    The Architect     

  1.   What are your qualifications and experience?

Barry Wilson Architecture is a small firm, specializing in the architecture of churches and their related ministries since 1997.  Over the past eight years I have worked for approximately __ different churches on __ distinct projects.  A number of the projects have been generated by client reference.  A client list and a partial description of previous church projects with photographs are included with this package.  Projects have been of all different sizes, ranging from a bell stand for an historic church bell to the schematic design for a 2500-seat sanctuary.  Costs have ranged from a few thousand to over $5,000,000 (budget estimate).      

2.  Who will we be dealing with directly?  Is that the same person who will be designing the project? Who will be designing our project?

As a small, specialized firm, you will receive my individual, concentrated service throughout the project.  From the initial ideas and preliminary sketches through construction, I will be the only contact and architect, as well as the only one who coordinates with the contractor and building officials.  Dealing with a single person insures that the needs and desires of the church do not become lost in the shuffles and are translated to the final design and construction of your building.      

3.    What is your design philosophy?

Church architecture is my business and my passion, and my design philosophy reflects that desire to serve churches with their unique financial and aesthetic challenges.  Firstly, I believe my mission is to direct each project so that the construction is completed within budget.  I strive to be an honorable advocate during the design and construction process.  Church-funded construction projects must be managed wisely and within budget, and a well-planned project is more efficient and economical.  As you architect, I will select appropriate, durable materials and workmanship and develop comprehensive drawings to make the contractor’s job easier – costing you less to build, maintain and operate your ministry.  I will work hard to insure that budget components are clearly understood from the beginning and will assist in the development of cost estimates for you review.Secondly, I aim to make sure the design reflects and supports the needs of your congregation.  By understanding your scope of ministry and how your church functions today, I can design buildings that enhance your work and prompt its growth, buildings that are both inviting and flexible.Lastly, I seek to insure that the design and beauty of the structure glorify God.  God is not indifferent to beauty, and His creation, His nature, and His Word reveal that truth.  Your facilities should be distinctive and set apart, just as you are, influencing your community to worship, contemplate, celebrate and serve.  By giving creative attention to those architectural elements so important to churches, my goal is to always design buildings that are attractive, welcoming and especially inspiring.      

4.   How will you approach our project? 

Because every church’s requirements and role in God’s plan are different, each church building project requires an individualized approach.  Generally, however, I try to keep the church involved throughout the entire project, insuring that I translate the needs of your people and your ministry to the design of your new buildings.  The strategy I most often use is detailed below:

  • Take the time necessary to meet often with church leadership, attend church services and get to know your ministry and       your congregation.
  • Examine the project as a whole:  What is it your church is hoping to accomplish?  What are the budget, site, regulatory, and other project constraints?
  • Meet with individual church leaders to understand details of the program requirements.
  • Use the preliminary schematic design as starting point for further discussions.
  • Develop the masterplan from which the new sanctuary building will be designed.
  • Develop the schematic design based on the church’s input.
  • Meet with local building officials to review the design to date.
  • Obtain cost estimate based upon schematic design.
  • Refine the building design based upon cost estimate and additional church input.
  • Gather further comments from congregation.
  • Develop the design in further detail.  Get the civil engineer and contractor (if pre-selected) involved.
  • Have another, more detailed cost estimate prepared after the design is completed.
  • Prepare presentation drawings (or model) for fund raising.
  • Prepare final construction documents.  Begin the site permitting process.
  • Put project out to bid or negotiate with contractor if pre-selected.
  • During construction, act as church’s representative to insure that what was initially envisioned is what is built.
  •   Post construction, insure all systems are functioning as designed.

5.  What sets your architectural firm apart from the rest?

Firstly, one person, one with a real stake in the outcome, will be working with you from the beginning of the project until it is completed to your satisfaction.  The work will not be handed off to another staff member.Secondly, I offer a high level of experience and professionalism, coupled with a passion for God’s Church and her architecture.  I consider the design of church facilities to the glory of God to be a sacred task, and with this task comes a deep sense of responsibility, and I will take the time to approach your project with an intensity and dedication that I believe others cannot match.Thirdly, since I specialize in the architecture of churches and their related ministries, I understand those things that make serving churches a special work, and I take the time to understand your ministry and how your new facilities can support your work.     

