The place where your business is held is one of the most important aspects to make any business succeed. When paint starts chipping and you feel like it needs a makeover, don’t hesitate!

Here are some helpful tips and ideas for your new office building.

Kurt Cisar, Associate AIA, LEED AP BD+C, with Holland Basham Architects offers this advice for why you should build a new building:

“A new building is a major opportunity for a business to create a highly productive, flexible and collaborative work environment.  It can also provide the opportunity to create a new company ‘Brand’.  In order to achieve the maximum outcome relative to the cost, an experienced architect should be engaged as early as possible in the process.  Architects can provide a vision that combines the functional and aesthetic needs of the business. The first step of the process is developing a building program. Programming efforts facilitated by an architect can help business owners understand space and functional needs as well as overall building flexibility. At the completion of the programming phase, a general building size will be defined. Focus should then turn to site requirements and desired amenities. Site access, building orientation, utility connections and development covenants are just a few on the list of many that need to be considered in order to deem a site feasible. Size and location are key elements that can make the best of buildings fail in their function, it is important to understand building needs from the start,” Cisar said.

You must also consider what your company represents and the image it wants displayed when building.

“Another item to consider when building a new office building is the brand of your company as it would be represented through a new building’s architecture/form. An office building can quickly become a recognizable piece of a company that the general public relates to the business. It is important that the building portrays the marketing and business strategy of its user. Architects can help business owners through the process of building aesthetic. Similar to programming exercises mentioned earlier, building design charrettes between the owner and the architect can aid in the process of bringing the brand to the design of the building,” Cisar said.

When deciding an architect to use, choose sooner rather than later. “Architects can assist as early as the business owner chooses to get them involved. With the ability to provide necessary services ranging from programming, design and construction administration, architects can play a large role throughout a project. It is not always necessary to be a part of the entire process but when brought on early, architects can begin initial programming studies that eventually lead to overall building size, site studies and conceptual design,” Cisar said.

To have a smooth flowing planning phase, try and have the architect and general contractor meet and get to know each other. “More and more architects are seeing contractor’s involvement within the design phase. The industry has coined the term ‘Design-Assist’ when defining the relationship between the architect and the contractor at early stages of design. Having the team in place early allows cost estimating to follow the design process. This method not only provides the owner and architect with information in regards to current market pricing it also facilitates timely decisions. It also can strengthen the overall construction document package and detailing because it opens the lines of communication between the team early. Development of the project with the entire team involved can translate to smoother building construction,” Cisar said.

If you do a “bid for work” system, this limits the time the contractor and architect can interact. “There are still projects where the contractors will bid for the work. This process is referred to as ‘Design-Bid-Build.’ In these situations, building design and construction documents are typically completed ahead of contractors joining the team. This requires a more in-depth construction document package prepared by the architect so bidding contractors have an even playing field to bid from. This method can provide the owner with more than one cost estimate for a new building but it also limits the interaction between the architect and the contractor to the construction phase,” Cisar said.

Architects are generally chosen by the business owner. It is especially important for business owners to do their research about what architect will work for them. “The partnership between the architect, business owner and contractor can differ from project to project. In most cases, the business owner contracts the architect and contractor separately. The architect in this method works in a fiduciary role to the owner. This type of contractual arrangement provides for a check and balance process amongst all parties. A common alternative to the previous method is referred to as ‘Design-Build.’ By using this process, the contractor holds the contract to the architect, not the owner. The contractor in this method is working directly for the owner. Communication is not as circular in this option but for some projects this can become an advantage to the owner,” Cisar said.

Site Selection is critical to the success of any new commercial development. John Meng-Frecker with E & A Consulting Group, Inc. explains the civil engineering perspective. E&A works with architects and owners to determine the feasibility of a given site. Location is important for customers and sales but also extremely important in working out your pro forma or calculations and reasoning to demonstrate the cost feasibility of your project to the bank and your business partners. E&A planners help with zoning, special use permits, land-use regulations, building set-backs, parking count requirements, landscape or screening requirements. We conduct title surveys, utility connection plans, and topographic mapping to plan grading. We overlay site concepts on all these existing conditions to test the proposed improvements for review and approval from local planning and zoning officials.

