Tough Times Call For Tough Questions

How to Evaluate Potential Design-Builders for Your Project

By: Kurt Williams, an NACDB member

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The economic climate in our country has a good side for the Church. With construction costs down, if money is available, it is a great time to build. On the darker side, today’s economy makes the challenge of evaluating design and build services exponentially harder. Struggling builders are becoming increasingly “creative” in how they represent themselves. Evaluating and contracting design and build services have never been an easy task for the church. For most church building committee members, the selection of a quality design and build firm for their church will be the most important decision, with the most financial risk, that they may ever make. Tough questions asked during the interview process will greatly increase the probability that your project will become a great success story.

One key area that begs for the Tough Questions is:

The References of the Team

Check references. Really, check the references! The attitude of “they wouldn’t give us the reference if it wasn’t good” needs to change. Any design and build firm that claims to build problem free, either has not built, or is less than honest. The issue is not “if” you are going to run into a problem, but “when”. That is why you owe it to yourself and the church to check, extensively, the firm’s references. There is a saying that companies have resumes, and people have references. Without a doubt, the people that you will work with will make your project a success, or something less. When speaking with the firm’s references, ask six simple questions:

1. Who were the people that you worked with on your project?

2. What were the problems that took place on your project?

3. How were the problems resolved?

4. Who paid for the problems?

5. How is your relationship with the people that worked on your project?

6. Would you hire them for your next phase?

The local building permit office and the local building inspectors are an additional reference point. Questions for building officials include:

1. What were the problems that took place on the project?

2. Did the firm respond immediately to rectify the situation?

3. Would you hire them for your own church?

Checking references takes time, but it’s time well spent.  A few phone calls can save you from months of heartache, or reaffirm your decision to go with a design-builder that you believe to be trustworthy.  Of coarse checking references is only one of many steps that must be taken in the selection of a reliable design-builder.  Stay tuned for more tips on how to select the right design-builder.

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