Wolgast Blog

Building Maintenance Strategies for Small Business Owners

Posted by Cory Sursely on Mon, Mar 04, 2019 @ 11:48 AM

bldgextWhen you’re a small business owner who is responsible for your building, you likely don’t have a budget for a facility manager.  Building maintenance probably isn’t something that hits your to-do list very often, but is still very important to the longevity and cost of building operation.  Having a building maintenance strategy can help you proactively catch repairs, leaks, and heating deficiencies with way less expense out of pocket.

I spoke with our VP of Contract Management, Steve Seibert, about what is the best way for non-facility managers to monitor their buildings realizing that they may have never needed to pay attention to such things.  Steve said, “The most important thing to monitor is your building envelope, so that the integrity of the building stays intact.”  He is referring to your roof, EIFS, siding, and windows.  “Your EIFS needs to be inspected periodically, and every transition of dissimilar materials needs to be re-caulked as needed, especially around windows”.  He said that the life span of caulk can last five years or more, but once a year, caulked areas should be examined for any cracks or missing material and be repaired.

Another important part of your strategy is to manage your warranties.  According to Steve, “If your single ply roof has a warranty for 15 years, call the manufacturer in year 14 to have them examine it.”  Each manufacturer’s warranty will differ a little as it ages, but they should be able to make necessary repairs for little to no cost while it’s in the warranty period.  If you wait until year 16, then any repairs or replacements will come completely out of your pocket.  Things to look for on a shingled roof include fading, dinginess, and curling.

The same philosophy of knowing your warranty period is true for your HVAC system.  In addition to this, Honeywell now offers Light Commercial Building Systems to make smaller commercial buildings SMART at a manageable cost.  It is an automated HVAC system operation that can save on heating costs and will notify the appropriate person when the system gets disrupted from its programming.  This person will know immediately if there is an issue via an alert to their phone where ever they are.

Other areas to monitor include lighting, electrical, plumbing, fire equipment, and access control.  A quick internet search will lead you to thousands of Building Maintenance Checklists telling you specifically what to check on your building.  However, our best advice is to keep your building envelope in good and clean condition, which will add to the life span of it and save yourself money and headache, too.

Wolgast Corporation is a commercial contractor specialized the design and/or construction of medical office, dental office, manufacturing, restaurant, and school buildings.  We provide comprehensive services from the design phase through construction and insurance restoration.  Call us if you have questions about the longevity of your building

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Tags: Professional General Contractor, Good for Business, Risk Management

The Benefit of Design/Build Phase I Drawings

Posted by Cory Sursely on Mon, Feb 11, 2019 @ 08:00 AM

plans and rolled plansPreliminary plans, such as those provided in a Phase I of the Design/Build process, are the most efficient and economical means to determine the budget for your construction project.

While there has been a shift in the numbers1, there are still many business owners out there who are skeptical of the Design/Build method of construction.  They are more familiar with the traditional Design/Bid/Build method where they hire an architect, then have general contractors competitively bid the project, and the contractor with the best price/value builds the project. 

Early on, when we’re discussing the benefits of Design/Build with those who are skeptical, they have a difficult time accepting that they need to pay the nominal fee for the preliminary drawings (Phase I Design) so we can estimate the construction budget.  Those who are accepting of it realize that they would be paying that and more at an independent architecture firm. 

In the Design/Build process, the Phase I fee is nominal to cover the team’s time to complete a needs analysis, make necessary regulatory investigations, create a preliminary design and seek bidding resources for a preliminary budget.  Having a pretty accurate, yet ball park, estimate early in the process helps an owner obtain funding earlier.  The information gained during the Phase I is accurate and sufficient to take to a bank to secure financing.  Clients never get a separate bill for the Phase I cost unless the project doesn’t come to fruition, then the fees are billed to cover the team’s time at a fraction of the cost of a full set of plans.  Furthermore, if obstacles arise while a customer is planning to build a building that cause them to change their mind, it’s less risky to commit to a portion of the cost of the design while working through the initial process.

Additionally, having the flexibility to “tweak” the preliminary design so it fits within your budget is much more economical because you don’t have the engineering elements involved, yet.  Those get explicitly defined in the Phase II drawings.

