1st October 2009, 12:43pm
Software to help churches plan for changes
A Lincolnshire church New software is being developed to help parochial church councils and community groups around Lincolnshire adapt their buildings for community use.

The program, known as teneo, aims to demystify the process of commissioning redevelopment or refurbishment, which can otherwise be a daunting task.

There are around 650 churches within the Diocese of Lincoln, many of them Grade I and Grade II listed buildings, plus many more community buildings for which churches are responsible.

The Diocese strives to make its churches accessible for community groups to use a goal which can require adaptations to the fabric of buildings.

Teneo aims to guide members of parochial church councils, or other community organisations, step-by-step through all stages of the planning procedure without the need for specialist technical knowledge.

This should mean that by the time professional services, such as architects, are employed, teneo users are confident enough to produce an effective design brief. This in turn should produce a better relationship between the client and contractor and avoid time and money being spent on exploring unrealistic proposals.

Teneo is billed as an 'eco toolkit' because it also encourages users to consider the environment and other sustainability issues early in the planning process.

It is being developed as part of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership between the Lincolnshire Community Foundation's Church and Community Partnership and the University of Lincoln's School of Architecture. It is supported by the Church of England's Mission Initiative Fund.

The project derives its name from the Latin word 'teneo', meaning 'to comprehend' or 'to understand'.

Teneo is primarily a web-based technology although a hard copy and DVD versions will also be produced to help with accessibility. The current beta version of the software will undergo validation by a number of external organisations, including the Diocese of Lincoln, over the next four months with the aim of going live in January 2010.

Developer James Murphy, KTP Research Associate at the Lincolnshire Community Foundation and Lincoln School of Architecture, said he hoped the eco-toolkit would empower people to have a greater understanding and influence in the development of their churches and community buildings.

James said: "Often these organisations, which do not have a large amount of expendable income, would try to move straight from problem to solution by employing professional services at too early a stage.
"My idea, after carrying out an initial literature review and looking at case studies, was to introduce a procedure that non-professionals could follow which would prevent this from happening and would also contribute positively to the sustainability credentials of the project.
"I have tried to produce a roadmap which guides users early in the process, so that by the time they engage with a professional design team, they already have a good understanding of what needs to be done and are able to produce a good design brief that is truly reflective of the community's needs, robust in its environmental strategy and does not constrain the creative influence of the design team."

Dr Behzad Sodagar, Reader in Architecture at the University of Lincoln and Co-Director of the Centre for Sustainable Architecture and Environments, is the academic supervisor for the KTP project.

He said: "This project not only provides an innovative approach to eco-refurbishment of buildings, the teneo tools will also afford clients and professionals alike the opportunity to identify strategies and solutions for sustainable planning and development."

The Bishop of Grantham, the Right Reverend Dr Timothy Ellis, said: "I am delighted to welcome this toolkit in the name of all those who wish to see our precious heritage of church buildings used more effectively to serve the needs of the people of our communities.
"There is a church building of some description in every small corner of this land, and the method that teneo employs will allow the people who have guardianship of them not only to develop a vision for the purposes to which they might be put, but also practical help and advice as to how to achieve their goals. I welcome this development wholeheartedly and commend it to you."
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