There are, fundamentally speaking, three distinct delivery methods for construction:
A simple explanation of each would go something like this:
• Design/Bid/Build follows that exact sequence. The architect, directly under contract to the church, completes the design and construction documents so that competitive bids can be secured from several contractors. One contractor is hired by the church and during construction the architect continues his contractual relationship with the church, serving as their representative in a vast array of matters.
• Design/Build employs the contactor at the beginning, and the architect is employed by the contractor. There is no direct contractual relationship between the architect and the church, therefore no independent representation for the church. While cost information is theoretically developed early on, it can become a moving target as the project scope, code requirements, etc. result in cost increases — all with no guardian for the church. The problem with this lack of independent representation is further magnified during construction. Accountability for correct payment requests, compliance with construction documents, change order reviews, etc. can be out the window if the contractor is accountable only to himself.
• Partnering is somewhat of a hybrid of the two delivery methods noted above. The architect, as in the first method, is directly under contract to the church, serving solely as their representative. He/she then guides the church through a selection process to engage a contractor prior to completion of the construction documents. In this manner the contractor is brought on board ahead of bidding to consult with the architect and provide him real-time pricing. The architect, in concert with the contractor, can objectively evaluate scope options, material selections, systems alternatives, etc. with the benefit of on-going cost input, meanwhile preserving the church’s best interests in the project. Typically there is no up-front financial obligation to the contractor. Then, upon completion of the construction documents, the contractor provides the lump sum construction cost. Competition is assured by virtue of the fact that multiple bids are secured for each subcontractor and supplier category. These bids are, furthermore, provided in open book fashion for the architect/church team to review and then negotiate for the final contract sum. The architect continues as the independent eyes and ears of the church during construction, certifying the contractor’s payment requests, observing his performance in order to monitor compliance with construction documents, reviewing and negotiating change orders, etc.
So, you ask, which construction delivery method is best for our church?
The answer is quite simple. Partnering. Yes, this has become the prevailing method for churches to derive the greatest overall project benefit. It is, in fact, recommended by 100 percent of a sizable pool of architects that this writer has surveyed. In brief review of the advantages of partnering, the church’s representation is independently preserved by the architect throughout the entire design and construction process, pricing competition is assured by multiple sub bid activity, and cost and performance integrity during construction is protected.
The single greatest benefit of all, however, I have not yet mentioned. Any church entering into a construction project automatically engenders a high-risk endeavor. It comes with the nature of the undertaking. Then when one considers that this church/architect/contractor relationship is analogous to a three-legged stool — whereby if any one leg does not stand up then the entire stool does not stand up — there can be significant cost and liability consequences. Not so with partnering, or certainly much, much less likely. All three entities are working together as a team. The contractor is not the outsider, but rather a participant early on, acquiring a high degree of familiarity with the project goals, the church and architect’s objectives, and the associated construction documents. The best part of all? The heart-felt handshakes at the end of the project!
May God bless you and your loved ones with a Merry Christmas!
Jim DePasquale is a partner in a Richmond, Va., architectural firm and a member of Bon Air Baptist Church in Richmond. Send building, landscape or site-related questions to the editor at [email protected]. org or to DePasquale at [email protected].