Construction can be the most frustrating, confusing, disruptive process for tenants. It can
also be a seamless, professional and only mildly inconvenient process. It all depends on who is running the job. One thing for sure, someone on the tenant’s side must be the point person and this person should be detail-oriented with excellent follow up skills and record-keeping.
Let’s run through the construction process. For this article, let’s assume that the construction is extensive and requires a permit. This isn’t meant to be a thorough, indepth description, but this will give you a good working outline.
BEFORE you sign the lease, go through the Work Letter exhibit to the lease very carefully. This will be your roadmap for the construction process ahead. If you do not understand anything, ask questions. You can make adjustments to the timeline now, but not after the lease is signed. Discuss this with your vendors (IT and furniture) to make sure they are comfortable with their scheduling.
Also prior to signing the lease, you should have completed the following: preliminary drawing showing the scope of construction and preliminary construction pricing. The landlord’s architect, who is familiar with the building, will have prepared a simple preliminary plan that shows the furniture layout and demolition. Three estimates is always preferable because it can show us areas of discrepancy that may need to be addressed further.
Oftentimes tenants are hesitant to use the landlord’s contractors and have concerns over whether the pricing is competitive. I know most of the interior office contractors in Miami, so in those cases, I accede to the landlord’s preferred contractors because they typically have been properly vetted and have the proper insurance and resources to get the job done.
Where I am concerned is when a landlord picks one contractor based on a unit pricing bid for their property for an extended period of time (i.e. one year) and then does not bid out their work for the next year. When the scope of work is extensive, you can insist that three contractors bid on the work.
Next the lease is signed, so the construction process can kick into full speed. Take out your Work Letter exhibit and have your highly organized point person note all the key deadlines and dates. The clock has begun ticking. I would suggest that you require a weekly on-site construction meeting. The architect, landlord’s project manager and the contractor (when selected) should be required to attend. A good project manager should be responsible for coordinating this, but if you don’t have anyone stepping up, then take the lead.
The architect will complete the working drawings and send them over to the mechanical engineer for their drawings. This process can take between 2-4 weeks to complete. Everyone reviews and approves (pursuant to your Work Letter dates) and then into permitting.
Oftentimes, while the plans begin the permitting process (a 4-6 week process), a landlord will use this time to bid out the job to the three contractors again. Now that the contractors have a full set of drawings to work with, they can produce more accurate pricing. If you have an efficient project manager, they will bid the job, award the job and begin demolition prior to obtaining the final permit. This speeds up the construction process.
When you have a permit, the fun really begins. There are over 22 inspections on an interior office project. There is an amazing amount of detail. These weekly construction meetings are key to keeping the job on time. Everyone needs to be held accountable. Follow up “to do” lists should be distributed. Communication is key. Your IT and furniture vendors need to be incorporated into the construction schedule, so provide their contact information to to everyone as early as possible. Walking the job site weekly is integral to the process. You’ll notice things that will need to be corrected, modified – that’s normal.
At the end of the day, keep in mind that you may only construct your office space once or twice in your career. Your team of experts does it every day. Your mayhem is their normal. Lean on them, ask questions. Make sure that you are comfortable with them at the beginning and if, for some reason, you aren’t, document, document, document.
If you have additional questions about the construction process, give me a call. Right now between my various clients, I have over 100,000 sq ft of ACTIVE construction. My dry cleaner is loving it….