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The 13½ Most Overlooked Considerations when Developing a New Building, Expansion or Renovation

Updated: Jan 9, 2022

I am glad to offer 13-1/2 "Starpoints of Wisdom" for those about to embark on the design and construction process. Embrace all of the following, and you are on your way to a successful project!

1. Too much / not enough architectural and engineering services.

Architects and engineers offer a tremendous service. Some are required by the jurisdiction, some are required by their licenses and some are required by the owner. Knowing exactly what is needed and how much it should cost IN ADVANCE of asking is a valuable asset to have.

2. In selecting a design and construction team, warm and fuzzies go a long way. Sometimes price isn't the most important thing.

The design and construction industries are very competitive. While this is true, fees are typically quite similar when you look at "apples to apples". Bringing the right groups to the table that communicate well, have compatible personalities with the ownership group and have the reputation you are looking for are key factors to selecting the team that you will spend a considerable amount of time and money with.

3. Construction Delivery is one of the most important considerations in meeting cost and schedule requirements.

Design-Build, Integrated Project Delivery, Construction Management, BIM, Bid, Negotiated Fee, Guaranteed Maximum Price - all different forms of construction relationships. Which is the best for your project? Which is the fastest? Which is the most cost effective? A careful analysis of project type, schedule and constraints is the only way to properly answer this question, making sure that it is beneficial for all involved to further insure success.

4. You, the Owner, are taking a huge risk by building.

The Owner has the most risk of anyone involved. Assume you pay for everything, even other's mistakes or omissions (initially, at least). You are paying people for a service (design, construction, etc.). There will be mistakes. The Owner needs to lay out the project in such a way to mitigate risk through organization, communication and clear expectations.

5. It takes three times longer and ten times as much money to figure it out after the drawings are done.

A schedule is doomed for failure without wiggle room. Proper planning is invaluable (and much cheaper in the long run) than having unexpected extensions. Delays happen. A realistic schedule sets clear, achievable goals, not "do or die" expectations. Delays should be built into schedules.

6. Selection of the major building components, the largest cost of the building, is typically one that the owner has the least involvement with.

Block and bar joist? Tilt-up construction? Steel skeleton? Curtain wall? How would you know what the best system is for your money and your program? Have a knowledgable professional on your side to assist with these types of decisions.

7. The length of time it takes to finalize financing.

A commitment from an institution is only an acknowledgement that you will get your money--when you will get funding is another thing. Financing can take 60-180 days from the beginning of consideration. Construction doesn't happen without money. Who should you talk to? What are the different options for financing? Be sure expectations are clearly communicated from the onset.

8. FF&E's are the silent budget-killers! (fixtures, furnishings and equipment) Architects and contractors rarely bring up FF&E in the beginning. A typical FF&E budget ranges from 1-10% of a construction budget, and it is rarely included in hard costs. Start thinking early about furniture, audio, video, security, etc. There are several groups that can give you initial thoughts to build into your early budgets.

9. Allow for a "soft opening" of the building, regardless of building type or size. Build 14-21 days into your schedule for soft-opening, after move-in. This allows any critical issues to pop up and be resolved. There will be issues. What are those issues to consider as you plan your major ribbon-cutting event? Start thinking early and budget the necessary time.

10. The air conditioning will be uncomfortable, it takes time to "tune" a space and balance it properly. It will get fixed.

There are a series of events that happen to accomplish a properly functioning air conditioning systems. Unfortunately, adjustments after move-in are usually one of those steps. Discussing expectations early and communicating clearly (without yelling) will insure the system is tuned to your liking. Relax, the system is designed to be "tuned".

11. A budget is made to be met, not beat.

Establish a realistic budget and spend all of it. Current trends in design have improved the quality and predicability of construction without increasing the budget. Keeping secrets from your architect or contractor with regards to budget only blurs the ultimate goal, which should be common to ALL parties: the successful completion of the project.

12. Don't let too many cooks in the kitchen.

Establish clear lines of communication, with few people communicating to your design and construction team. A disorganized team in front of your hired professionals often-times spells disaster. Have professionals on your side who understand the process and can talk the language of the architect and contractor.

13. Don't accept free work.

While times are tough and budgets aren't what they used to be, you typically get what you pay for. If something is free, it comes at the donor's schedule. This project is most likely one of the biggest investments of your organization's life right now. If someone offers a donation, ask if it could be turned into financial assistance. But how can you say no to someone so generous?

13.5. When in doubt, Owner's Representatives bring real estate, financing, planning, design, fund-raising / capital campaign, architecture, engineering, estimating, scheduling, construction and move-in experience to your team to lead you through an efficient, on-schedule and in-budget process.

Good luck and keep your hard hat on tight!

- Jonathan Moore, IVA President

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