6.   How will your architect gather information about our operations, project site, and so forth?

Typically, I will attend services, and meet with church leaders to understand your mission, projected growth, programs and activities.  I will review existing drawings and visit the project site (often doing design work right at the site).  I also have preliminary meetings with building and planning officials to reduce the likelihood of unexpected issues.      

7. What are the interrelated roles of the church, architect and contractor?

The church, architect and contractor work as a team with the final goal of providing facilities that meet the needs of your congregation and support your ministry.  Clear communication between the parties is paramount.  I, however, work as your agent with the contractor, representing your interests alone.      

8.  How will you establish priorities and make decisions?

The church will establish the priorities for the project, usually in the written program.  Major project decisions will be made in consultation with the church.     

9.  What are the steps in the design process?

  • Masterplanning and Programming:  Long-term plans for the development of the site buildings and exterior spaces are developed.
  • Schematic Design:  During Schematic Design, alternative design solutions are presented to the church for review and approval, and a preliminary building layout is established.
  • Design Development:  Based upon the preliminary layout, more detailed drawings which fix and describe the character of the project are developed.
  • Construction Documents:  The goal of this phase of the project is to produce the documents from which the building will be built.  The preparation of construction documents includes all architectural, structural, mechanical, plumbing and electrical drawings necessary for regulatory approval and actual construction of the building by a contractor.  Drawings prepared by the church’s civil engineer are also incorporated into the package.
  • Bidding/Negotiation:  During this project phase, the Architect assists the church in a negotiated proposal to construct the project or in competitive bidding.
  • Construction Administration:  During construction, the Architect acts as the Church’s representative, keeping the church informed of the progress of the work.

10.  What do you expect us to provide?

I expect the client to provide full information on the site and existing conditions, a preliminary building program, time with individuals with whom I need to meet, and input from key people all the way through the process.  The church will also need to provide the services of a civil engineer for site permitting and the preparation of civil construction documents.   

11.  What is your experience in obtaining local government approvals?  Handling public hearings?

Most of the site permitting is handled by the civil engineer.  I do, however, meet with officials during the design process to insure building permitting goes as smoothly as possible.  I have  worked with churches in restrictive locations, very sensitive to development, and have found it necessary to speak at public hearings on behalf of clients as well as prepare information specifically for those hearings.      

12.  What will you show us along the way to explain the project?

I use the medium that is best for accomplishing the intended purpose and that is most time effective.  I have found sketches and study models most effective for building committee meetings and quick design decisions, and color presentation drawings and finished models best when meeting with the entire congregation.    

13.  How will you gather information about our operations, project site, and so forth?

Typically, I will attend services, and meet with church leaders to understand your mission, projected growth, programs and activities.  I will review existing drawings and visit the project site (often doing design work right at the site).  I also have preliminary meetings with building and planning officials to reduce the likelihood of unexpected issues.


B.   Contract and Fees      

1.  How does your architectural firm establish fees?

Fees are determined by the scope of work (time required), consultants’ costs and project expenses.  Usually, I work for a lump sum that is a percentage of the first project cost estimate, paid over time as the project progresses.  If the scope of the architectural work has not been determined in detail at the beginning of the project, I usually begin work on an hourly basis until a final scope is established.  By keeping my fees separate from the final building cost, I have no financial ties to construction, allowing me to be your independent agent with the contractor, representing your interests alone.      

2. What is included in your basis fee?

My work generally includes all architectural, structural, mechanical, plumbing and electrical documents necessary for permitting and construction.  I (as do other architects) require the contractor to provide design services through shop drawings for some specialized items such as trusses, steel fabrications, etc.Unless the church specifically requests a particular presentation format, I provide color drawings and study models when I feel they are necessary to express the ideas we are discussing as a part of basic services.  I can also provide drawings and models for fundraising.   

3.  Who is the regulatory agency you report to at the state level?

I am licensed through the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Board of Architecture and Interior Design in Tallahassee.  My license number is AR0014153.      

