Commercial Remodeling Opportunities Abound Amid Social Distancing
It makes sense that some of the newest commercial buildings in Omaha are appointed with impressive technologies that can help businesses run more efficiently…but you don’t have to buy a pricey, grand new building to get the same bells and whistles. If your place of business hasn’t kept up with the latest and greatest safety components, or time-, energy-, and money-saving features or designs, consider remodeling or renovating to incorporate them.
Keep in mind, though, that whether you’re remodeling one office or your entire business, it’s crucial that you think about every component that your work will affect. That includes everything from plumbing and water pressure to electricity, heating and cooling, fire-safety systems, structural integrity, functionality, foundation, parking, historical characteristics, plants and decorations, and more. Fortunately, you’ll find a host of businesses in Omaha that can help you achieve your dream updates!
COVID Serves Up Perfect Time for Restoration
They might be different than the more typical “remodeling” projects, but restoration jobs are important components of reworking commercial structures. They typically focus on the structural integrity of aging materials. McGill Restoration specializes in large-scale, complex projects in the concrete and masonry segments of the industry, including parking garages, stadiums, and other commercial structures. Vice President of Operations Ben Russell said many area businesses chose to get some restoration and other remodeling projects done during shutdowns forced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The timing of the closures actually helped businesses accomplish some crucial work, at a time when they couldn’t run normal operations. Some of the jobs McGill Restoration took on included work on the Bergan Mercy Hospital parking garage; Eagle Parking garage, Southbridge Condominiums, and Nebraska Medical Center.
Parking structures that normally would be full of cars (at hospitals, retails outlets, offices, and the like) have been mostly empty due to closures, thus allowing McGill Construction to perform their work without having to block off stalls or spend time and staff to redirect traffic.
“We have had to become innovative to keep schedules on track due to all of the unknown variables caused by the virus. When the conditions have allowed for us to be on-site, though, we are able to perform our work more efficiently, while so many people were remaining home,” Ben said. “Doing restoration work during this time allows for timely work schedules, as there are minimal interruptions.”
Ben said one of the biggest trends in commercial remodeling today is preservation of aging buildings in the area—and you can’t overestimate the importance of research in preparing for a restoration project. That research is the key to how you go about restoring a building and how authentic your end result is.
“Restoration requires an in-depth understanding of a structure’s history and details,” Ben said. “Researching the building, the materials, and the best techniques is essential to providing a beautifully restored project. Asking the right questions helps you plan properly: When was it built? What is it going to be used for in the future? These questions will provide a lot of answers to the type of materials that must be used in its restoration. When it comes to the planning and execution of a project, consulting with industry experts alleviates a lot of headaches.”
If you’re doing a remodel that’s more than a new paint job and carpet, KPE – Architecture – Engineering – Forensics is a great place to start. Based in Omaha, KPE is a full-service, multi-disciplined architectural and engineering firm that has been serving a diverse clientele for two decades. The company’s professionals are decidedly experts in designing, managing, and implementing building modernization, with more than 60% of its technical staff members licensed in their respective fields.
“KPE professionals know how to visualize the big picture, yet focus on the tiny details to help building owners create sensible environments that work as intended,” said Brad Lauritsen, associate principal at KPE – Architecture – Engineering – Forensics.
“We employ Reality Capture technology with the BLK360 3D Laser Scanner,” he continued. “This tool allows precise documentation of existing conditions, which can be imported to create a complete building model. This scanning tool saves several man-hours of time during field work versus the traditional methods of several architects and engineers each taking photos and measurements of the same room but only the portions relevant to their own work.”
With the laser technology, one person can operate the scanner, which takes 360 degree photos and captures a digital 3D point cloud from which every professional can take exact measurements and review existing conditions.
“Reality Capture is empowering architects, engineers, and construction teams with the ability to incorporate as-built 3D models into their planning and diagnosis of ongoing operations,” Brad said.
