As a steadily growing and flourishing business community turning the corner into much better weather conditions for construction, it is a healthy assumption that commercial projects will be a very popular undertaking in 2014.  There are many reasons why you may be considering this type of project:  you may have outgrown your office or the building that houses your business and you simply need more room, or a more functional space; maybe you are expanding to add an additional location; or you might even be starting out fresh and building from the ground up for the first time.  Regardless of your unique goal for your office or business, there are plenty of highly accomplished and experienced professionals that can help you through each step of the process.

Designing and Planning Your Project

While there will be many decisions to make during your commercial construction endeavor, determining feasibility and estimating costs comes first.

John frecker e and a consulting group omaha nebraskaE & A Consulting Group, Inc. provides planning, platting, civil design, environmental services and permitting, construction management and surveying services.  They work with owners, developers, architects and contractors to plan and design civil improvements for commercial construction projects.  John Meng-Frecker, PE, LS, CFM and the Director of Business Development for E & A Consulting Group, Inc. states, “It is important that clients involve E&A early in the project so we can help determine its feasibility with site due diligence that includes an ALTA Survey, Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment, zoning analysis and site inspection. With this information, developers / owners can determine if the land is problematic and how to proceed.  E&A planners prepare conceptual layouts of the topography, building site, parking, access, greenspace and take into account how stormwater will be managed. We provide construction estimates for site work which are combined with construction estimates of the building.  At that time, the developer has information to conduct a pro forma to determine if the project works financially.

E&A concept planning follows local zoning codes for building set-backs, parking ratios, and landscaping.  We often meet with the local planning jurisdiction to determine if the concept plan works from their perspective and what requirements need to be satisfied (public improvements, special or conditional use permits, zoning waivers, replatting or amendments to mixed use). Our planning services are most in-demand when it comes to commercial construction projects because we see things from a developer’s profit-making perspective.  We also understand the meaning and reasoning behind the planning code so we can anticipate conflicts and schedule the process for our client.

During the construction phase E&A can help the owner assure the site-specific items are being constructed according to our plans and specifications.  Too many times we see parking lots and sidewalks failing only a few years after installation.  While full-time observation is not necessarily required, being on-site at critical points will help eliminate future troubles.  When the private development spills over to the public right-of-way, our forces are right there to assist with design and construction management.. Items built in the public right of way and certain stormwater management structures are normally required to be observed, tested and certified to the city of record by a professional engineer.  E&A will be there for our clients to assure the proper paperwork is filed in a timely manner to get them up and running without delay.  Our planners do an incredible job at educating our clients of the requirements and the costs of infrastructure.”

Working With a General Contractor

A general contractor will oversee your entire project from start to finish.  Thus, the decision on who you will work over the course of several months, or even over a year depending on the scope and timeline of the project, is not to be taken lightly.  In fact, this is not only the first but the most important decision in terms of outlining and managing the entire project from start to finish.  Not only will the general contractor be managing your project for you and handling all the other subcontractors and workers on and off the job; they also offer a wealth of information and great advice from their experience in the industry as well as their training and vast amount of working knowledge.  This allows them to critically analyze everything about your project to come up with the best, and sometimes not the most obvious, solutions to keep your project moving on deadline and smoothly throughout each part of the process.

larry jensen sl jensen construction omaha nebraskaSL Jensen Construction, Inc. provides a wide range of construction and construction-related services for projects of varying scope, budget, schedule and complexity.  Larry Jensen, owner of SL Jensen Construction, states, “Our experience includes projects from various sectors, including local and national retailers, hotels, cultural and academic institutions, and developers.  As a result, we offer a strong mix of experienced professionals who will deliver your project accurately, on time and within your budget.  At SL Jensen, our main goal is to help each client realize their vision.  We do this by managing the complexity inherent in construction projects and becoming a key part of the project team.  Furthermore, we also have craftsmen on staff for each specific trade.  For those who are considering taking on a commercial construction endeavor, I highly recommend partnering with an architect as well as a general contractor.  Project management is our forte, and as an important aspect of our business we strongly uphold an open book policy when working with our clients.  We want our clients to be as involved in the process as they want to be, to be highly satisfied with the entire experience, and to be proud of the finished product.”