Another big concern in the metropolitan areas of Omaha and Lincoln is our amended stormwater regulations. Many new requirements exist for retention and treatment of runoff from buildings and parking lots before it leaves your property. In parts of Omaha east of 72nd Street, there are greater requirements for 100-yr storm detention because of the Combined Sewer Outfall policies. Required stormwater improvements can impact the cost of your project from $10,000 to $50,000 per acre. So it pays to involve a civil engineer and planner at the early stages of your new commercial development.

Jerry Huismann with Lacy Construction also has some pointers from his experience as the president of a general contracting business. “When undertaking a commercial construction project, the first thing you need to do is define your goals for the project: What will you be able to do when this project is complete? Can I accomplish this by any other means? How much time do I want to spend with this project? You should also select a builder early and talk to their references. Your builder should be a great source of information, such as latest materials and methods. When choosing a builder, you should go with one you trust. A builder with integrity will go much further than a lengthy contract. To find one you can trust, talk to others in your industry, the Chamber of Commerce and your business advisors. Once you have a list, meet with the potential builders and talk to their past clients about their experience. At the end of the day, the builder you choose should represent your best interests, even at their expense. At Lacy, we strive to find repeat customers and we do this by treating them with respect and courtesy. We have the experience, systems and capabilities to do it right each and every time. You can be assured of having the best every time we build for you.”

One very important aspect for your new building is a roof. Why go through all that work and forget to cover your head? “Roofs are key components to commercial buildings because they keep buildings dry and comfortable and allow occupants to run their businesses with peace of mind,” Pete Ciaccio, President of Ciaccio Roofing said.

A roof choice Pete suggests is the Duro-Last Roofing System. “Duro-Last Roofing Systems are not only energy efficient, they’re heat welded and prefabricated by the manufacturer. That means they are the most watertight roofs in the industry. A Duro-Last roof also comes with the best “Full Labor and Material” warranty in the industry and has no exclusions for ponding water.”

When deciding on a roofing company to hire, Pete suggests investigating the roofers previous work to see if you approve. “If you like a company; talks to them, see how they operate, ask any questions or concerns you have and how they resolve any issues or problems that arise.  Ask for their reference list and call those references.  I would also encourage you to check with the Better Business Bureau on any contractor you’re considering,” Ciaccio said.

Fire protection services are very important in any new construction project as you need to make sure you are protecting your new asset from the damage or destruction a fire would cause. “We become involved generally before construction and during the bidding and contractor selection phase of the job,” Michael Marion at J.F. Ahern Co. said. “We are regularly selected to be part of the preconstruction team and work alongside the architect, engineer, general contractor and owner during the project design phase.”

Some services they offer include complete Design Build services. “We offer complete Design Build services for all types of Fire Protection Systems and then in the construction phase we perform complete installation and commissioning to ensure acceptance of the Local Fire Marshall and enable the owner and General Contractor to achieve their Certificate of Occupancy deadlines,” Marion said.

Marion suggests having general contractors and sub-contractors alike in the planning and developmental processes. “Expertise in their respective areas can produce opportunities to reduce overall cost and sometimes costly redesign or rework after the fact.”

You might think you can worry about interior projects later, after the structure of your commercial project is finished. However, it sometimes makes more sense to incorporate this in the beginning, as is the case with window treatments. Walt Grantski with Lifestyle Drapery explained, “We can become involved in construction projects by public bidding on a larger scale on projects planned by an architectural firm or by becoming involved with a developer or business owner through their architect or contractor or directly to a building owner. If we are looking at public bidding, the architects generally contact us prior to issuing the specifications for the project to verify that a particular style of treatment will work in the space they have designed. They may also request samples of varying shades of fabrics or drapery materials for final selection.”

