Building Costs

An article a few months in a facilities magazine reflected that the true cost of building in not in the architect’s fees, furnishings, or even in the actual construction of the building. The article stipulated that over 80% of costs of a building are in the maintenance and operations of the structure.

Say a building has a lifespan of 50 years. The first year the building is built. The next 49 years the building is used for its purposes. Over the course of the 49 years, the cost of the utilities, maintenance, repairs, improvements, alterations, etc. will cost at least four (4) times as much as the initial construction done in year one. That operations cost (the one over the 49 years) does not include the cost of any personnel associated with that structure: custodians, employees, technicians, etc.

Before (BEFORE) you build a building, look at your budget and your future revenue streams. Does your budget have the financial margin to grow and absorb the cost of a new building. Can you afford the additional utilities and maintenance costs? How will you pay for new heavy equipment and major repairs (e.g., HVAC or a new roof) over the next few decades? (By the way, if you set aside funds 10% of the original building cost into a reserve account to cover those costs, you’ll have enough to cover all major repair costs over the life of that building.) Is your budget healthy enough to add staff to take care of the buildings over its lifespan and ministers to put on programming in that building? Ask these questions ahead of time – you won’t regret it.

Also, before you build, think creatively as to why you’re building. There are some opportunities that if a church is willing to think outside the box, you can leverage a lot of resources. Here are a couple of examples:

  • One church wanted to build a parking deck. Members of a Sunday School class knew that the city also wanted to build a parking deck in that area of town. The city and church worked together – the church provided the land and the city paid for the construction and they got a win/win. The church gets a parking lot it uses for free each Sunday and it didn’t have to pay for the construction; the city got the parking it needed but it didn’t have to buy the land.
  • A church wants to build a recreation center. What if the church worked with a local fitness center: the church offers the land and the fitness center builds the facilities? Church members can use the center for free and the church then has people right next door who may have never gotten near a church – a mission field right next door. And the church didn’t have to find $5 million to build a center and then $200,000 a year to staff the facility.
  • The same could be done with a daycare – collaborate with a respectable day care center to use church faciliites for the benefit of the church, the center, and the community.

Think long-term and think creatively.
Lead On!