Are you a non-profit planning a new building?

There are some important early steps you should be taking to make sure your project is a success
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Non-profit organizations—including churches, affordable living multifamily residences, donation facilities, foundation offices and sponsored projects—that are considering designing and building a new structure or renovating an existing building, need to enter the project with their eyes-wide-open in regards to the design and construction process. This includes everything from their own internal operations to the challenges that they likely will confront from the first drawings to the grand opening. Failing to do so could lead to very serious and costly consequences.

As a construction professional who has had the honor and pleasure of successfully completing numerous projects for non-profits, I’ve seen the pitfalls and have helped many organizations avoid them. Here are some of the things a non-profit should keep in mind as they make plans for a major undertaking:

Beware of Committees

On too many occasions, committees are assigned to different parts of a project. There is a landscape committee, an architecture committee, a interior design committee, the list goes on. As a result, different teams come-up with lengthy wish lists that look great on paper but can’t be built at a reasonable cost. Unfortunately, sometimes everything on the wish list is included in expensive architectural drawings that then need to be revised or redone in order to meet realistic budgets. It’s important limit the number of constituents who are making the final decisions for different parts of the project, as a way to control costs and communicate clearly via a single point of contact.

Involve the GC at the Outset

In order to control costs and devise a realistic building design, involve the general contractor with your architect from the very start of conception. By doing so, the GC can provide important input regarding the cost of materials, scheduling, workforce availability and building design. Far too often, grand plans are made only to find out later (usually from the GC) that timelines and/or budgets can’t be met due to unrealistic goals. Organizations that finalize their blueprints and then seek a bid that they hope will meet their budget, a process often referred to as Design-Bid-Build, are destined for disappointment.

Set Monetary Bumpers

When establishing a trusted single point of contact within your organization, provide them with the authority to approve certain budget decisions by setting monetary bumpers. For example, decisions over $50 doorhandles shouldn’t have to take the time – and headache – of going to a vote among a group/committee of people. In order to keep the construction process on schedule, the monetary bumpers for decisions by a single individual should be set between $5,000 and $10,000 dollars. More costly decisions will understandably need to be decided by the Board of Directors, but waiting days for a decision on less costly items could add substantial time and money to the bottom line.

Find a GC with Non-Profit Experience

Needless to say, finding a general contractor who has worked with non-profit organizations before is critical to success. They will understand the nuances of the non-profit industry and provide strong leadership, viable solutions and confidence in knowing goals will be met. They can also provide additional buying-power when purchasing materials from vendors they’ve worked with in the past. You’ll be working with the GC you select for many months, so it’s critical that you understand their level of experience and how well they build and maintain positive relationships. Don’t just ask them these questions, ask the organizations they’ve worked for in the past.

Similar to office buildings, retail centers, hospitals and other important facilities and structures, non-profit construction projects have their own subtleties. Before a non-profit organization gets too far down the road with plans for a new building, they should take the time to understand the important elements that will make their project a success.

Photo Pat M. Patrick Minniear is the President of Milo Construction Company.

Categories: Companies, Company Perspectives