Why hire out of town consultants?

Is a local architect the best choice?

When it comes time to hire an architect someone on the church building committee always says: “We can get someone local. Why should we work with an out of town architect?” We’ve heard many reasons not to: “They’re expensive. They’re out of touch with what we need. They have their own agenda. They’re unapproachable.” In our experience, none of these preconceptions are really true, and there are a few good reasons why you should seriously consider working with someone from out of town.

Church buildings, specialization and experience

1. You will benefit from an architect who has gained specialized knowledge which may not be available locally. You need someone who can skillfully design a specific building type: a church. A church is not a mall, hospital, warehouse, or single-family home. We’ve worked with many different churches, around 200 in fact. We know how they function and we know their unique budget requirements. Because we have experience with small and large churches we know how easy or difficult it would be for you to expand, scale up.

Choose the best systems for your church

There are a variety of structural, mechanical and electrical systems that could be used in any particular design, but we know which ones are best suited to churches and are able to choose the most economical systems. Our consultants don’t use systems that are better suited to other building types like residential, retail or commercial spaces. For example, many clients ask about in-floor radiant heat for their church, because it works so well in their home. In a church however, you need ventilation (air movement) as well as heating and cooling. You need the ventilation infrastructure anyway, so why not just add heating and cooling to the air movement? Radiant heating just adds another system to operate and maintain. The other thing with radiant heat is that it doesn’t respond quickly enough to maintain comfort. For instance, where large numbers of people gather suddenly (like on Sunday morning) there is a large increase of heat and moisture in the room (exhalation) which needs immediate cooling. A radiant heating system stores a large amount of heat in the floor which takes a while to cool down, and as a result makes the room feel stuffy and tends to put people asleep (and you thought it was your pastor!).

Experience with space planning for churches

When it comes to space planning clients have some great ideas about how spaces should be laid out. We have the knowledge to advise clients if their ideas for a particular layout may not work. You’ve probably been in a church that experiences traffic jams at the nursery check-in check-out counter. Or with washrooms that are just too small. We can recommend the best places to save space.

Lack of experience is costly

Probably the best way a church design specialist can help is that we don’t have to learn to design a new building type at the client’s expense. David has worked on at least two large projects in the past (Briercrest and Compass Point Church) where the client came to him after the cost of their original design (by others) far exceeded their budget. Using past experience, he was able to rework the design to be more efficient and cost effective without substantially sacrificing function. We already generally know what works and what doesn’t work for a church.

Experience with churches and committees

2. A local architect may not be familiar with church clients. In the world of building projects, churches are unique. For instance you have different fundraising and budgeting process. We understand that it sometimes takes longer to make decisions; we’re flexible enough to meet your schedule. Churches are one of very few types of clients that work by committee, and from an unexperienced architect’s point of view this may bring some challenges. We have learned to facilitate and work with groups to make sure everyone is heard, and we have learned to help clients prioritize design features (the wish list) and compromise if necessary.

When you succeed, we succeed

3. In the end the project is not about us, it’s about you. We’re not interested in designing a monument to ourselves or developing our signature style, as some of the so-called Starchitects do. While we’re not out to get rich from your project we do want to get paid fairly for our work (plus we do take on a large degree of liability, which comes with a cost). We enjoy sharing our experience to the success of our clients. The design has to work for your church, within your budget, or it’s time and energy wasted for you and for us. Most importantly, many design professionals fail to recognize that God’s plans are often bigger than ourselves. We are servants to the greater good, like you are.

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