Installing and Controlling Your Building’s Systems

New buildings require new wiring, among other features that will need to be installed by a qualified and certified electrician.  Whether this is a decision made by the general contractor or by the business owner, it is not a decision that should be made hastily either as not just any electrician will be a good fit for every type and size of project.  Your electrician will also play a very important role in the functioning of the finished project and the overall safety of your building.  After everything is installed properly, you may also want to look into controlling all of the systems in your building effectively.

pat killeen engineered controls omaha nebraskaEnergy efficiency is becoming a huge asset for businesses who are managing their costs while making a name for themselves as a company or business who values doing the right thing for the environment.  In addition to your general contractor, your electrician will know exactly what is trending and what will serve your new property the best while saving you the most money.  Another important thing to consider is controlling your building’s systems, and there are professionals available who specialize in this alone and who will also work closely with you to manage your building once it is completed.  Pat Killeen of Engineered Controls states, “Engineered Controls can provide building control technology that plays a big role in assisting commercial buildings (and homes) in monitoring, measuring and controlling energy costs, while still maintaining comfortable building environments. Taking into account that lighting and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) accounts for nearly 80% of a building’s energy usage you want to make sure you are maximizing the energy options available. Engineered Controls can providing lighting control systems that automatically adjust the electrical output to lighting fixtures based on the amount of natural daylight a building might have. ECI can monitor and control energy usage of heating and cooling (both air and water distribution) loads in order to maintain a desired level of energy usage and still maintain a comfortable building environment.

Some common critical building systems are heating and cooling systems, data room environment systems, lighting systems, access control systems, security/surveillance systems, backup power systems, and fire alarm systems.  While each of these systems can stand alone, integrating the systems that complement each other can reap benefits of a more efficient energy usage while still maintaining a safe and comfortable working environment.”

Ensuring that your new commercial property has the necessary fire and safety equipment and complies with all laws, codes and OSHA requirements is of the utmost importance.  You are not only protecting your investment in the property, you are protecting the lives of your employees and clients.  According to the National Fire Protection Association, about 13,200 fires caused by electrical wiring are reported each year resulting in 20 deaths, 250 injuries, and $399 million in commercial property damage.  It is not only important to have a qualified electrician involved with the execution of any project with an electrical element, but it is also important to have precautionary systems in place such as fire alarms and fire sprinkler systems.  Ahern Fire Protection is one of the largest, most respected specialty contractors in the nation and offers invaluable expertise on a wide range of fire safety and commercial construction matters. It is important to understand that fire protection code calls for varying systems depending on the building type, industry and use.  Ahern holds the code expertise to install or service your systems in order to keep you and your property safe. They offer fire protection technology that includes fire sprinklers, chemical suppression systems, emergency maintenance, and repairs.  No matter what the scope of your project is, Ahern will make sure that everyone is safe during the construction project as well as after completion and that your investment is protected.

Considering an Offsite Data Storage Center

Technology is advancing in leaps and bounds and commercial entities are realizing the many benefits of going paperless with respect to keeping their important information and records safe and secure.  Though this transition has a distinct learning curve and requires a shift from traditional filling and records management, it allows for a wide range of capabilities that help businesses function at an optimal level.  There is also more of an emphasis on physically accommodating the equipment necessary for your data storage and thus, planning for whether to house this storage set-up on-site or off-site.  Commercial construction projects in this day and age should definitely take into consideration the information technology needs of the client during the planning phase.

roger willey nebraska colocation centers omaha nebraskaRoger Willey, Vice President of Sales & Marketing for the Nebraska Colocation Centers, explains, “Businesses are becoming more dependent on real-time access to data and information in order to perform traditional operating functions.  Computer networks host applications that allow companies to execute tasks such as servicing and invoicing a customer, managing inventory, fulfilling an order and generating automated performance reports.  Most businesses simply won’t operate, or will be severely limited, if their technology infrastructure fails.  Yet, the data center needs are many times left out in the planning and budgeting for commercial construction projects.”

With more data being collected and stored, as well as increased regulatory requirements for storage of that data, security has become a larger concern to businesses.  Any business that collects and stores private data needs to carefully consider how to secure access to their network as they plan for their data center environment.

To effectively design for data center space within your commercial building, consider these factors:

  • How much space will be needed for computer equipment within the next 3, 5 and 10 years?
  • How much power will be required to support the equipment within the next 3, 5 and 10 years?
  • What options should be implemented for backup/emergency power?  Is UPS systems viable or should you consider an investment in diesel generator in the case of an extended power outage?
  • How much cooling capacity will be need to maintain optimum temperatures and atmospherics that will provide extended life of equipment?
  • How do you restrict access to the data center to protect equipment, sensitive customer data and intellectual property of the business?

