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Choosing a Lighting Design for Your Church
Steel Building Design
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The Value of Good Building Plans for Your Church: Developing a Master Plan
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  Specifications and Allowances Included in Your Church Design
Every architectural design will include both drawings and specifications. The specifications are written instructions detailing the techniques, materials, and performance standards to be utilized during construction. However, there are no industry standards that dictate the completeness of the specifications. With the architect's help the owner must decide how the architect should present the specifications. The architect will prepare specifications for the project based upon the complexity of the design, the requirements of bidders and permit authorities, and the type of construction arrangement between the owner and the builder. The architect may provide a combination of three types of specifications as needed.

On a project where the church will be soliciting lump-sum bids from several builders, the plans may specify the manufacturer and model number of every light fixture, faucet, door knob, etc. This insures that every bidder is furnishing the same products and the owner can compare "apples to apples." This limits brand competition, however, and therefore may increase construction costs.

A second option is the "performance specification". The plans may say, "Furnaces to be Brand X, Model Y, or equal." This allows the bidders to submit proposals for other brands of equal performance. The architect and owner then must compare each bid carefully. This option works well when the builder has already been selected by the owner.

A third option is to specify an "allowance." Allowances are included in the project manual or on the plans along with other specifications. Allowances are utilized when the scope of the work is not known at the outset. For instance, the owners may not know what light fixtures, sound system, flooring, or pews they want to utilize on the church project. In this case, it is best to establish a dollar value to allow for this work.

All bidders on the project would include the allowance in their proposals. The church benefits by knowing that money is included in the project to cover the anticipated cost of the work. The church also gains time to "shop around" before deciding which products to use.

However, there are some potential pitfalls to allowances. Allowances inject some uncertainty into the project, which translates into risk. If the kitchen oven is not yet determined, it is difficult for the cabinetry, electrical, ventilation, etc., to be determined. More coordination and communication is required of all parties on the project. Inadequate allowances can result in a shortfall in funds at the end of the project. In the end, the use of allowances is often necessary, and does allow the church to take advantage of the best deals on products even after getting the project underway.

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