KPE staff also specializes in forensic engineering, which sets it apart from many other architectural firms. KPE investigates hundreds of property-loss claims involving structural deficiencies, envelope defects, water or air infiltration, roof damage, frozen pipes, mold, and more. By investigating construction defects and previous designers’ errors, KPE can maximize the design of your commercial remodeling project.
Understanding Delivery Methods
Before you hire a company to help you achieve a restoration or remodel, it’s important to understand the variation in construction delivery methods. Cheever Construction President Justin Kurtzer said selecting the correct delivery method can have a direct impact on the outcome of the project. Numerous items will factor into your decision, including: size of the project, complexity of the project, project type, and overall delivery schedule. While there are many different types of delivery methods, the three most oft-used include design-bid-build, construction management, and design build.
With a design-bid-build delivery, a business owner hires an architect to design the remodel in full, creating both a plan and specifications to fulfill the owner’s program requirements. The project goes out for competitive bid to a select group of general contractors, or as “open-to-all.” Kurtzer said some of the advantages of this delivery method are its single point of responsibility for construction; compliance with public bidding policies; construction documents that clearly define the scope of work, and a project cost that is established through the bidding process.
A construction-management approach begins with a business owner hiring a construction manager early in the planning process to provide pre-construction services, working with the architect and/or engineer (under separate contracts with the owner) to establish the project program, constructability, and schedule, and establish benchmark budgets in a team environment. Because the project design might not be complete when remodeling construction begins, the construction manager typically provides services on a cost-plus-fee basis, sometimes including a guaranteed maximum price. Advantages include the contractor having input during the design; the owner being included in the bid process and selection of subcontractors; the scope being defined during design; the cost and schedule are guaranteed; and design and construction can overlap to accelerate project delivery.
With a design-build approach, a business hires, under a single contract, the construction manager and design professional, which combine services to provide a single point of accountability for the entire project. The entity is responsible for delivery both the design documents and completing construction according to the owner’s requirements. According to Kurtzer, some advantages of this approach is that the contractor has input during design; the price is guaranteed; there is a single point of responsibility for construction; and design and construction can overlap to accelerate project delivery.
Whichever method you choose, Kurtzer said, Cheever Construction approaches each project with consistent objectives for success.
“We utilize an effective schedule coupled with the quality and skill from our subcontractors and combined with our field craftsmen,” he said. “Cheever Construction takes pride in all of the relationships that we have entered into. We strive to make each project the precursor to the next project, while building a lasting relationship with everyone involved.”
Building Automation = Efficiency
A huge trend for commercial remodel projects is building automation—intelligent, data-enabled automation and related controls. Since the desire to improve efficiency and effectiveness is never-ending, companies like Engineered Controls are in high demand. By providing essential instrumentation, Engineered Controls offers affordable integrated building control and automation systems that make your buildings smarter and more efficient.
These systems save energy, lower operational costs, and enable productive and secure environments. Building automation platforms can connect your HVAC, lighting, safety, and security systems, enabling them to talk to each other in a single language, on a single platform. This gives business owners information to make better decisions, save money, feel safer, and improve the way their buildings function.
“As most building owners know, energy is the single largest expense in a building’s total operating budget,” said Pat Killeen, president and CEO of Engineered Controls. “In fact, 30% of it is used inefficiently or unnecessarily. One of the best ways to keep those costs down is to develop a comprehensive strategy to reduce energy use and integrate a quality control system.”
Engineered Controls offers a comprehensive energy evaluation program to customers in which Energy and Environmental Optimization (EEO)-program-certified professionals can quickly assess your building’s current state and consult with you on the goals of your energy efficiency project.
“You can’t manage what you don’t measure!” Pat exclaimed. “Evaluating your energy usage and potential waste by metering the current electrical systems you have in place can open up the door to great savings in the long run. You might find it’s time to upgrade, and that is where we come in.”
Engineered Controls offers many energy-related products, including a variable frequency drive (VFD) which are designed specifically for commercial buildings. VFDs controls the speed of a three-phase AC motor, while resulting in energy savings. It saves energy because the motor does not require as much current at lower speeds. VFDs monitor building systems constantly and provide automatic adjustment of fan speeds for optimal energy usage.
