Considerations for New Building Projects

December 3, 2013 - 6 minutes read

drawing2While undertaking a new build can be an exciting time for a church it can also be fraught with risks. From the initial ideas and feasibility study to the design, construction and completion stages, good planning and excellent management are essential elements to reduce the risk of cost blowouts, delays, injuries and other undesirable events.

The above applies whether starting from scratch with a whole new building or doing a major extension or alteration to an existing one. Matters to consider include hiring of an architect, quantity surveyor, project manager and construction team, adequate insurance cover and health and safety obligations – and that’s just for starters! Drill down into the detail of each of these and it can get complicated very quickly if not well-controlled and managed.

Project management

There are several options for managing the project:

  • Hire an architect who then awards the project to the contractor with the best bid.
  • Hire a professional firm to manage the whole project from start to finish.
  • Partner with an architect and contractors in managing the build.
  • Self-manage the project.

The last two options could result in the church carrying a higher risk level and insurance cost. (Also see our separate article on owner-builder responsibilities here for more information if required).

Construction personnel


The role of a professional architect is to assist you with planning and design, adherence to regulations, documentation, bidding and negotiation, and construction administration. You will need to supply your architect with a survey of boundaries and topography, soil tests, land restrictions, drawings, photos, projected plans and allowance for future expansion.

When seeking an architect, make sure he or she has had experience on large projects (preferably church buildings), and holds full professional indemnity cover.

Project Manager and construction team:

Project managers have the task of representing their clients and ensuring the project is completed safely, on time, and within budget. They deal with council permits, building codes, consultants and suppliers, as well as foresee risks and provide solutions. Good project managers need to be able to manage resources, variations, contractors, and prevent or resolve disputes between parties.

In a project manager make sure to look for excellent communication and management skills, Quality Assurance, technical competence, a sound safety plan, dedication to your vision, and adequate liability insurance and workers’ compensation cover. Make sure to check their track record – including how they dealt with challenges on previous projects. For more information on finding a good project manager see our separate article here.

Quantity Surveyor:

Quantity surveyors deal with cost management. Their aim is to find the most cost-effective way of completing the project within the budgetary limits, and as such they are involved in construction cost estimating and monitoring throughout the whole project. In some cases the project manager may also act as the quantity surveyor.


If you use volunteers to assist in the project at any stage, they should be closely monitored and supervised at all times. They should also be provided with any necessary safety gear and not required to work beyond their level of skill and expertise.

Building contracts – get them checked

As we probably all know contracts can be complex and wordy. All contracts should be sighted and examined by your legal representative before you sign on any dotted lines.

Health and safety

According to SafeWork Australia, from 2008-2011 there were 123 construction worker deaths, and in 2010-11 there were more than 13,000 claims for serious injury or illness from construction work. Falls from height accounted for the highest number of deaths, followed by being hit by falling objects and then electrocutions. Injuries were mostly caused by slips and trips, falls, body stressing, and being hit by moving or falling objects.

In managing a project all of the above risks must be considered, as well as others such as hazardous substances, hot work, and manual handling. Personal protective equipment should be supplied where required. For more information on construction health and safety issues see WorkSafe Victoria, or SafeWork Australia to access information for other States. Our article here also provides information on safety issues for church renovations.


Before commencing a building project you should make sure your general insurance is extended to provide cover for such projects, and that it includes financial protection for loss from theft, fire and other kinds of damage. Contact the CCI office for more information on insurance solutions for churches if required.

Prop Corp assistance

Properties Corporation is available to provide professional assistance for new building projects. Services include professional advice on budgets and costing, fund raising, applications for grants and loans, property contracts, permits and legal requirements. Contact Joel Plotnek on 03 9488 8800 for more information.

Written by Tess Oliver

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