4.  With what associations are you involved that require any sort of certification?

I am certified through the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.  I am also a member of the American Institute of Architects.


C.  Timing      

1.  What is your estimate of the time required for each phase of the architectural and construction                                process?

I normally can work to any time schedule established by the church.    

2.   Estimate the total time required for the project.

Church financing has generally been dependent upon the willingness of the congregation to understand and support a project.  This, more than any other factor,  has dictated the overall project time schedule.  I have often worked on the design phases and produced presentation material for use by the church leadership, at which time the architectural portion of the project would go on hold during an extended fundraising phase.  I would return at a later time to complete the final drawings.


D.  Cost Containment

1.  What is the firm’s record for designing within the budget?

On smaller projects I have tried to work with local contractors during the preliminary stages to gather costing information.  On larger projects I have an outside consulting firm that specializes in cost estimating to prepare estimates.  I meet with the estimators to discuss the project in detail and consider their advice on how to meet project goals in the most cost-effective way.              

2.  What factors will affect the balance between economy and quality?

I will work with the church to establish an overall budget.  From this budget we can determine what elements are most important to the church and how the money is to be best spent.  The balance between economy and quality will be judged on an individual basis for the specific element and will need to be discussed in detail.  As an example, a classroom for young adults will have a lower quality of finish than the toddler nursery, but would we reduce the quality of finish in the toddler area in order to gain more capacity or square footage?

3.  Who is responsible for value engineering to bring the project within budget?

Value engineering has become a pejorative term for cutting clearly thought-out items at the end of the drawing phase to reduce cost.  We should instead work together at the beginning of the project to establish a realistic budget and expectations, and continue checking our progress against these goals throughout the life of the project.  One option for flexibility is the use of Add-Alternatives in the drawings:  The contractor’s base bid would be for a relatively simple task/material, then he would have listed an increased price for an upgrade to the item (i.e., base-bid for 5000 square feet vinyl tile, $10,000; upgrade to carpet, an additional $5,000).

4.  How would you propose client and architect work together to control cost of the project?We could start by discussing and prioritizing the long-term needs and goals of the ministry and developing a plan of how this will be achieved over time.  Part of this plan will include the physical facilities.  We could look at how the work may be divided up into affordable and functional phases in terms of the ministries continued operation during construction and the construction itself.  From that point we would establish a realistic budget and expectation for the phase we wished to build and monitor our progress as we carried out the work.


E.  Construction Phase

1. What would your role be during the construction phase?

I would be acting as the church’s agent, working to assure that the ideals we had at the start of the design process were being carried out in the final construction.          

2.  How often do you visit the construction site?

In addition to normal visits I will visit the jobsite when requested by the church or the contractor and to verify pay requests.  I will work with the contractor’s and building department’s schedule to establish a schedule that will keep the church informed as to the quality of the work being provided.         

3.  Do you have a preferred construction method?

If the budget was tight, it would be of benefit to work with a pre-selected contractor.  This method would allow us to quickly establish budget cost and would provide for more of a “team” approach.         

4.  What are some options for contractor selection?

There are three primary ways to work with a traditional general contractor.  The plans can be put out for all contractors who are interested to provide bids, the bid list can be limited to a few pre-selected contractors, or a contractor can be selected at the beginning of the design process and worked with throughout the project.  There are other options for construction methods.

5.  How do you handle change orders?

Changes during the design phases are inescapable and are, generally, just a normal part of the work.  Whether there are additional fees depends on what the changes are and whether they involve additional time and design costs.  For example, one previous client wanted a portion of their church building rotated 90 degrees after construction documents were 95% complete.  This major modification to the drawings was just billed on an hourly basis separate from the original contract.  For the same client, however, the addition of two classrooms during the production of construction documents, requiring some interior wall modifications, was completed at no increased cost.Owner initiated “Change Orders” during construction, if they are true Change Orders (with all of the accompanying paperwork), and if they involve significant additional time on my part, would be billed on an hourly basis.  Minor changes and dealing with “field conditions” are a part of basis services.

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