When you add a Design/Builder to your team before you purchase property, they can assess the property and available utilities to provide the best use of space.  Also, prior to purchase, a Design/Build team can help coach an owner on contingencies in the purchase agreement as a buffer or a “get out of jail free card” if there are undesirable obstacles to using the property the way intended.

Those are the main benefits to committing to Phase I Drawings, but the Design/Build process has other benefits like completing construction faster, fewer change orders, open communication, and one entity having all the low bids.  Read more about the benefits of this method at in our White Paper, "Why Some Business Owners Don't Do Design/Build, but Should".

 

Why Some Business Owners Don't Do Design/Build, but Should

 

1 According to “Design-Build Project Delivery Market Share and Market Size Report” by Reed Construction Data and RS Means Intelligence, Design/Build construction delivery method has taken an additional 9% of the construction market since 2005 and General Construction has lost 10% of the market share in that same time.

Tags: Medical Office Construction, Design/Build, the Wolgast Way, Scheduling, Financing Construction, Design, Dental Office Construction, Good for Business

Flexibility for Finish Substitutions Can Improve Time & Budget on Design/Build Projects

Posted by Cory Sursely on Thu, Jan 31, 2019 @ 08:12 AM

Duperon2Architects and engineers are smart people who are dedicated to taking the information their clients provide them and designing an aesthetically pleasing and functional building to meet their client’s goals.  In their design specifications, they include specific products for building finishes, which they’ve researched or have experienced, to match the desired outcome expressed by their client.  Typically, these materials or products have also been discussed with and accepted by the client.

However, during the budgeting and estimating phase of the project, contractors and subcontractors alike may make suggestions for comparable materials/products.  This may be because the subcontractor is more experienced with the installation of a certain manufacturer’s product, they know about a considerably less expensive application, or because the specced (specified) product is discontinued or back ordered for an undetermined amount of time.  Keeping on schedule is critical for every construction job, so a back ordered item can cause many problems with the flow of a project.  Also, what building owner doesn’t have an interest in saving money whenever they can?  So, it’s common for a product substitution to be identified and as long as it’s comparable, the architect should sign off to accept it.  The architect gets final approval on all substitutions because they have to be back tracked into the original plans and determined whether or not an item needs additional engineering to make the change work seamlessly.

Typically, the building owner is excited to have options because of the cost and time savings, so substitution flexibility is important in the commercial construction industry.  This practice can also be considered value engineering, which takes place in other occurrences when an original design comes in over the client’s anticipated budget.  Due to time constraints of competitive bidding under the General Construction delivery method, substitutions and value engineering don’t naturally have time to occur.  But, the team approach through a Design/Build project is set-up to make exceptions for these recommendations, which is another benefit of how Design/Build is more efficient in saving time and money.

Tags: Design/Build, Professional General Contractor, Good for Business

Top Benefits of Single Source Responsibility Construction

Posted by Cory Sursely on Mon, Nov 26, 2018 @ 03:12 PM

Less Risk + the Right People Collaborating + Competitive Bids + Early Starts

1stopshopMost people envision a big box store when using the term “one-stop shopping”, and I’d bet that they would never think of a commercial contractor, instead.  However, a design/build contractor provides one-stop shopping for architectural plans and construction services (and everything in between), also known as Single Source Responsibility (SSR)

There are several key items to making any construction project successful and those include a collaborative team, detailed/accurate plans, competitive bids, and adequate time to provide a quality project.  By using a design/build contractor as SSR, an owner gets an architect, contractor, and estimator as a package deal on their team by placing one phone call and that team takes on the full risk of providing an owner’s vision within budget and on time.  The architect meets with the owner to determine the scope and creates preliminary (Phase I) drawings.  The contractor collaborates with the architect to review the plans for construction applications and makes suggestions to streamline the building phase.  The estimator then establishes a rough estimate providing a budget for the owner to take to his financing company early in the process.

Alternatively, with the design/bid/build (or general construction) method of construction, the building owner takes on 100% of the risk, works with their selected architect to provide 100% complete drawings to the contractor who then bids it out without an opportunity for constructability review, and then the owner can only get an estimated budget just prior to construction.  This method has been the standard since the beginning of the industry and has provided sufficient results, however, if there are going to be problems during construction, or over spending, it’s much more likely to happen with the design/bid/build method.

