Building Committee Best Practices & Guidelines

If you’re leading an initiative to build a new school, jail, or other community facility, there’s one thing you probably need more than land, architectural plans, construction bids, or even money; you need your community to be on board. This is especially true if your proposed facility is up for a referendum vote.

Maybe you have a failing facility, are facing multiple compliance violations, or are simply outgrowing your space. Once the need for a new or renovated facility is apparent and understood by leadership, it’s time to form a building committee.

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Going it alone isn’t an option with community projects, and forming a building committee as early as possible in the planning process is a critical aspect of a building project’s success.

Who Should You Invite on the Building Committee?

The secret sauce to forming a building committee is identifying multiple champions who are willing to do the work and stay committed to the process from beginning to end.

These champions include people with multiple perspectives and age ranges who represent various interests in the community. If you’re building a school, for example, it takes more than just involving educators, superintendents, and parents. It’s also important to consider input from people like the local banker, Main Street business owners, corporate leaders, the urban mom, and the rural farmer. 

It’s not necessarily about only inviting people who all agree that building a new or renovated facility is the best option. Inviting a few naysayers to the table can bring valuable perspectives and make your team aware of issues that need to be addressed, especially if you want to win over other like-minded individuals in the community.

Your team members will also need to include architects, designers, contractors, and a highly qualified construction manager who will help guide conversations and deliver quick and accurate information to streamline the planning process and answer questions.

How Many People Should Be on a Building Committee?

There’s no magic number of building committee members but, in general, you want at least a dozen but no more than 15. The key is that each participant contributes and offers unique perspectives. 

It helps to establish leadership on the team, with at least one board member represented to serve as a liaison, provide insights, and report back to the executive committee board meetings. It’s important to assign a diplomatic board member with the right demeanor who will participate and allow others to take the lead.

With that said, there are always a handful of committee members who embrace their roles more enthusiastically than others and help keep things moving along. This is to be expected and, in the end, the quality of participants matters more than quantity.

Two Guiding Principles of an Effective Building Committee

Even when you’ve invited all the “right” players to the table, there are two critical factors that your building committee members need to embrace if they want to succeed: facts and transparency.

There will likely be a lot of personalities, opinions, and assumptions represented on your committee, but when it comes to making decisions, everyone needs to focus on facts as their foundation. When decisions are guided by facts instead of feelings, it adds integrity to the process. Asking trusted industry experts to provide independent building assessments, condition reports, cost estimates, plans, and other information is an important part of making informed recommendations.

Equally important to the facts is a commitment to team transparency. Setting expectations for conduct, accountability, and respectful conversations from the start will help build a strong, cohesive team. This doesn’t mean there won’t be disagreements. On the contrary, when there’s true transparency, open, honest, and sometimes dissenting voices feel safe to speak up and be heard.

This kind of respectful interaction can be energizing, expose potential roadblocks, and help the team make remarkable progress. 

The Goal of a Building Committee

Involving a construction manager and architect as part of the building committee can help the team make quicker headway and reach its ultimate end goal: coming up with the single best solution to whatever the challenge is. They’ll discuss ideal location options based on site evaluations, timelines, codes and ordinances, compliance issues, layout, design, and help determine whether renovating, adding on, or building new is the best solution in the long term, plus that all-important cost per square foot.

Sometimes the construction manager, architect, designers, and contractors can all be represented by the same construction firm, helping serve as a team of trusted advisors who can streamline things even further and help ensure that the costs and information are accurate.

Once the team has vetted all the options and narrowed it down to one, the building committee can bring it to the board to present the facts to the community about cost, staffing, tax implications, and more with a strong, consistent voice.

After the project recommendation is accepted/advanced by elected decision-makers, project champions often create a separate YES Committee to encourage voting and foster community support for the proposed project – a topic for future discussion.

If you’re exploring options for a construction project in your community, reach out to the comprehensive team at The Samuels Group for a consultation. We’re happy to answer questions and discuss ways to help your project succeed.

When you reach out, be sure to download our complimentary guide below containing additional topics of conversation.

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