“We live in an era in which buildings of any size and shape can become intelligent buildings,” Pat said. “With open-protocol technology, they can connect multiple subsystems together, on one network, rather than operating them all independently—maximizing energy efficiency, lowering maintenance costs, and providing centralized building control.”
Most new construction these days includes some level of building automation, but if you’re operating out of an older space, incorporating building automation and control systems into your remodeling goals has the potential to really improve your business.
Although building automation systems have existed since the 1970s, Pat said recent systems save time and money on internal comfort conditions, individual room control, improved building reliability and life, and quick and effective responses to HVAC and security problems.
“The systems also provide information on problems in the building, allow for computerized maintenance scheduling, are easy and effective for employees to use, and easily detect problems,” he said.
Engineered Controls designs, installs, manages, and services building management and security solutions for buildings and facilities of all sizes and types. For more than 25 years, they have been dedicated to designing easy-to-use building automation and security systems that provide the highest possible energy efficiency, while ensuring occupant comfort and maintaining a safe and secure workplace.
“As a technology contractor, our vision is to participate in projects that transform the way buildings are designed, built, and operated, and to create environmentally responsible, profitable, and healthy places to live and work,” Pat said. “From the integration of new control technologies into our design, to the contracting work we engage in, Engineered Controls is participating in the service and construction of buildings for now and well into the future.”
Codes and Permits
If you’re considering improving, redesigning, adding on to your commercial building, or otherwise remodeling, Morton Buildings Regional Services Manager Corey Lindeland said it’s also crucial that you hire someone who understands the code and permit requirements you must meet.
“It may require having an engineer determine how the building was built and what structural changes we can make,” Corey said. “Some areas require that the plans have an engineer stamp and be approved by the state. Looking into zoning requirements before getting too far into the project-planning stage will be beneficial in coming up with a workable plan. Often, the allowable uses and code requirements have changed since the property was purchased and can lead to additional costs, delays in progress, and sometimes even scrapping the entire project.”
Morton Buildings is the premier national leader in post-frame construction, specializing in municipal, commercial, residential, equestrian, and hobby buildings. Morton Buildings are all about employing quality craftsmanship to create a building that will stand the test of time. Once you hire Morton to put up a building for you, your relationship continues when you want to renovate your building or just want to repair a damaged door.
“Using the latest superior construction materials, Morton provides a wide variety of service options that will provide the boost your building needs,” Corey said. “Whether you’re looking for new siding, wainscot, doors, or a roof that employs Morton’s time-tested Hi-Rib steel, Morton will deliver on the promise to make your building feel like new all over again, and we’ll work our magic on all brands of buildings.”
Some of the most prominent remodeling trends that Morton Buildings is witnessing of late are people replacing the roofs on their buildings, repurposing them, or improving the exteriors.
“Replacing roofs is typically pretty easy for us and doesn’t require engineers,” Corey said. “The other thing we’re seeing on commercial projects is repurposing of buildings. We converted an old lumber-yard building into a cabinet shop. We also do the small-but-necessary repairs on commercial buildings, like changing out damaged steel panels, door replacements, and general maintenance. We’ve also seen an uptick for dressing up the exteriors of the more traditional warehouse-style buildings. Adding a decorative flair to the exterior will modernize the appearance and draw more attention to the property and, as a result, to the business.”
Water Flow, Pressure, and Efficiency
Your building’s plumbing is another crucial consideration of your remodeling project. After all, every building needs it. Yet it’s one of the most overlooked parts of a business owner’s first remodeling plan. Well, whether you’re doing a total remodel of your business or just want to upgrade your piping and conduits, Big Birge Plumbing is ready for the job, and they pride themselves on honesty and truly caring about the results they deliver.
“We’ve recently been working on a lot of small plumbing remodels that involve moving water lines and upgrading hot-water capacity,” said Co-owner Lallenia Birge. “Many people are using this time to get to those punch-list items they’ve been meaning to get done. Plumbing is one of those things, as it often involves shutting off the water to your place of business.”
