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Finding Contractors Early Helps Project Run Smoothly

Completing tenant improvement construction of new office space that functions successfully for a business is a challenge in itself. When critical time constraints are imposed, the challenge increases tenfold.

As a tenant’s lease nears expiration, they’ll spend a lengthy amount of time on lease negotiations and having their attorneys review the new lease contracts. This creates a serious problem when they don’t allow enough time for the actual construction of their new space, particularly when they have no flexibility as to when they must be out of their old space.

Instead, it’s better to integrate the construction process early-on in their moving timeline.

Tenants and building owners benefit by bringing a general contractor aboard as soon as they identify a possible site. The more time the general contractor is given, the more they can help that business with scheduling, site conditions and in directing dollars to the most cost-effective areas.

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– Contractors Mitigate’Unknown’ Factors

In too many cases, a contractor will be brought in at the tail-end of a tenant’s move and asked to perform the tenant improvements. These cases invariably are competitive bid situations in which no time is available to analyze the tenants’ needs from a building contractor’s viewpoint.

That input is what ties together all the loose ends relative to a tenant’s needs and expectations, the space planner’s interpretation of these needs, and the actual condition of the building itself.

The general contractor’s role is to integrate the tangible and intangible components of a build-out from a “nuts and bolts” perspective. When the general contractor is brought into the competitive bid process at the last minute, the perspective, at that point, is purely plans and specifications.

In these cases, there is no time or incentive to consider all the ambiguities that ultimately will impact the project. As a result, the project ‘unknowns’ have to be dealt with during the actual construction, which already is on a critical time line. This, in turn, causes time delays, unexpected cost overruns, and unnecessary aggravation.

– Time Crunch Can Lead

To Common Problems

Some of the more common problems that surface are:

o The plumbing location for the kitchen will not work due to a steel I-beam in the floor where the drain needs to go.

o The mechanical/HVAC will not compute, as no chase is available for the necessary exhaust at the planned location.

o Natural gas for the building has not been brought into the building from the street.

o The expected use of the existing wall for plumbing or other use is not available because the wall is a two-hour condition.

o Room is not available for an additional electrical meter.

o The existing ceiling needs to be brought up to current seismic code.

o Provision for stocking materials is complicated or restrictive.

o The sprinkler system shut-down for a building is restricted to off-hours only.

o Materials specified require an inordinate amount of lead time for delivery.

Tenants and owners are far better served to retain a general contractor several months in advance of the anticipated start of construction to gain the benefit of that firm’s construction expertise over a longer period. A general contractor is going to be willing to work with the client on the problem-solving and decision-making involved in their build-out.

Ultimately, the actual construction is going to go a lot smoother and be far more cost effective. And, unlike attorneys and various consulting firms, general contractors charge by the project rather than on an hourly fee basis.

Jennings is president of Johnson & Jennings General Contracting, a San Diego-based general contracting firm.

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