Change of What…?

Change of use of an existing building, such as a church moving into a former retail store space, can be a very confusing and expensive experience for a building owner. I have found that most building owners, potential tenants or buyers, realtors and contractors do not understand that all commercial buildings are classified and regulated by State Building Codes and local zoning ordinances as the initial occupancy use it was designed and permitted for.

When you want to change the occupancy of an existing building, i.e.:  put a restaurant in a retail store space, a retail space in an old manufacturing building, or manufacturing in an old warehouse, either the existing building must already comply with all current construction codes for the new use, or be altered to comply with all current codes, or use Chapter 34 of the Building Code to mitigate having to comply with some of the current codes for new construction.

If you need to upgrade an existing building to meet all current construction codes for a new use, several issues can be very expensive:

  • A factory with over 12,000sf, a church with more than 2,100sf of meeting space, a restaurant with more than (100) occupants, and any apartments (regardless of size or number), would require fire sprinklers to be installed.
  • All existing non-compliant ADA accessibility issues would need to be altered into compliance. This can mean, completely demolishing & rebuilding all existing restrooms as well as adding ramps, moving & enlarging doors and changing all door hardware.
  • Existing heating & cooling systems likely would need to be modified or completely replaced in order to meet current fresh air and ventilation requirements.

Chapter 34 is a part of the Building Code that provides economic change of use for some existing buildings while maintaining public safety.  It involves evaluation & scoring of the existing building concerning life safety by a licensed professional. If the scoring passes, the change of use can be permitted without having to alter existing non-compliant portions of the building as listed above.

Chapter 34 evaluation & scoring is very technical and takes experience & a good understanding of the Construction Codes. If you are planning on re-use of any existing building, contact us so we can put PDMi’s experience and knowledge to work for you.

Batman & Robin

Batman & Robin – Night & Day – Salt & Pepper, these are all things that go together. They fit. One complements the other. It is the same with Design & Build, one completes the other. Too often today design and build are regarded as adversaries. They separately compete for the approval of the owner and/or the success of the project. This should not be! Just like Batman was not complete without Robin, the design of a project is not complete until it is built.

There are many benefits to the Owner when Design and Build are combined on a project. They include:

  • A Team Relationship is established between the Design Professional and the Contractor which is built on trust and confidence.
  • The Scope of the project is identified through the contract documents so that Cost and Schedule can be identified/verified/modified early in the process.
  • The Design Professional becomes a Valuable Resource to the Builder during the construction process as the Builder was to the Designer during the document phase.

The Old Days of adversarial relationships which were formed by Architects/Engineers drawing blueprints for the Contractor to competitively bid must be reevaluated. If we, as Professionals and Contractors, desire to bring the best product to our clients then we must learn that Design and Build fit together.

Contact me about how PDMi’s Design Build team can bring value to your next project.

Going the Right Way

Have you ever been driving down the street and made a left hand turn only to come to the realization that you are headed east and all the oncoming traffic is headed west? In other words, “You are going the wrong way!” I am going to admit that this has only happened to me once (or maybe twice – but not more than three times) in my many years of driving. When this occurs multiple emotions come over you. Emotions like: fear that a head on collision is about to happen, embarrassment of being in the wrong place and the general feeling of stupidity. There are many absolutes in this world, even though we many times do not recognize them or choose not to follow them. One of them is driving the right direction on a one-way street.

You have heard the old saying “They did what seemed to be right in their own minds”. We have had some clients over the years that have applied that saying to their facility projects, but we have also had many clients that have not. One of our clients, that did not want to go the wrong way, called me last week. He said that they had been approached by a developer that wanted to purchase a portion of their site for future development. He admitted the easy answer to the developer would have been sure, we are not using all our land and we could use the money from the sale. Instead, the client took a step back and asked the questions; how much land do we have, how much land will we need for future expansions and how much land could be sold? The call to PDMi was to help them answer these (and many more) question before they responded to the developer.

Please give us a call so we can help you “go the right direction” on your next project.

Scope x Quality = Budget

Scope x Quality = Budget. This is a formula you’ll never want to forget as you develop your next building project.

Many times, a project owner gets into trouble by believing that he can control all three variables of this formula. However, you will save yourself a lot of time and frustration by understanding that you only control two of the three variables for any one project.  For example, here is what I mean. Suppose you go into a car dealership and tell them you want the scope of a six seater, the quality of a Mercedes and only have $10,000 to spend. You will probably find out very quickly that one of your components will have to give! As with any building project, you can only control two of the three components and your design team will serve up a “reality check” on the third.

How can you make sure that “Scope x Quality = Budget” becomes a formula for success? Here are two tips:

  • Break up your project into smaller pieces. Once you’ve broken a project into smaller components, you can apply this formula to each part and control the two variables you believe are most critical to the success of that particular project component. For instance, the mechanical system has its own scope, quality and budget. You may want to control the scope and quality because you know that there are performance and maintenance issues involved. On the other hand, you may decide to control the scope and budget of the floor coverings and allow the design team to determine the quality.
  • Remember that the delivery method is secondary in importance to a good plan. A firm can successfully deliver your project by using the design-bid-build, negotiated contract, or design/build methods as long as you and your design team conduct proper planning up front and understand the desired scope, quality and budget for your project. It all boils down to planning, designing the plan and implementing the plan. Anyone can implement a good plan!

The PDMi team has been implementing the “Scope x Quality = Budget” formula for over 25 years. We have found that it really does help make our clients’ project a success. Contact us to learn more.


Details Details Details

You have often heard me talk about the fact that PLANNING – DESIGNING – BUILDING are constants on facility projects. I firmly believe that Planning is the foundation for which all successful projects are built. If that is true, then Detailed Design is the superstructure. Without detailed design documents the Building phase is guided only by guess work.

A while back, we were contacted by an owner that was doing a tenant build-out of an existing building. He had already hired a contractor, had completed the interior demolition, and was ready to start the building out of the space when he realized he had a problem; he had no Detailed Design documents to give direction to his contractor, only sketchy permit drawings. When the building inspector showed up for his first inspection, he put a stop-work order on the project due to lack of specific details. The owner called us to help solve his problem. After a job site meeting, we began the process of producing documents for his contractor to work from and for the inspector to know exactly the scope of the project. Before we completed our work, this project had a sad ending – the building burnt down.

Unless you plan to have your building burn down before it is completed, you should have detailed construction documents produced. These documents should…

  • Communicate the design parameters and details to the contractor and the agencies. PDMi uses 3D modeling as a great tool to accomplish this.
  • Provide Constructible Details. Just because a detail can be drawn on paper (or for that matter, dreamed up in your mind) does not mean it can be constructed. The PDMi staff has spent many years alongside contractors to understand constructible details.
  • Specify Material Selection. The right materials used in the right places will assure a project’s success.

We know that good Detailed Design documents will guide your project. Give us a call to talk about how PDMi can work with you on your next project.