One of the most prominent trends in plumbing remodels of late is replacement of older and high-flow flush valves and toilets with new models that meet or exceed the latest city, state, and international plumbing codes. In addition, many commercial businesses are changing current plumbing fixtures with high-performing ones that are functional, nice to look at, and can help reduce water use.
Lallenia says that what makes Big Birge Plumbing different than many other companies is its personal investment in getting it right every time.
“A lot of people and owners say they care, but we deep-down want to do the right thing and always have,” she said. “Yes, making a profit is rewarding, but that’s not why we are in business. We started this business because we saw a need for plumbers that do quality work and are honest. We want our customers to be treated right. We hire the people on our team who are honest, hardworking, qualified, and care about others.”
Lallenia and her husband and co-owner, Bradley Birge, often are asked about making things “cheaper,” but they warn that the problem with cheaper plumbing is that it will cost more in the long run.
“Our advice is to hire real plumbers and pay for quality plumbing installations and fixtures,” Lallenia said. “Your plumbing system is something that is used every day, multiple times throughout the day. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and do your research before just hiring the least-expensive plumber.”
Speaking of plumbing, we know it’s not always pretty. To avoid the dirty, stinky, untimely clogs and system failures, it’s important to keep your commercial pipes, drains, grease traps, and septic tanks in clean, working order. That’s where Midland Pumping Service comes in.
“This locally-owned small business specializes in high-quality pumping and drain-cleaning services, as well as hassle-free grease-trap and septic-tank care in the Omaha and Council Bluffs metro and surrounding region,” said Midland Office Manager Aimee Hoffman.
Midland prides itself on having maintained, for more than 25 years, a solid reputation for quality customer service and for working swiftly and professionally—including 24-hour emergency services—so your business doesn’t have to suffer any longer than absolutely necessary.
“It’s important that business owners understand the importance of proper septic, grease-trap, and drain care,” Aimee said. “We recommend that septic tanks be routinely pumped every three to five years, and restaurant owners should stay on top of drain and plumbing issues by having their grease traps serviced regularly. For carwashes, auto shops, and other similar businesses, Midland also provides general pumping services and drain cleaning to keep systems running smoothly.”
The consequences of not keeping up with regular system pumping and cleaning are not pretty.
“Not following through with proper maintenance of your system could be a threat to you, your family, your neighbors, and the environment,” Aimee warned. “Improperly treated sewage has the potential to contaminate all nearby surface waters, and malfunctioning septic tanks release bacteria, viruses, and chemicals to local waterways. If you’re remodeling, also be sure to consider whether your septic tank is properly sized to handle any expansion or general increases in use since its installation. Otherwise, you can end up wiping out your investments with a tank failure.”
Heating and Cooling
Taking proper care of your heating and air-conditioning systems is a crucial part of any remodel, as well. For starters, it’s essential that your heating and cooling units are properly sized for any changes or expansions you’re making. Next, be sure to connect with an honest, reputable local company to ensure that the systems are running at maximum capacity.
Scott Getzschman of Getzschman Heating in Omaha said their heating and cooling company is unique in that it offers the Getzchman “G-Verify” testing and system efficiency diagnostics to ensure your installation or upgrade runs at its best.
“We do a test drive for every installation we do,” Scott said. “We use a program that’s called G-Verify, and we verify that your system is installed and tested before and after to make sure it is running at the same efficiency that is recommended by the manufacturer. With this program, we make sure that when it’s up and running, it’s not only safe and comfortable but that you’re going to receive the full benefit of the efficiency that you paid for.”
No matter what your remodeling needs, he added, Getzschman will focus on high quality, reliability, and integrity in every area. They relish the customer relationship as their top priority.
“We’re the company that you can trust with your house keys, Scott said. “Our technicians go through extensive background checks and are highly qualified. We want to ensure that the customer is 100% satisfied, and we don’t just want to sell boxes. We want to sell relationships. We want your family to be 100% satisfied, not only with the installation but with our service and our technicians. We want to build a relationship and deliver the value that customers deserve.”
