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Field Report

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Keeping an eye on the big picture and utilizing a variety of resources are keys to success

by Joel G. Chamberlain

American Institute of Architects

"Rome wasn't built in a day." Whoever coined this clich? was speaking from experience. In fact, the author surely must have had some construction experience, and may have known the feeling of having a project not on time, over budget and fraught with unforeseen problems. This certainly can be the case with construction projects, but it doesn't have to be.

Armed with knowledge of the process and the right professionals, a construction project can be an exciting experience. All successful construction projects have a few things in common: They are thoroughly researched, planned and monitored each step of the way.

Short-cuts are great if you want to shorten your drive to work, but in the building process, short-cuts are a recipe for disaster.

In this article, steps will be outlined, which, if conscientiously executed, may reduce the likelihood of a construction disaster and instead result in a successful construction endeavor.

Make a list of resources.

There are many professionals in your community who know the construction process. Each will likely have his or her own specialty and will be invaluable to you in providing the information needed to solve the problems associated with each step of the process.

Visit with these people or agencies before taking action. Their experience will help you avoid potential problems. In a process as complex as construction, information will need to be gathered layer by layer before moving on to the next level.

For example, when considering the probable construction budget or other parts of the project, contact the following consultants:


?General contractor

?Professional cost estimator


?CPA (financial feasibility studies)

?Real estate professional

?Appraiser (project value appropriate for community/location)

?Interior designer

?Landscape architect

Each will have a different slant on budget or other considerations, but each has valuable information to contribute.

When considering project site selection, consult:

?Real estate professional

?City or county planners and building regulation agencies. Ask about codes, utility companies and utility availability, stormwater detention, septic and sinkhole regulations, etc.

?Architect, engineer or general contractor


?Land surveyor

Some of the above professionals will claim to be all you need to accomplish a construction project, but common sense will tell you each will have his or her own areas of expertise and interest. Always look at the big picture.

Agreements and contracts.

Every step of your project should possess the proper agreements or contracts. Architects, engineers, contractors and real estate brokers all work from contracts of some type. These should be thoroughly reviewed by you and your attorney. Contracts contain many provisions, but make sure the following are considered and clear:

?Fees and reimbursables

?Starting dates and completion dates


?Material specifications (when applicable)

?Cancellation clauses

?Payment schedules


Budget issues.

General construction contracts usually cover only the building structure and site work. There are many additional items and service expenses to be kept in mind (listed below) which may be required to complete a building project, including a construction contingency for unforeseen conditions or expenses.

Consultant costs:

?Architect and engineering fees

?Construction testing services

?Septic system design

?Geotech services (soil testing)

?Abatement of hazardous materials

?Radon vesting

?Stormwater drainage design

?Geological studies, including sinkhole analysis

Administrative costs:

?Financing, bonds, or other funding consultants

?Legal counsel (review of contracts, etc.)

?Bidding-document and printing

Site development costs:

?Demolition of existing structures or equipment and site clearing

?Seeding/sodding and other landscaping

?Signage, fences, benches, containers, etc.

?Cost of the land

Equipment and furnishings:

These items may be included in the general construction budget by agreement, but they usually are separate contracts.

?Kitchen equipment, unless built-in

?Casework; shelving cabinets and coat racks, etc.

?Security systems

?All movable furniture

?Janitorial supplies and equipment

?Specialty equipment

Design Issues.

Successful designs are created from clear programs. Time spent analyzing a presently outmoded facility, or considering what is desired in a new or remodeled one, is time well-spent.

Your architect can provide this extra service with information provided by an organized client (which is a requirement). This reduces oversights and accelerates the design process.

Things to consider:

?Future expansion and growth

?Master planning

?Evolving technology


?Systems and life-cycle costs

?Quality level

?Topography of the site

?Age and physical capability of the users

?Client philosophy and objectives

?Functional space requirements (adjacency)

?Facility space requirements

?Single or multiple use

Site selection:

Is the proposed site zoned properly? Beware of the phrase, "You can always get a variance." The process is time-consuming and not always possible. Does the site drain and percolate properly? What is the soil bearing capacity and geology? Is it in a flood plain or floodway? Are there any sinkholes or caves?

Is it big enough and shaped correctly for your requirements? Is there room for stormwater detention? Are there any special covenants? Are there utilities on site or available?

Use the consultants listed above to help you make these determinations. Your Realtor can help, but he or she may be have a conflict of interest here.

Post-occupancy evaluations:

Extra services are available to analyze the way your building is functioning af[[In-content Ad]]


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