5 Things to Consider When Remodeling

Remodeling an existing building is rewarding but comes with a unique set of issues. If you are thinking about remodeling your building, the five considerations below are a good place to start. The earlier you can get an architect on board to help you weigh your options – the better!  The benefit of their expertise and planning can save you from headaches and costly errors.

1. Documentation of Existing Conditions

Before anything can happen with drawings, there needs to be good documentation of existing conditions.  Having the original drawings (and drawings of any changes since then) is a great start.  In any case, the architect will want to field verify various aspects of your building depending on the goals of the remodel.  Existing structure, windows, mechanical rooms, sprinkler system, stairways, exterior walls, floor to floor heights, materials used, etc. might all be important parameters to know as different design options are considered.

2. How Old Is Your Building?

Depending on how old your building is, it may have hazardous materials such as lead or asbestos that require careful removal by professionals.  Or, your building might be old enough that it has historical features that should be preserved.  Your architect can help guide you on what items need special attention or testing.  Also, the existing water, electrical, and HVAC services may not be sufficient and require replacement or additional systems to meet the new loads.  This can be especially true if the previous use of the building is drastically different than the intended new use.  (For example, an existing retail building may not have enough electrical or water capacity to be converted into a medical clinic, which may require high powered equipment and many more plumbing fixtures than the original building used.)

3. Do You Currently Occupy the Building?

If you currently own the building – what maintenance problems do you have?  If your HVAC system needs replacing, this is the time to fix it.  Do you have enough parking and will it still be sufficient if you are going to be increasing your staff?  Will you be vacating the building during construction?  Will you need to remain in operation on-site throughout construction?  Knowing the answers to these questions can help you plan early and make proper accommodations.  Your architect should discuss with you acceptable noise levels during business hours, construction debris containment, construction staging areas, sequences of phasing, temporary locations, etc. to minimize the disruption of the remodel. Working with an architect that uses Revit (specialized software for the architecture, engineering and construction industry) is of particular benefit in complex projects because each component of the model can be assigned a phase (new, existing, demolish) making it easier to document the design in its various stages.

4. Outside Influences on Your Building

The Building Codes and Zoning Ordinances do not just apply to new buildings.  Depending on the scope of the remodel and if the building is changing uses, many parts of the building may need to be brought into compliance with current codes. It is possible that existing features in your building will require upgrades– such as existing restrooms that are too small and ramps that are too steep to meet ADA requirements.  New energy conservation codes are more stringent than in past years and may cause unexpected enhancements.  Also, upgrades to your building’s site will mean it must comply with any zoning requirements about street frontage, etc.

5. Plan for the Unknown

We have found that even with a set of the original drawings, there are often deviations in the actual building not reflected in the drawings. Changes made during construction (for whatever reason) may not exactly match the plans (this is why #1 above is so important!). Even with good documents and field verification, surprises that no one could have foreseen may come up. During demolition, things may be found within the walls or above the ceiling that were not known about and will have to be addressed upon discovery.  Given this risk, it is imperative to budget extra contingency funds into remodel projects. If possible, some exploratory demolition can be done during the design phase if there are concerns about particular areas (For example – What is inside this particular wall bump-out? a column? a roof drain? both? nothing?).


We mention these five key points, not to scare you away from remodeling, but to prepare you.  Giving an old building new life can be a very rewarding process, especially if you are aware in advance of the challenges involved.

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