Posted in practice
on November 25, 2014 4:57 pm EST
What’s in Store for 2015?
The jury's still out according to construction business forecasters, but take heart, there's solid evidence of some good news for you.
In keeping with the values of many congregations, there’s increased emphasis on energy efficiency, "green" sustainable construction and building to last.
According to forecasting firm FMI, religious construction activity is growing again after seven lean years of continuous decline. Plus, the Optimism Quotient in Wells Fargo’s ongoing poll of construction execs and heavy equipment distributors hit an historic high of 124, up 18 points from 2013 (the OQ bottomed out at 42 in 2009). FMI’s Nonresidential Confidence Index is also “solidly in positive territory.”
"There’s growing acceptance that the entire built environment is a place of ministry, and that casual, unplanned encounters with the larger community are the basis for meaningful evangelism."
—Ron Geyer, AIA, NCIDQ, Founder, Good City Architects, Greenville, SC
The AIA’s poll of seven industry forecasters (McGraw Hill, IHS Global Insight, Moody’s, FMI, Reed Construction Data, Associated Builders and Contractors, and Wells Fargo Securities) is less optimistic: the consensus forecast is that 2014 will be yet another down year (by 4%) in religious construction, and that 2015 should be essentially flat, growing less than 1%. 2014 estimates ranged from -7.5% to +2.5%: for 2015, the range was from -6.5% to +3.5%. Despite construction labor shortages in some areas, overall construction unemployment is still way above the national average of 6.2%.
FMI’s analysis identifies the impediments to growth. Overall, nonresidential construction investment is increasingly tilted toward the very necessary task of replacing and upgrading the nation’s infrastructure. Also, banks are apparently less willing to lend to congregations than they were pre-2009. Capital campaigns and online giving are becoming more common, but haven’t taken up all the slack. In fact, the economic struggles of the American middle class are reflected in declining offerings and tithes. At the same time, parishioners are turning to their religious communities for help in increasing numbers. FMI expects “slow growth” through 2018, with most of the activity in renovation, not new construction. In keeping with the values of many congregations, there’s increased emphasis on energy efficiency, “green” sustainable construction and building to last.Regional distinctions, technology and authenticity play out
Of course, with total nonresidential construction set to approach $400 billion in 2015, there’s a lot of room for regional variation and, of course, for your own business to expand. “We had our best year ever in 2014,” says Charlotte, N.C.-based WAVE Group Director Armando Fullwood. WAVE might be categorized as a systems integrator, but they prefer to think of themselves as storytelling partners. “We don’t think about rooms as a platform for technology,” says Fullwood. “Our first step is always to work on crafting an authentic story that resonates with the local culture. I see a lot of churches going to conferences and just imitating what they see there, or trying to copy someone else’s success. But what works in Oklahoma City may not resonate in Los Angeles. Would you rather go to a national chain, or a local eatery where the food is made from scratch?” Fullwood thinks that technology vendors tend to over-equip churches. “Just because you have a whole pantry full of ingredients, that doesn’t mean you can produce a great-tasting, great-looking cake,” he points out.
“Looking ahead, I can see that many people are already burning out on LED lighting and videowalls,” says Fullwood. “I think we’re going to see more of a return to soft goods and fabrics on stage.” His advice to churches? “Be original. Don’t just replicate a cookie-cutter service. It’s the same gospel, but everyone can and should tell it their way. It takes more time and more heartache to craft your own authentic story, but remember: copies are never appreciated as much as originals.”