If this sounds like more than you want to consider, you aren’t alone.  According to a recent report by DCD Intelligence, nearly 25% of all data center space in North America is outsourced to a colocation center.  That number is up by 13% over the past 12 months and is expected to increase another 15% in 2014.

“Most of our customers understand that the reliability and security of their network is critical to the existence of their business,” Willey adds.  “When you consider the cost to build, maintain, and monitor a data center, there is a strong business case for outsourcing.”

Businesses that choose a colocation center over building their own data center have other decided advantages.  Besides more space utilized for staff and operations, building owners have lower capital investment in the property without having to pay for expensive technology infrastructure.  “Implementing redundant power, cooling and security measures are expensive”, says Willey.  “A facility like ours offers an opportunity to get the redundant power, cooling and security features while paying a reasonable monthly fee”.

Whether you build or outsource, don’t overlook the importance of planning for technology in your next commercial project.

 The Right Equipment for the Job

No matter the task, Honeyman Rent-All can provide any equipment that you might need for your commercial construction project.  Troy Honeyman of Honeyman Rent-All, says, “Many times on the job, you might need something that you don’t own or have on-hand.  That is where we can be of assistance, as we have a wealth of equipment and tools that are available for rental and our staff is on-hand six days a week to help you find exactly what you need to complete the job successfully.  We also make sure that you fully understand how to operate each piece of equipment that you rent and we provide hands-on service.  At Honeyman Rent-All we take pride in our extensive rental inventory which includes a wide variety of equipment for specialized projects such as demolition, concrete, drills and attachments, drywall and wallpaper, electric hand tools, floor and carpet, landscaping, generators and welders, hoists, jacks, ladders, lifts, lighting and electrical, measuring and locating, painting, plumbing, pumps and hoses, saws, tractors and trailers, trenchers and skidsteers, climate control, cutters, and air equipment.  We look forward to working with you to ensure that you have the right equipment and tools for the job so that you can bring your project to life!”

tom friedman strong box storage omaha nebraskaYou will likely experience a time of transition during your commercial construction project where things are getting moved around like crazy.  Items may be arriving for your new space before it is ready to house them, you may need to move old items to a different location while you are trying to get rid of them or repurpose them, or you might just need somewhere safe to keep a few things that you don’t know if you will need or use yet.  During this time, it may be a good idea to utilize a storage facility so that your important and expensive items and safe from damage or theft and in one place where they can be easily located.  Tom Friedman of Strong Box Storage says, “Often times we assist our commercial clients by providing space to store items that they don’t want onsite immediately, whether it is materials for construction or items for the space once it is completed.  Also, many commercial builders store their materials, tools and equipment for projects in order to avoid theft or damage on a job site.  We work with all types of clients with diverse sets of needs and requirements.

We have many different sizes of units, and each employee or individual who needs access to the unit is provided with a separate access code in order to track exactly who was in and out and at what times.  We are a secured facility and can set up a unit for a customer onsite without any prior notification, or we can schedule a unit to be available for future dates.  As far as payment, we are very flexible.  We take all forms of payment–cash, check, and personal or company cards–and you can pay at our facility or online.  You can also set up payment for a lump sum or payments on a monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis.  Another one of our features that offers flexibility and is popular among our commercial clients is 24/7 access.  Our facility offers lighted and paved roadways to make it easy and safe to get around, and if there are any problems we have staff on site six days a week.  You can access your unit at whatever time is most convenient for you with no hassle, and we also have U-Haul trucks for rent if you need to move items to and from our facility and you don’t have access to an appropriate vehicle.”

Interior and Exterior Design Features of Your Commercial Space – Presentation is Key

How your commercial property looks is largely just as important as how it functions, as you want it to make a positive impression on your clients and the community.

debra maxfield stripe it rich omaha nebraskaWhile it may not be your first thought, your parking lot is a very important part of your property as is its regularly scheduled upkeep.  The parking lot is the point of entry that welcomes your visitors, guides the flow of traffic, and should provide for an easy and safe way to park your car in order to access the building.    Debra Maxfield, owner of Stripe it Rich, advises, “The appearance of a poorly maintained and overlooked parking lot is a lot like showing up to work in the clothes you would wear to mow the lawn instead of a business suit. It is essential to put your best foot forward from the very first second when someone arrives on your property. Stripe it Rich is a full-service parking lot repair company that works hard to keep your parking lot free of hazards and looking great.  By offering a wide range of services including asphalt, concrete, signs, speed bumps, parking blocks and layout assistance, we save our clients time and money.  Our prices are competitive and our performance is above industry standards.  Our goal is to make sure that your parking lot speaks to your attention to detail and projects the image that you care for the upkeep of your property.”

