Unfortunately, very few churches take the appropriate steps to prepare for the transition gap between construction and operational.
Today, many church development projects follow a decades-old approach to the design and construction process, the contractual agreements the teams are under, and the protocols of communication between team members. Most importantly, the typical roles represented at the table haven’t changed in a very long time, although buildings have become far more technologically complex. That is why I have preached and tried to evangelize church leaders on the need to adopt a fully integrated approach to the facility development. Technology in a church facility is not just limited to computers and e-mail. In current church facilities, the new “tail” that wags the dog of most projects is the AVLA systems (audio, video, lighting, acoustics), wireless communication, multimedia, HVAC control systems, computer networking, door access systems, electrical controls (sensors, offsite controls, etc), kids check-in kiosks and a whole host of other things. I am working with churches that have a larger IT department than youth leaders and as many production/AVL team members as children’s staff. The world has changed and this is no longer your “father’s Oldsmobile”. In far too many cases, the process of creating a new building typically follows the linear path of planning, design, construction, turnover and operations.
This no longer works (at least not effectively).
In that old model, we find that during the earliest and most critical phases of planning and design, not all members of the ideal team are present. Of particular note, rarely is the facility manager or operations pastor/director present during design discussions. The person expected to manage an operations and maintenance staff and effectively uphold the performance of a building should clearly have input during the design phase, and yet rarely is this person consulted until much later in the process.
Another weakness in the traditional model is that it is common for design roles to remain segregated and communication minimal with all parties rushing to be “done” in order to preserve profit or meet personal agendas. Everyone involved up to construction completion essentially leaves, turning over the facility to an entirely new group of professionals. Even assuming the building is in top shape upon delivery, the new staff lacks the “back story” of why systems were designed the way they were and why settings were set the way they were, and without this knowledge, the operations, facility management and technology staff can’t possibly be expected to achieve the performance set forth in design.
If you are planning any form of facility development project (tenant improvement, renovation, facility expansion or a brand new site development), it is critical to take the following steps to avoid the Transition Gap:
1. Involve your operations and/or facility team leaders during the planning and construction of the facility.
2. Involve as many experts and partners in the technology fields as possible early in the design process and throughout construction.
3. Do not assume that technology/ AVL and other such things will just take care of themselves….or that it can wait until the end of the project…big mistake.
4. Plan to start the “commissioning” process several months prior to the completion of construction to make sure there is not a stark “stop/start” from construction to operation.
5. Document, document, document.
6. Train, train, and re-train.
The Transition Gap can be closed and even completely eliminated if you apply these steps.