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Should We Hire an Architect or a Design Build Firm?

One must first weigh the benefits of design-bid-build vs design build.  These industry terms may sound fancy.  But, in fact, they are quite simple to explain.  Once these two processes are understood, churches are able to make a better more informed decision for their building and renovation needs.

What is Design-bid-build?
     This is where the church hires the architect directly before they hire any contractors.  The architect meets with them to understand their needs.  This is the preliminary phase.  Next, they will put together in written form their understanding of your needs used as the basis for design. This is the prorgramming phase.  In the schematic design phase,  they will put together various alternate ideas, if needed, for you to choose from and give input until a single scheme is developed. In the next phase, design development, drawings and outline specifications will be put together.  They will also attempt to do some cost estimating if they offer that service in house.
     Architects cost estimation is generally lucky to be within 10% of what the actual construction value will come under.  This can prove to be very time consuming if they were not able to bring you under your budget in the actual construction value and there is no way to know until after the final bids come in.  Delays are very normal as architects work to value engineer your now designed project back into your budget.
     Next, they will put together the Bid Documents, which are very detailed drawings and specifications used for competitive bidding and to construct your project. After the bid documents are put together, they will assist you in the bid process. Lastly, they will also help in contract administration.  They will visit the job as needed and/or outlined in their contract to ensure that what is being constructed conforms to the project documents.
     Pricing usually varies from about 6% of the entire project value for very large projects and up to 10% of the entire project value for smaller projects under $1 million.


What is Design-build?
     Design Build is where the church hires the General Contractor first. This is a newer construction delivery method that has caught on with widespread popularity due to its cost and time savings.  In this arrangement, the architect actually works for the general contractor, not the church.
     The design build company will bring his team out to the church for the preliminary study.  This usually includes the project manager, the architect, and sometimes subcontractors they often use.  They will meet with you to access your needs and if you are renovating and will take measurements of your existing facility.  They will then put together working drawings and a price proposal over the next month or so, depending on the size and scope of your project.  If there are changes that need to be made, they can easiliy and quickly be made.  If you are happy with what you see, the price they presented will actually be the contract price.
     In this scenario, the architect also works for a much smaller fee, usually 4%.  However, this is not 4% of the total project value, like in design-bid-build.   Instead, they are only paid on the portions of work that involve code issues and life saftey in order to receive a permit.  Big ticket items such as Audio Video, Church Furniture, floor covering, pew upholstery, pew and furniture refinishing, and other items that do not require drawings for permit are not included in their fee.  One important thing to note, the renderings cannot be used for bid purposes as they are not bid documents..  This does, however, help lower the fee because the architect has less work to do by not having to prepare bid documents, assist in the bid process, or have nearly as much to  do in the contract administration role either.

Which one is right for our church?
     If your church requires you to have 3 bids per church bylaws, hiring a church architect is your best and only route.  However, if your bylaws don't specify, it's best to speak with a competent design/build firm.  50% of all churches have a set of architectural documents they paid $50,000 or more to have drawn that was never built.  This is usually because the architect didn't bring them under budget, the bids came in, and it was just too high.  With design build, you will pay only about 10% - 20% of the architectural fees to be able to receive a design, 3-D renderings, and a contract price you can take to the bank.  Since the contractor has so much input in the design, the price to build the design should come under your original budget, given that you didn't add a whole lot more scope of work during the design phase that wasn't initially considered in the preliminary study.

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All projects shown were partially or fully managed, desinged, and/or performed by members of the Southeast Church Interiors team and/ or crews as a prime contractor or as a subcontractor under a third party prime contractor.