Author: Gerry Bollman

Cart Before the Horse

Just as implied by the old cliché, “Don’t put the cart before the horse”, starting construction on a project before doing the planning, creating construction documents and obtaining permits usually turns out to be as efficient as trying to push a loaded cart down the road with a horse’s nose.

We have been working with a client to develop a master plan for expanding their parking lot & develop a new children’s playground park on an adjacent piece of ground. At our first master planning meeting, we were surprised to see that a portion of the site had already been cleared and stone paving placed. It was explained that the excavator offered to save them some money by going ahead in preparing the site and placing the stone paving. The owner thought it was safe to get this work done since they were pretty sure he knew where the paving needed to go.

There are always consequences to our actions, and this story is no exception:

  • After the stone had been placed, the city issued a stop work order since proper permits and zoning variances had not been obtained.
  • The owner had planned to ask the City to waive the requirement to pave the lot within one year, but given their jumping the gun, the planning board was not in such a charitable mood.
  • A central focus of the master planning was to preserve and utilize a huge 100+ year old oak tree on the property. We noticed that the new stone had been placed right over the tree’s root system. We explained that the stone, and eventual asphalt, cannot encroach that close to the tree without damaging it severely or even killing it. The owner agreed to removing the stone and installing pervious paving blocks in the drip-line area of the tree, at an additional cost to the project.

As the meeting ended the owner realized that he will need to file for a use variances as soon as possible to make amends with the city. He also came to understand that the root system to the cherished tree that he wanted to save was most likely damaged by the compacting of the soil and placing the stone around the roots. The final reality set in, the money he saved on not having a second move-in cost to the excavator will be gone several times over.

Please give us a call so we can help plan and manage your next project, in the proper order, allowing you to pull your cart down the road at a brisk pace to increase your bottom line.

Trust but Verify

We got a call a couple of weeks ago from one of our clients that owns multi-tenant retail shopping centers. The reason for the call was to ask us to develop a “practical” detail for extending the existing demising wall, between two of his occupied spaces, from above the ceiling to the underside of the roof deck in order to make it a one hour assembly.

We developed the one-hour rated wall assembly detail and gave it to him, but then came our question “Why do you want to do this”? He said that the Fire Marshall came through the space and told him that the demising wall between the two spaces needed to be of one-hour construction and extend to the roof deck. We told him there are specific conditions spelled out in the building code where a fire rated demising wall is required but his condition is not one of them. We suggested he ask the official for the specific code section he was referring to so that the owner (with our guidance) could see exactly what needed to – or not needed to – be done. In the end, the code was clear and the wall was not required to be extended.

This made me think about all the code requirements owners so often think they need to do, or a building official tells them they need to do. Several of the more common ones we hear often are…

  • All exit doors need panic hardware
  • Every entrance/exit door needs to be handicapped accessible
  • Because of the energy code, all exterior door needs a vestibule

I am sure you can add to my list. The truth is that you need to trust the building officials to understand the codes and regulations, BUT you also need to verify with your design professional what needs to be done on your specific project. Our staff at PDMi is a great resource to verify the building codes and government regulations. Call us, we would be happy to help. As Ronald Reagan said, “Trust but Verify”.


As we have worked with our clients on designing their new facilities, building additions and/or interior renovation projects one topic always seems to come up: Restrooms. The questions about restrooms range from; How many do I need? Can they be unisex? Where should they be located? And the biggie; Do all of them need to be Handicapped Accessible?

A while back, we were working with a client on a renovation and addition to his office building. There was only one existing unisex restroom in the building, and it was very small. In fact, as my father-in-law would say “It was so small, you’d have to step outside to change your mind!”. During the planning process, we told him that due to the specific conditions of his building, the building code would not require him to change, enlarge or relocate his restroom. That was good news to him.

The most frequently asked questions we get about restrooms seem to be about required handicapped accessibility. They include…

  • Do all restrooms need to be handicapped accessible?
  • Do I need to upgrade my existing restrooms to meet today’s ADA requirements?
  • Why do the accessible restrooms need to be so big!

The answers to each of these questions are always the same, but they also always vary based on the specific conditions of the building. Give us a call and we will be glad to answer your restroom questions.

One last final thought: It is true all restrooms must comply with the current building codes; but remember those requirements are the minimum and what your final restroom layout looks like in your facility must support your business. That is a successful design!!!

Tis the Season…

Tis the Season… is a traditional thing to say but what is this season really about? I think it is about reflection: reflecting on the true meaning of Christmas and how it personally influences each of us & reflecting on the blessings of this last year and looking forward to what next year can bring.

We at PDMi have been fortunate and count it a blessing to have served you this year. It has been a pleasure to be part of a project team that has successfully accomplished the goals of our clients. We look forward to supporting their needs again next year.

As you reflect on this season:

  • Enjoy time with your family and friends. There is no better time of the year to reinforce and grow these relationships.
  • Be generous to all. You may not have “it all” or for that matter “a lot” but you do have more than someone.
  • Always remember “It is not about Me”. The only way to a “Purpose Filled Life” is to put others first and you second.

Dan, Brad, Mark, Joe, Taku and I have had a blessed year because of the relationships we have forged. We look forward to strengthening those relationships and forming new ones in 2018. We at PDMi wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.


Last week, we celebrated Thanksgiving. I hope each of you enjoyed the time with family and friends as much as I did. The week before Thanksgiving, I found a paper on the counter next to our laptop at home. It was a list of ten items titled “I AM THANKFUL FOR”. My wife tells me she got it years ago from one of her aunts and she likes to read it each year at Thanksgiving. I do not know who the author is, but I think it is really good and would like to share it with you.


  1. The mess to clean up after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends.
  2. The taxes I pay because it means that I’m employed.
  3. The clothes that fit a little too snug because it means I have enough to eat.
  4. A lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning, and gutters that need fixing because it means I have a home.
  5. The spot I find at the far end of the parking lot because it means I am capable of walking.
  6. All the complaining I hear about our government because it means we have freedom of speech.
  7. The lady behind me at church who sings off key because it means I can hear.
  8. My huge heating bill because it means I am warm.
  9. The alarm that goes off in the early morning hours because it means I’m alive.
  10. Weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day because it means I have been productive.

Each of us has much to be thankful for. All of us at PDMi are very thankful for the many relationships we get to enjoy each and every day.