What Is Master Planning & How It Can Benefit Projects of All Sizes


State College Alliance Church BuildingState College Alliance Church needed more space. Between their daily K-8 private Christian school, counseling services, and a growing congregation, every nook and cranny of their facility was used multiple times in many overlapping ways. They felt overwhelmed and had no idea where to begin.

The church needed a long-term plan that considered all the elements of their existing facility and their congregation.

They needed master planning services.

Many people assume master planning is for large projects that span city blocks or have a budget of tens of millions of dollars. That’s simply not the case, and the story of how State College Alliance Church’s relatively “small” project got a big boost is a perfect example.

Related: Visit Our Church Construction Resource Center

Before design and construction began, Horst Construction guided the church through master planning. Horst worked with the church’s 15 task force teams, helping to unify their short-term and long-term vision. Then, Horst laid out options and outlined a phasing plan for their construction project. This allowed them to put a plan in motion to resolve their pain points while effectively phasing the project so school, counseling, and church functions could continue throughout construction.

Master planning can benefit any construction project that requires a conscientious plan for the best use of a building’s space and the people who use that space, regardless of size.



Master planning is the method of developing or improving your property or building through a long-range plan that balances and harmonizes all elements. This process is done at the very beginning of the project and helps you define and unify the vision for the space.

Master planning helps the building owner define the needs or goals of the project, determine who will benefit or be impacted by it, and establish a plan to accomplish it.

In some cases, the master planning process involves many of those stakeholders who will live, work, worship, or spend time in the space. By involving these stakeholders in the process, their insights guide the goals for the project. As a result, the money and time you invest in a new or renovated space will lead to a facility that suits all aspects of your organization.

Master planning can benefit every project that has a long-range impact on a piece of land, building, or a community, regardless of the size of the project. That could include seemingly “small” projects, like bathroom renovations or a lobby expansion. Master planning can provide solutions that resolve overarching concerns or problems, rather than looking at a project as a band-aid or short-term fix.



Master planning enhances a construction project throughout all steps of the process – from design, to construction, to the best utilization of space. Here’s how.benefits of master planning

  • You’ll have a clear vision of what your project should be.
  • Your master planning firm will guide you and provide you with preliminary budgets and options, so you know if the project is within budget.
  • If construction happens while the building is being used, you can plan the project in a way that minimizes disruptions.
  • Developing a solid plan early on could mean fewer changes during the project, which are expensive and take up time.
  • Input from the project’s stakeholders and considerations for the long-term goals of your organization means your new building will be effective and efficient for the foreseeable future.



The process of master planning varies depending on the end objective of your project. However, a good master plan unifies the project’s vision and prepares you with information like sketches, scope of work and budgets.

Establish and Unify the Project’s Vision

The essence of master planning is setting a clear vision at the very beginning of the project for what the result should be. Depending on your project, this may not seem like a very important step initially. You need a larger sanctuary for your church. You need more rooms at your senior living facility. You need to refresh your company’s office. That all seems straightforward.

But do you know what your congregation would like to see in a new sanctuary? Wouldn’t your senior living facility’s staff have excellent insight into new residential rooms? Do you know all the needs your marketing or IT teams would have for a new workspace?

Everyone who will use the space will have valuable insight into what is most important. Master planning forces you to peel back the layers so you can unite and make informed decisions that get you the best results with your resources.

While that may sound like a lot of work, partnering with the right firm for master planning will make a world of difference. At Horst Construction, we’ve helped many organizations distill their needs into a unified vision that meets their budget. Learn more about our master planning services here.

Develop the Plan

Once you’ve discovered what is important for your project, it’s time to start developing it into an actionable plan. At Horst Construction, we’ll actualize that plan into different sketches so you have options for how your new space will be laid out. We’ll also draft a scope of work, so the project that lies ahead is clear to you and your team.

We’ll also work up a preliminary budget so you’ll get an accurate idea of how much each option will cost.



example of master planning sketch of church

The payment structure of master planning will vary. After your initial consultation, your master planning specialist should be able to provide an estimated value for their services. At Horst Construction, our fees for master planning are very sensitive to the financial resources of the organization. Our goal is to come alongside you and partner with you to be the best stewards of your property, building, and financial resources. We want to form a relationship at this early stage of the journey and really see and listen to what is important to each and every one of our clients to accomplish their vision and goals.

One resource you will certainly need is the commitment of your team and their willingness to share their time and insight. Having the right number of contributing stakeholders is an important balance to strike. While input from stakeholders is essential to a successful master planning team, too many people can confuse the process. Enlisting the help of an experienced and educated professional can help provide guidance on the appropriate number and makeup of your vision teams to ensure you are maximizing the value of the process.

Whether you’re looking to plan a large facility or renovating a small portion of your building, Horst Construction has the experience to make your master planning process a success. We would love the opportunity to discuss your construction needs and help you uncover solutions to make the most of your facilities.

first step master planning


Editor’s note: this blog was originally published in May 2015 and was updated March 2020.

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