Protecting Your Employees and Information
If you’re ready to invest in new or updated safety features for your business, FireGuard, Inc. is in your corner. They have a full array of fire-protection services, from installing new fire-alarm systems to updating or upgrading existing ones and providing increased protection for server rooms. FireGuard Engineered Systems Manager Phil O’Connell says when businesses undertake remodeling, it’s important for them to know that their fire systems must be altered, as well, to maintain code-compliant protection.
“My advice to those who are looking to remodel for the first time is to do their research,” Phil said. “Remodeling can provide an exciting new space to work in and boost employee morale and production, but understand that there can be additional requirements and costs associated when it comes to life-safety systems.”
That said, there are times when remodels won’t affect your company’s or organization’s safety systems, but you don’t know if you don’t verify, he added.
“When a company reinvests in their facility by remodeling, it’s important to protect their investment fully by updating any fire-protection systems, as well as maintaining code compliance with life-safety requirements to prevent any issues with the fire marshal,” Phil said. “Knowing what you’ll need to do ahead of time, when you’re budgeting for a remodel, can help people avoid any surprises late in the project.”
FireGuard, Inc. is unique among remodeling companies, in that they focus solely on fire protection and life-safety solutions. While most remodeling companies focus on the aesthetics of the remodel, FireGuard works to provide fire protection for anyone who will eventually occupy the remodeled space, as well as protection for the remodeled facility itself.
FireGuard currently is working on a variety of remodeling projects, ranging from schools to food-processing plants, and everything between. Companies that have fewer-than-usual employees at work during the COVID-19 pandemic are speeding their remodeling schedules to get the work completed before normal operations and occupancy return.
“Moving ahead during these times of slower operations will help them eliminate the possibility of construction disturbances from affecting the productivity of workers in a facility during remodeling,” he said.
FireGuard also has seen a recent trend in companies seeking increased protection systems for their IT server rooms, given that they are investing more in Cloud- and server-based technology applications.
“Many companies’ servers are the heart of executing day-to-day business operations,” Phil said. “Additional protection for these systems might seem unnecessary at first, but when thinking about the catastrophic loss that a company could suffer if it lost data and hardware in a fire, more and more businesses have taken measures to help prevent the loss of invaluable information and equipment.”
Producing Energy Savings
When you’re preparing your business for a remodel, be sure to strategize your energy needs and upgrades, with an eye toward increasing your efficiency and reducing your monthly electric bills for the long term. You need to hire a professional who can make sure your electric upgrades are compliant with all codes and safe for employees.
Chris Langer, owner of Langer Electric, said commercial remodeling offers tremendous opportunities for business owners, but it’s important to know all of the rules and opportunities before jumping in the deep end.
“The hottest trend is upgrading everything to LED,” Chris said. “It seems like they keep coming out with easier products to install. It’s not such a big, bulky product anymore. Plus, LED’s use 90% less electricity than the standard incandescent bulb, so you’re getting more light for less power. Also, Wi-Fi switches are continually improving. People can install and control everything throughout their house, including security cameras. It’s like a one-stop shop that can all be controlled through an app on an iPad or phone. It’s becoming almost standard these days to have 24/7 surveillance of your property sent right to your phone.”
Langer is a licensed, bonded, and insured electrical company serving the Omaha region that prides itself on delivering exceptional customer service and building relationships with customers because, if you own a business, you’ll certainly need electric work more than just during your remodel. You can bet you’ll be treated well, because Langer wants your business for life.
As you upgrade your business space, Langer Electric can provide estimates for everything from fixture installation to panel updates, camera installation, repairs, maintenance, and pretty much anything electrical. And if the company’s online testimonials are any indication, you’re going to be happy with the outcome!
If automation is the name of your game, Control Depot is another stop you’ll want to consider along your commercial remodeling journey. The company is a premier automation and control distributor of HVAC, lighting, security, and life-safety systems and a leader in technology solutions, facility-system integration, energy management and metering, gas detection, and more. It partners with leading suppliers of building technologies to provide customers with the best products available for their specific needs.
