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No volunteers — get a professional

15 April 2016

We are about to get started on a building project. Should we appoint one of our number — such as a churchwarden — as project manager?

We are about to get started on a building project. Should we appoint one of our number — such as a churchwarden — as project manager?


A PROJECT manager on a building project is a professional — usually someone accredited by the Association of Project Managers. On smaller and straightforward building projects, the architect may act as project manager, but on complex or challenging projects, with companies involved, a project manager may be needed.

The key tasks of the project manager would include controlling the budget and the programme of works; preparing the client brief (an orderly presentation of everything the client wants to achieve); and a project execution plan.

With a complex project there is an equally complex task in advising on the appointment of members of the design team, including the negotiation of fee levels and terms. They will also prepare a strategic plan of the big picture to fit in all the separate elements, to achieve the work within the church’s financial parameters.

The project manager will also manage all the cost estimates, and cost checking, as detailed design develops, and prepare option analyses. Risk analyses will also be prepared. The project manager works very closely with the architect and quantity surveyor, and other members of the design team, and will also manage the procurement process: that is, the tendering, and decisions related to how the contractors propose to achieve the work. Expect to meet your project manager regularly.

Mostly, this work is undertaken by the architect on straightforward church projects, but check that your architect has sufficient control of the financial picture when large sums of money are involved, and that the quantity surveyor is on top of all the financial questions, too.

This is not a suitable position for an amateur or volunteer. If you need a project manager, get professional help.

What the church will need is a client representative. Imagine all the voices and interests among the PCC which could easily result in the communication of conflicting information to the architect and design team. Set up a single person to be the only authorised communication link between the church/PCC and architect. Only the architect can — indeed, must — instruct or direct the design team and the contractor.

This representative is not the decision-maker, but someone who will get all the right questions and answers to the right people in good time, remembering that poor decision-making can cost time, which in turn costs money.

Only the architect can instruct the builders. If you let assorted people — or even your church/client representative — to instruct the builders without going through the architect, you will find yourselves with thorny issues and conflicts that all cost money.

In the PCC, talk through what it means to have a client representative, so that is committed to supporting him or her. Then all, including the priest, will direct their questions and comments through this person. Random or conflicting instructions always cost more money, as work is changed or redone and materials and time wasted. You may give your volunteer client-representative a deputy for back-up — for example to cover for holiday times.


Send your issues and questions to maggiedurran@virginmedia.com.

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