It is not a new concept in construction, just a new idea for churches. The idea is construction management. The University of Alabama uses construction management on all its projects. Currently one of Alabama’s largest construction firms is retained by the university to review every nonathletic building program. The result has been savings in millions of dollars, according to university officials. 

The retained construction company cannot bid on any of the work for which it serves as construction manager. That eliminates conflict of interest problems. The company proves its value to the university by carefully reviewing all architectural plans to see how value can be retained but costs are lowered by working with contractors to find cost-cutting methods for construction that maintain quality and much more. 

Now the idea is coming to church construction. The question is being asked if churches can benefit from the concept of construction management. Robert Cornelius and Bobby Keith both say yes. Cornelius is the retired president and owner of Sun Building Co. in Birmingham and a member of NorthPark Baptist Church. Keith is the retired president of Hoar Construction in Birmingham and a member of Dawson Memorial Baptist Church. Cornelius continues to play a key role in NorthPark’s building programs, while Keith leads church construction teams around the world.

Cornelius related an incident in a NorthPark building program in which the architect’s drawing resulted in more cost than the church could afford. Because of his extensive knowledge of construction, Cornelius spotted the problem while reviewing the drawings. By working with the architect and the builder, he was able to help all parties find a solution that resulted in the same feature but kept the cost affordable. 

Keith shared an experience related to building the current Hoover (AL) High School. At the time, he was chairman of the Hoover school board. In that role, he met with the architect and in one afternoon, succeeded in taking more than $1 million in cost out of the project. 

Both men said there is no doubt that construction management can result in better finished building projects at less cost for churches. Otherwise the process would not continue to be popular in the secular market. Both also said construction management could help the building process go more smoothly for many churches because often churches want “to save Jesus money at the expense of the contractor.” Construction management helps ensure all parties are fairly treated. 

The areas of contribution for construction management are many. They begin with consultation about building projects and include assistance in selecting an architect and contractor, assistance in preparing contracts, reviewing all drawings to ensure church leaders’ intentions are fulfilled, suggesting savings opportunities and consultation with the building committee during the process. 

For churches building multimillion-dollar complexes, the advantages of construction management are obvious. But even for smaller projects, the benefits could be substantial. Churches with smaller projects must be as careful with their dollars as churches with major projects. 

Recently some repairs were needed on the building that houses our Alabama Baptist newspaper. We went through the usual process of getting bids for the work that we knew needed to be done. Then I asked Keith to look at the project and to meet with the builder selected for our work. As a result, several changes were made – changes in projects, materials, methods and costs. Our organization benefited greatly from his involvement. 

If a small project like repairs to a building can benefit so greatly, then construction management could help any church considering a building or remodeling project.

Bobby S. Terry is Editor of The Alabama Baptist in Birmingham, Ala.

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