Wolgast uses architectural firms with licensed architects who work with our construction team to get a constructability review prior to bidding.  Constructability review is partially (along with open communication) what allows us to take on the risk of guaranteeing budget and delivery date, as well as starting construction early when needed.

Speaking of starting early, since the SSR team is already familiar with the plans, they can get permits, order materials, prepare the site, and basically start the project before the plans are finalized, which can result in the project being completed months earlier than a design/bid/build project.  SSR is A.K.A. a third name, Fast-Track Construction.

SSR has an additional perk that not everyone realizes, and that is the multiple bid process.  Many times owners feel that they are better off with the traditional means of construction, so they can get competitive bids, however the SSR method includes getting the multiple bids for subcontractor trade categories from qualified contractors.  Furthermore, the SSR will have collected a wide variety of bids for each trade, so the holder of the bids will see who all the low bidders are for each category, rather than design/bid/build, which has several general contractors collecting a few bids from subs in the market.  With SSR, owners are going to get great quality at a great price resulting in the best value!

Tags: Design/Build, Good for Business, Risk Management

Sharing Your Budget Streamlines the Pre-Construction Phase

Posted by Cory Sursely on Wed, Oct 24, 2018 @ 02:54 PM

BarBWe use this blog to help educate potential construction clients on how to build their buildings more efficiently and economically.  I am posing a taboo view in this edition, but all in an effort to save the building owner weeks and maybe months of time on their pre-construction phase.  By giving a contractor a ballpark budget before design and/or estimating starts, an owner can take a shortcut in the preliminary phase and get to construction sooner.

Realistically, we understand that sharing a budget feels risky because it shows the owners “full hand” so to speak in poker terms and he or she could feel like it reduces the opportunity to negotiate.  However, for Design/Build Construction, by knowing our client’s budget we can design a building that can be accomplished comfortably for the owner, rather than one that causes sticker shock and then adds time for redrawing.  Having an owner’s actual budget at the start, helps us to provide valuable consultation to the owner regarding allowances for materials and finishes.  Also, we will know upfront if we need to scale down the building and by how much if the numbers need to be tweaked when estimating is complete.  Knowing a budget for General Construction, lets us discern if we are a fit with our full service offering (including insured contractors, precise estimates, guaranteed completion dates, warranty, full-time supervision, self-performed trades, etc. to protect the owner’s interest), or if the owner is willing to accept a more risky and lesser value option for their construction needs.

We’ve been estimating and constructing buildings for over 70 years and have a good idea of what a competitive price for a scope of work may be, considering variables like the time of year, how busy our subcontractors are, and material pricing fluctuations to pinpoint a precise final price.  Therefore, we can save everyone a lot of time if the owner’s budget is significantly under what we speculate the cost would be and the owner isn’t willing to change their scope of work.  In turn, we can help them make a business decision before they spend any money on design or go through the estimating process.

Contact Rick Suitor or Dr. Michael Shepard at 800-WOLGAST to discuss your project and budget and to see if our services are well suited to design and/or build your business investment.  In return, we will provide a competitive and accurate estimate and offer professional construction services!  This is just one shortcut to construction and happiness that we can offer.

Tags: Professional General Contractor, Good for Business, Risk Management

Building Remodel for Energy & Money Savings

Posted by Cory Sursely on Mon, Sep 24, 2018 @ 11:29 AM

There aren’t many businesses that remodel every six years, so chances are that if you’re currently ready for an update, you have the potential to save a considerable amount of money by investing in modern, energy efficient products and installations. 

NBS-EnergyWith 29% of your operating expense being spent on utilities1, the energy efficient equipment/products that have become available over the last six years or less can make a big difference.  Additionally, there are incentives for making these changes.  We have helped several school clients lower their energy expense and also secure incentive money back.  As a Consumer Energy Business Solution Trade Ally, we’ve achieved 3rd place in the past for natural gas savings for Consumers Energy school customers and helped Bullock Creek Schools maximize their incentive of more than $125,000 to offset the cost of their new heat-conserving roof, energy efficient lightbulbs and other alterations.

It’s good to be aware that some energy savings are now mandated by LARA in the State of Michigan when you build new or remodel (see our blog: Michigan Energy Code).  However, there are varying degrees ($$) of implementations to include in your remodel plans that could save more money for your business in the long run.  For instance, office equipment and other mechanical products have become increasingly more efficient even within recent years.  Building systems and materials such as water heaters, HVAC systems, programmable thermostats, windows, insulation applications, LED lighting, occupancy sensors, and toilets are all more efficient than they were in the past 10 years.

