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Navigating the Design Process: Design, Permitting, & Breaking Ground on Your Commercial Project



As a huge bonus, you now have a qualified Architect that has evaluated the existing building, knows it intimately, and can hit the ground running on design and construction documents.

Additionally, this talented commercial architecture firm offers 3D laser scanning services that are absolutely essential to the process of capturing the interior and exterior of your existing building with a very high degree of accuracy. If you need to know more about 3d laser scanning you can read about it in our blog How We Simplify Existing Conditions.

Your architecture firm can also translate this 3d scan point cloud data into a working 3d Revit BIM model. If you are unclear on what a 3d Revit BIM Model is, and it’s utmost importance, you can read about it Design for Visual People: 3D BIM Magic Due to your willingness to learn and grow into an informed client, you have checked a lot of essential boxes. You are ahead of the game and time is money, as they say.

And to make matters even better your architect has experience with old buildings, and more importantly both restaurant design and luxury apartment development. So your dream of converting that old masonry office building into a vibrant mixed-use facility is on the right path.

Right before you start the design process, your Architect makes an important statement: “Do you have a builder in mind for this project?” your Architect asks politely. Just as you are about to answer “Yes”, your Architect adds, “Unless you have a strong opinion here, let’s go with “Commercial Builders, Inc.” And just like that, you are confronted with a quandary: Do you put your foot down and go with “Builder & Sons” (a Contractor you have been itching to use) or do you put trust your Architect?

At the end of the day, and this is important, trust your Architect. And from that moment onward, don’t second guess their decisions. They are looking out for YOU. Each Contractor presents a different array of variables and the Architect likely sees a strategic fit between the Contractor’s strengths, and weaknesses, and your project. With existing commercial buildings, important qualities are

1.) Leadership Ability
2.) Resiliency
3.) Collaboration
3.) Problem Solving Ability
4.) Professional Etiquette.

Notice how we didn’t even mention the quality of the builder’s craftsmanship yet? That is like saying that beer needs to be served at a Red Sox game. Well, duh.

The quality of a Contractor’s craftsmanship is of utmost importance but because this is an existing building, you want somebody who is equipped to handle what is around the next corner. Existing buildings are tricky and if the Contractor doesn’t have the right temperament, your project can suffer. So please understand that the absolute best craftsman might not always be the right fit. Would you choose B+ level work with a Contractor that finishes the project on time and on budget with minimal stress during construction? And, and most importantly, stands by their B+ quality work and their work quality lasts? You’re damn right you would and if you didn’t, you’d be a fool. There are horror stories of working with the best craftsmen, but achieving the worst possible outcome. That’s why you need to trust your Architect in selecting the appropriate contractor. At the end of the day, they want their client’s to succeed and they have a professional obligation to everything in their power to do so.

So you take a leap of faith, trust your Architect, and secure “Commercial Builders, Inc.” Well played. Your collaboration with your now “favorite Architect” continues to grow and you sign the Architectural & Engineering services contract, 3d scan the building, have your Architect produce a 3d BIM model of your commercial building, and you start the design process of designing 8 luxury condominiums on the upper floors and a boutique 80 seat Italian restaurant on the first floor. Vroom Vroom!
Your Architect is organized and thoughtful. The Architect introduces a streamlined efficient process and they propose a structure similar to the following. If you are interested in learning more about EA’s process please take a look at The EA Method:

1.) Schematic Design – This involves a design collaboration between Architect & Client that helps you to develop a clear understanding of site relationships and a “must have” list of both design elements and functional elements is also created. Stylistic preferences are examined thoroughly during this phase, and this is when the “look and feel” of your design takes shape.

2.) Design Development – This phase includes a close preliminary examination of how the building is going to be constructed, basic building systems are developed, structural engineering is introduced, and a workable construction budget is produced. “Commercial Builders, Inc.” has provided some feedback on the construction budget and timeline, and you are feeling really good about where the project is headed.

3.) Construction Documents – This final phase of design services your Architect will include final detailing and specifications. This will include door and window and wall schedules, millwork details, and finished construction details as appropriate to producing a complete, and satisfactory set of construction drawings that “Commercial Builders, Inc.” can follow to deliver the built form of your dream. And so says our motto “Let’s Build That Dream Together.”
In summary, throughout the design process you feel heard and represented, and the team marches through the drawing production in record time with a design that defies expectations and show promise for tremendous profitability for your re-imagined building.

4.) Permitting – The Construction Documents, complete with a thorough Code Analysis and a Life Safety summary for state and local authorities, has now been produced and your Architect submits to these respective government entities for a Building Permit and a Life Safety & Barrier Free permit respectively. This is where the waiting game starts. You notice that the average wait times on the municipal and state websites for a permit turnaround is 6-8 weeks and you start to get antsy. With no discernible forward progress you feel like you are “hemorrhaging cash” as the days tick forward and the carrying costs mount.

At week four, your Architect has explained that you have been granted all permits and construction is ready to commence. You are thunderstruck. A full 2-4 weeks faster than predicted. “There is no secret recipe. It’s all about our strong relationships and continued dialogue with Code Enforcement Officials, and our very very thorough drawings,” explains your Architect. You pump your fist in victory and proceed into Construction.

It’s time to start to pick a Construction Contract, inform the builder they are on deck, and get construction started. Because of the relationship the Architect has with “Commercial Builders, Inc.”, the Architect and Contractor has been in close contact throughout the Construction Documents and Permitting process and the Contractor is well aware of when the project may start and is planning accordingly. Because of this critical dialogue, the Contractor has been able to plan ahead, and has been wrapping up other important work over this period of time to be ready.

During this period you run final numbers with Commercial Builder’s Inc there has been a slight fluctuation in cost but it is well within the contingency fund (typically 5-8%) of cost. Inflation has risen a bit and a war has broken out overseas driving material costs slightly. Despite these unforeseen developments, you are in an excellent position to start construction.

5.) Construction Observation – Your Architect, though highly knowledgeable in construction management, is not a Contractor, and should not be assuming liability for “Materials and Methods.” That is the sole responsibility of “Commercial Builders, Inc.” The Architect aids the process of construction but is not liable for missing deviations from the Construction Documents (CDs) in the field. The Architect endeavors to help the Contractor to produce the best result possible but this is a phase where “Commercial Builders, Inc.” really needs to shine. The best Architects are hands on and participating in the Construction process as much as putting pen to paper.

In a future Ervin Architecture design blog, we’ll walk you through the specifics on Construction Observation and what it takes to keep the Contractor motivated and accountable, and working hard for YOU.

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