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  Church Architectural Plans: What to Expect in Good Drawings
Architectural Plans - What's In, What's Out

Rather than discuss the latest fads in church design, I want to explain what a church should expect to be included in the drawings prepared by an architect. The construction plans should include enough design information that well-qualified sub-contractors, experienced in their field, should be able to bid and construct the facility without having to rely too heavily on the builder and architect during construction. The plans do not so much describe construction techniques, but rather specify materials to be used, acceptable standards, and the scope of the work.

Not every nut and bolt in the project needs to be drawn or specified, but wall sections should be included, as should unusual or critical design elements. Trim work details may not be included, nor will many of the finish items that the owner may be selecting during construction. Such items are sometimes given a dollar allowance for bidding purposes. The plans may include the specifications, or a separate spec manual may be prepared for larger projects.

It is particularly important for the architect to know if the project will be managed by a preselected builder or competitively bid by several general contractors. This will impact the level of detail required of the plans and specifications and will affect the cost of the architectural services. The architect should also know how much the owner will rely on him to handle the bid process and analyze the bids. In any case, keep in mind that a more complete and accurate set of plans will more likely result in an on-time, on-budget project with fewer problems.

"Can We Buy Your Plans?"

Architects are occasionally asked if they will "sell" a set of plans that were once created for another church. These inquiries often come from someone who has seen a church that they believe would perfectly meet the needs of their congregation. They assume that the architect may be happy to simply copy the plans and sell them for a small fee.

Few (if any) architects will be interested in such a proposition. Architects do not sell a product; they provide a service based on the unique needs of their client. The architect must design each church in accordance with the prevailing local codes, and soil and climate conditions of the project. Available utility services will affect the mechanical design. Furthermore, material availability and local construction techniques also vary from place to place.

An architect provides services to the church that go beyond the printed plans. Hiring an architect creates a long-term relationship where the church will benefit from the design professional's experience, creativity, and counsel. Furthermore, churches usually want to insure that the unique design that they worked hard to develop with the help of their architect will not be duplicated in every detail by another church that is trying to save money by copying their beautiful new creation. Courts have long held that architects retain all legal rights and ownership of their designs. The architect's clients cannot give or sell plans to others without the architect's permission.

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