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So, We Have a Building Project... 10 Steps to Get from Vision to Reality

February 17, 2017

OK, so your parish is looking to expand, beautify, restore, or renovate. Or, that gymnasium that was planned to "temporarily" hold your worship space is now thirty years old. Or, your parish community dreams of a beautiful new church. What now?


"Building Church while building a church."


Over the past twenty years of serving Catholic parishes as an architect, there is one opportunity that continually presents itself: the opportunity to teach. The architectural process is a complex process. With a parish's unique capital needs, permitting, costs, and timeline pressures, a building project can sometimes be overwhelming.


As a resource for parish communities, Baker Architects is offering a blog and webinar series on the ten steps that help parishes smoothly move from vision to reality. Understanding the process can empower pastors, committees, parish councils, and finance councils with a real grasp on how to go from confusion to clarity. However, these "ten steps to get from vision to reality" do more than build a building, they help build Church while building a church.


10 Steps to get from Vision to Reality

1.       Programming & Conceptual Design

2.       Schematic Design

3.       PFRC (Project Financing Review Committee)

4.       Fundraising

5.       Design Development

6.       Construction Documents

7.       Bidding or Negotiation

8.       Contract Administration

9.       Construction Administration

10.     Occupancy and Warranty


So let us begin at the beginning:

1.  Programming & Conceptual Design

What if I told you that I have discovered a 100% fool-proof way of knowing exactly what is is that you are thinking. "No way!" you would say. "Tell me, how do you do that?" OK, get ready. Here it is...I ask you.


That is exactly what a Programming Workshop should be about. Asking what it is that that the pastor, council members, staff, teachers, community leaders, and parishioners want, need,and  can afford  So, before we get to a church building, we need a vision, a plan, and a summary of what it is that the parish wants, needs, and dreams their parish to be.


Typically, the Programming phase should include several open house or town hall style gatherings where the parish comes together and listens to one another. While the task may seem more a headache than helpful, we can offer strategies to keep the topic as the focus and facilitate constructive, fruitful discussions. 

A typical Programming workshop looks like this:

They are typically held over 3, two-night sessions with a week in between for a total of six nights.


​​Workshops 1 & 2 are two nights back to back. Say that we agree that Tuesday and Wednesday are the nights. Tuesday night is all about listening, surveying, and introducing the process. Wednesday night is about asking for parishioners to become involved in the project through the formation of building committees. This helps build buy-in of the project. After all, at some point, we will ask them to help pay for the project. Outside of the Programming Workshops, the architectural team is gathering all of the necessary data, drawings, and documents to formulate an accurate and current assessment of what the parish has to work with. We call this "reconnaissance."


Workshops 3 & 4 are two nights back to back. Tuesday night is all about reporting back the results of what people said in workshop 1. This workshop also includes an educational series on what a Catholic church means, how it expresses Catholic thought, and a historical review of how people have expressed their faith in sacred architecture over the past two centuries. Wednesday night is about getting the newly formed committee members together so they can introduce themselves and form a working plan for how to meet and discuss their committee tasks. These discussions are then presented to the larger workshop attendees.

Workshop 5 & 6 are two nights back to back. The Tuesday night workshop includes a summary of what all of the stakeholders have said about the project so far. It also includes a presentation of drawings that illustrate their existing facilities and summarizes all of the square footage counts and current facilities scope. It is where we come together as a Church and agree on what it is that we all have said in the past few gatherings. The goal here is for everyone to say what is is that they interpret the other one is saying. We form an agreement. Wednesday night is all about discussing the means of getting there. This includes a summary of the parish's current financial situation and a preliminary idea of what the parish can afford to do. It is about presenting the agreed upon goals and vision of what we have formed together.

The Outcome: A Programming Book that summarizes all that has been said and done throughout the programming process. It is the vision, plan, and marching orders to move forward as one community with one shared vision.

So, after all of the meetings and discussion, you might wonder, "Is this is not the final design of the project?" No, it is only the beginning, but it is the marching orders and the specific plan for how we will proceed to the next step: Schematic Design.


Want to learn more?

We offering a free webinar: The 10 Steps to Get from Vision to Reality
(please note, this is free educational service we are offering. We will not try to sell you anything. I dislike those kind of webinars too!)





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