lisa hillis midstates performance film omaha nebraskaYour windows are also a main feature of your building that you may not pay much attention to past installation—but you should.  Window films are a great way to offer protection from the sun and greater energy efficiency, privacy, and style as the finished product really enhances the overall look of your building.  Lisa Hillis of Mid-States Performance Films, Inc. states, “From atriums to zoos and everywhere in between, we consult with architects and other professionals in the initial planning stages of the project.  We also assist General Contractors, Facilities Managers and Planners and/or Building Owners with selection of the specific glass enhancing product in order to fit or to retro-fit their individual applications.  As sub-contractors, we see each project through to completion of installation, and beyond, with the industry’s finest warranty programs.  Our Performance Films offer many benefits including sun control, energy savings, enhanced visual impact, safety and security, environmental benefits and can even assist you with obtaining LEED Certification.  As far as sun control, sunlight comes in while excess heat and UV radiation virtually disappear.  This also reduces factors that contribute to fading of interiors.  Performance Films also offer glare control which substantially reduces eye strain, which increases productivity and the wellbeing of building occupants.  Energy savings are a major perk, as films add as much as 92% more insulating power to your window glass and often qualify you for rebates from utility companies, which provides a quick and measurable return on your investment.  Performance Films also offer endless design possibilities, a cost effective alternative to etched glass, they are durable and easy to maintain or update, and you can even customize them with your logo or corporate image.  They also provide additional safety and security features, such as eliminating visibility from the outside and holding shards of glass together in the event of the window being broken.  In fact, specialty films can mitigate damage in the event of a blast or violent acts of nature, and can help to prevent methods of vandalism as well.  All of our products are installed by experienced, factory trained representatives.  We pride ourselves in both the quality of our product and the quality of our work done by certified professionals.”

Once you start on the interior of your building, one of the first major decisions you will make will be the type of flooring.  Flooring is a very important choice for anyone, and especially more so for a business. The right flooring is a vital component of the items that form a customer’s first impression of a business. Tyson Boellstorff, owner of Brodkey’s Carpet One, states, “As an old retailer, when I go into a store, I first look down at the floor. That location, more than anything else, can tell you exactly what to expect from a business.  Whether they have a dirty floor, carpet that’s seen better days, cheap carpet that just didn’t last, or carpet that is stained or soiled—it all detracts from the business. This one detail, if anything, shows where the owner’s priorities are.

When I advise businesses on choosing carpet and flooring, I utilize a relational business method as opposed a transactional one. In a transaction, there is only a single transaction. The burden of knowledge rests entirely upon the buyer. Someone buys and someone sells. When the product is more vital, and less of a commodity, there are so many places where a purchasing decision can go wrong. If you choose the wrong treatment, stains come but they won’t go.  If you choose a carpet style that is going to be obsolete, a ruined piece of carpet may not be replaced and will stand out like a sore thumb.  Not every discounter is going to tell you that the reason the carpet is cheap is because you can’t get any more of it. Why would they care? They won the transaction, even though it would cost them the relationship.  There’s a lot more to a purchase than the price. For example, a guy I know decided to build his own building and serve as his own general contractor for the project. He ended up being deeply unhappy with the result–but where a general contractor would have had the relationships with the individual contractors to hold them to doing quality work, my friend just had to shut up and pay for each transaction. Even though he saw what they did as poor work, they fulfilled the letter of the contract even if the spirit of it was flat-out ignored. I think about that every time I work with our installers and suppliers. A person that does business with us can benefit from the relationships we have, where a person that takes on all of the responsibility of the business has to do everything for the first time by themselves. Think of the first time you made pancakes. The first three or four went to the dog, right?  Finally, consider the following question:  Why would a person lay out a large sum of money for something that can hurt their business if not done right without trying to seek as much advantage as possible?”

Commercial construction takes into account a great deal of variety with respect to the diversity between projects and often times, the mixture of trades working together.  In general, no project is too small or too big for most industry professionals, but it is very important to find the right person or company for the job at the right price.  It is important to hire companies that have knowledge and experience related to commercial construction because these companies specialize in building non-residential buildings and they are well trained in carrying out this task successfully.  Though the tasks of residential and commercial building both fall under the category of construction; there is a world of difference between the two.  The more specific details you are able to provide and iron out prior to the project, the better the chance that you will get exactly what you wanted in the end.