“Our overriding purpose is to help our clients—including controls’ contractors, mechanical and electrical contractors, and institutional end-users—create comfortable, efficient, and safe building environments,” said Matt Holst, sales manager and business development representative for Control Depot.
When it comes to control systems employing the internet, Control Depot sees a bright future.
“I think we’re going to have tie-ins to the internet via Cloud-based services, which is going to be helpful for a lot of our less technically-savvy contractors,” Matt said. “That doesn’t mean that they can’t do it; it’s just that they don’t use the technologies on a regular basis to become proficient with them. Those Cloud-based services – the “black boxes” – are going to get them to the point where they can utilize a lot of the upper-level technologies for their customers.”
These IoT (Internet of Things) technologies are beneficial in that they can operate remotely. An IoT system connects interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines with unique identifiers (UIDs) and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. It’s another trend that reduces face-to-face communication but increases efficiency exponentially.
Make Room for Your Stuff
A commercial remodel will enhance your business for your customers, but you certainly want to keep your new place looking sharp, uncluttered, and professional. With that in mind, don’t forget to include storage as part of your remodel plan, and when you do, Closet & Storage Concepts of Omaha is a great place to start.
“We know the importance of keeping your office space organized, and sufficient office storage is a key to productivity,” said Ken Incontro, who co-owns Closet & Storage Concepts with his wife Cindi.
“Commercial storage solutions are limitless, but can include areas such as copy rooms, break rooms, kitchens, conference rooms, office furniture, entertainment areas, reception desks, and filing cabinets. We have everything you’ll need to create an office work environment that fits your personal style and business needs,” said Ken.
What’s particularly attractive about this company is that they build their office storage products right in their own factories, so they can design storage solutions for even the most difficult of commercial spaces.
Closet & Storage Concepts also prides itself on attention to detail and provides lifetime warranties that guarantee quality workmanship and top-of-the-line materials. After being manufactured in the company’s Omaha factory, everything they create gets installed for your remodel by their team of expert installers. If your needs change down the line, don’t worry: Each system from Closet & Storage Concepts is fully adjustable and can easily be changed or expanded to meet your evolving needs.
“We will help create just what you need to conquer office storage problems,” Ken said. “We can take your office design ideas to create a custom office solution.”
Don’t Forget the Finishing Touches
When you complete your business remodel, don’t forget the icing on the proverbial cake—the pièce de résistance, if you will. It’s time to enhance the interior spaces of your business and your employees’ comfort and productivity. As you work toward this, you might be surprised how important live plants can be to accomplishing this—and we’re not just talking about a potted plant at the entry to your business.
According to Ambius District Manager Tiffany Falconer, one of the latest trends in commercial indoor interiors is inclusion of living green divider walls. These walls can comprise moss, live plants, or replicas, in addition to featuring patterns, designs, or even company logos. What’s particularly compelling about these dividers amid pandemic times is how easily they can be used to promote social distancing.
“It is more important than ever for business owners to protect the health and wellbeing of their employees and customers in the post-COVID-19 world,” Tiffany said.
“The landscape for businesses worldwide will forever be changed, and the pandemic has heightened awareness about conditions that not only affect where we live, but also where we work and play,” she added. “Green divider walls, which can be moveable, are one of the most versatile and compelling design elements used to help create private areas.”
Ambius can help create designs that are easy to care for, so you don’t have to add plant maintenance to your list of daily chores. In addition to moss wall partitions, other dividing options include vertical gardens and living artwork, all of which you can customize to create social distancing in an office.
“As part of the world’s largest interior landscape company, we have the depth of resources and expertise to ensure that each of our clients receive an unmatched experience,” Tiffany said. “We work with projects of all scopes—from large projects that require the expertise of our staff architects and project managers—to multi-site projects.”
Ambius also provides ambient scenting and designs, and they install holiday displays.
As you can see, undertaking a remodeling project at your business can involve a lot of moving parts. Fortunately, Omaha is well represented by professional companies spanning the full remodeling spectrum, to help you get the results you want, efficiently and effectively.