Your business is doing well and you are ready for that next step: building a new commercial facility, adding on to your existing facility, or renovating your space. The process of designing and constructing your own commercial building involves an enormous investment of time and money, and one of the most overlooked aspects of commercial building is navigating the waters of dealing with your municipality. Most business owners want to be involved in the details but you need to ask yourself if you have the knowledge and know-how needed to make your planning, design, and construction process a smooth one.
The following few tips will help you answer those questions and make you more aware, whether you decide to take it on yourself or put permitting on your contractor’s plate.
- Be realistic about your own involvement. Think you are going to manage the construction of your own commercial building? You MUST ask yourself if you really have the skills to pull together a project like the one you are about to undertake. If the answer is no, then hire an expert. Many companies lose business during construction projects because the management team is focused on the construction process and not the business. If you are going to manage the process internally, we recommend hiring a project manager – or managers depending on the size and complexity of the project – who can handle complex logistics as well as ensure that the entire team – the designer, architect, engineers and contractors – work together in harmony.
- Understand the Planning & Project Approvals Required. The process of planning and approving a project could take months to accomplish. It is necessary to determine what approvals will be required prior to ever submitting construction drawings for permit. An evaluation needs to be made if your project conforms to zoning ordinances and if any variances may be needed. Also, what municipal entities will need to review your project. In most towns or cities, this would be the Plan Commission. If your project requires both of these approvals, the time frame could be many months. Zoning boards and Plan Commissions typically only meet monthly. Having a representative handle this could make the process move smoothly.
- Get your building permit in order. After receiving all your municipal approvals, the next step is to be sure that you’ve completed your construction drawings to satisfy the local building codes with the right permit. In many states , there is both a state level and a local review from the Building Department. We can’t stress enough how important it is to do this as early as possible and have your permits ready. Building without a permit is not an option. Rules can vary greatly depending on whether you’re building a new facility, adding on to an existing facility, or renovating your building, inside or out. At G&K, as a design/builder we can manage this process for our clients, as not all contractors provide this service. It is also wise for you personally to check with your municipality to see exactly what you’re allowed to do with and without a permit.
- Know the role of your building team members. A construction project involves many people with very specific responsibilities. As a design and build contractor, G&K is often hired to oversee the entire process from municipal approvals to permitting, construction, and final commissioning. But that is not always the case, so you need to understand the various roles and responsibilities of those involved.Here is a typical division of roles:
- The owner assumes overall responsibility for the project, decides what is to be built and ensures that work is carried out in compliance with existing laws and regulations. The owner also chooses the architect, contractors and other major players.
- The architect works with the engineer and architect to plan the building layout.
- The engineers and architect produce drawings and functional specifications that comply with your requirements, as well as laws and regulations. They complete the drawings required for permitting. As your representatives, they normally inspect the work to ensure that it is carried out according to the drawings and specifications.
- Municipalities are responsible for issuing the final building permit(s)
- The General Contractor assumes full responsibility for all construction work, including the purchase of material
- Subcontractors are hired by the General Contractor, the scheduling of work and hiring labor needed to complete the work. Subcontractors perform specific construction tasks, such as mechanical, electrical, painting, etc.
- Finally, municipalities are responsible for inspecting work progress to ensure they meet the requirements of local laws and regulations. They issue the Certificate of Occupancy which authorizes the Owner to move into their completed facility.
5. Avoid making last-minute changes if possible. Once the construction of the building is under way, one of the most common mistakes is to make last-minute changes. This causes delays and often overruns the budget. Staying in close contact with your contractor to ensure the project is progressing as expected will help minimize last minute changes. As the owner, you must stay alert and involved from beginning to end, even if it is simply to receive updates from your contractor.