Walt notes that, “Today, building owners selecting window coverings are primarily concerned with energy efficiency, building security, employee comfort and uniformity of appearance. Most, if not all, of these needs are met by Roller Shades. Shades can either be motorized or fully automated into a building management system, or for the smaller offices, can simply be manually activated by a continuous pull chain. This allows for optimal light control and employee comfort while providing increased energy efficiency by reducing heat built-up at the window wall and improving employee productivity by reducing glare at the work stations.

In addition to the shades, we have a multitude of other options, including the popular flat telescoping panel system that will cover a large window expanse with flat panes of fabric that telescope into a nicely stacked grouping at the end of the track.”

Signage is another area that should be considered during the planning phases. “This is important not only for marketing and advertising purposes, but also for design, planning and permitting,” says Tom Zummach with Atlas Signs and Graphics.  “It’s a lot more involved than bolting a company name and logo to the front of a business. There are many ways to draw attention to a business and signs are an art form on both the exterior and interior. We are a one-stop, full-service sign company from permitting and design to build and installation. Our product lines are custom and ready-made signs, electrical and neon cabinets, channel letters, LED, monument signs, window displays and back-lit awnings. We also are a full-service digital graphics company offering fleet graphics, banners and trade show displays as well as commercial company branding.”

Contractors who are working on your project will want to make sure they are doing so to the best of their ability, which involves managing equipment, workers and costs. One way to help them do this is to incorporate GPS tracking in their vehicles as well as their equipment. Kelly Jensen with LincTrack GPS Solutions said, “We can put GPS tracking devices in vehicles your employees will be driving to and from jobsites as well as in equipment that will either remain on-site or be moved from site to site. Not only does this help you manage your crew and make sure they are where they are supposed to be, but it also allows you to manage your equipment and track losses in case something is stolen from a construction site.”

Theft of heavy construction equipment is a lucrative business and the last thing you want is to have your project compromised because of a loss that can be prevented. Not only will integrating GPS tracking into your project make it more likely you will recover any stolen equipment, but it will also reduce the time it takes to recover them, reducing the likelihood that your equipment will be dismantled or damaged by the time it is recovered. “Loss of one piece of equipment due to theft will cost your business more than years of tracking services on all of your equipment,” Jensen explained. “When you do the math, it’s well worth the investment.”

If you have a commercial project and are considering someone for a general contractor, it is very important to utilize an attorney from day one. “When a person is considering becoming a general contractor for a commercial project, an attorney should be utilized from the beginning. The initial formal step in most cases will be the drafting and execution of the contract itself. The contract will set forth and specify each party’s responsibilities during the project. A well-drafted contract at this point can likely reduce any potential issues that may arise during the construction process. If an attorney is not used for the initial contract, issues during the period involved will need to be resolved (hopefully) between the contractor, owners, subcontractors, suppliers by agreement, which is often difficult, if not impossible, without a binding contract to refer to,” Attorney Dan Johnson with Latenser & Johnson, PC said.

In a commercial construction situation, a contract should exist between the owner and the contractor, and a separate contract between the contractor and any subcontractors. “Generally, any suppliers to the project should also have contracts with the applicable subcontractors,” Johnson added.

To find an attorney for your project, it is best to find one who deals in both real estate and commercial litigation. “Often attorneys who consistently represent contractors will be able to provide guidance and drafting skills so as to negate the numerous potential legal pitfalls that may occur during the duration of the project,” Johnson suggested.

Having an attorney will also help protect or promote the construction project from legal interests. “For example, issues such as when to file construction liens; when to obtain lien waivers from subcontractors and suppliers; what options are available if a party does not complete work; or how to proceed if payments are not timely made; are all fairly typical scenarios that can arise which an attorney will be able to provide advice and direction for his client. Further, if the job entails a “payment bond” or “performance bond”, or the project is on non-private (public) property, very precise laws and regulations must be complied with to insure that the project progresses smoothly and in accord with government mandates,” Johnson concluded.

A commercial construction project is not a small undertaking and one that should be considered well in advance of making plans. Make sure that once you decide building a new office is right for you, you are carefully choosing the right professionals to help you on the road to a successful and stress-free endeavor.