Additionally, during your remodel or new build, adding more natural light reduces the need for full time lights, which according to US Energy Information Administration can be more than 17% of utility costs for commercial buildings who haven’t converted to LED.2  Bigger windows, skylights, or light transmitting panels are great for getting the most natural light into an interior space.  Your architect will have further tricks for enhancing natural light, as well.

If you aren’t quite ready for a remodel right now, but are interested in tweaking your building systems to save on energy costs, most energy companies are currently offering free assessments to guide you to save on what you already have in place.  Contact your energy company for a complimentary report.

However, if you are interested in remodeling or building new, Wolgast is ready and capable to be your design and construction partner to achieve these energy and cost saving applications.  Call us today for more information.

1E Source Customer Direct, “Managing Energy Costs in Office Buildings”

2 U.S. Energy Information Administration, www.eia.gov, “Trends in Lighting in Commercial Buildings”, 5/17/17

Tags: Design/Build, Energy Savings, Good for Business, Remodel

Michigan’s Energy Code (2015) to Save Energy for Commercial Building owners

Posted by Cory Sursely on Wed, Jan 31, 2018 @ 09:48 AM

731621281.pngThe 2015 Michigan Energy Code, as directed by Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), went into effect Sept 20, 2017.  The changes to the code involve lighting controls of new commercial buildings and remodels with more than 50% lighting alterations in an effort to increase energy savings.  In a nutshell, different areas of a commercial building will need both sensors and a wall switch or dimmer to control lighting.

Brief & Not Too Technical Synopsis:

Going forward, commercial buildings are required to regulate their lighting either by a sensor, shut off, or schedule.  Depending on the type of the room, usage and time of day, automatic controls will regulate the power of light being used.  Without getting too technical, regularly used parts of a building must be regulated by an Automatic Full Shut Off, once the room hasn’t been occupied for 20 minutes, and an Automatic Daylight Responsive Control will dim the lights to varying powers depending on the natural light exposure. 

Lesser used areas of the building, like stairwells, warehouses, lobbies, and corridors will be regulated by an Automatic Partial Off sensor.  Lighting will be reduced to 50% or less after the area hasn’t been used for 20 minutes. 

A Scheduled Shut Off will be used where Automatic Full Off isn’t controlled and special lighting for displays, food warming, and undershelf must be controlled separately from the area’s general lighting.

Furthermore, exterior lighting will be controlled by Automatic Shut Off during daylight hours, landscaping lights will need to be Automatically Shut Off from midnight to 6AM, and generally, all other lighting/signage will be reduced to 30% or less between midnight and 6AM.  Security exemptions may apply.

Note: Exceptions and other, random codes have not been discussed here, we can answer any questions not addressed in this blog.

What Business Owners Need to Know:

When building or renovating, Business Owners can expect their lighting control budget to be larger to address the sensor and wall receptacle engineering, installation and materials.  But if LARA’s plan to reduce energy usage occurs, Business Owners will see savings on the back end on their energy costs.

The Design/Build team at Wolgast knows the codes involved with building commercial buildings, and will plan your construction project efficiently while keeping you in compliance.  Call us today for more information on other parts of the code not discussed here at 800-WOLGAST.

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Tags: Design/Build, Professional General Contractor, Good for Business

Universal Design Can Change Your Business

Posted by Cory Sursely on Tue, Jan 02, 2018 @ 10:20 AM

UniversalDesign.jpgIn 2015, there were roughly 53 million Americans1 who were disabled either in mobility, in hearing, or with their vision.  Moreover, there are the aging baby boomers with special needs, mothers with strollers, and an increasing number of people using service dogs who each have different accessibility needs to public places.  Whether you are a restaurant, retailer, bank, medical office, or school (to list a few), you likely already have Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards to meet when you build a new building or remodel your existing one; however, if you aren’t already regulated by Title II or Title III, there are still benefits of planning your building for access to everyone, also known as Universal Design, which is different from ADA.  Some are considering Universal Design an emerging concept of good citizenship, much the same way LEED has done for reducing a company’s carbon footprint.  Compared to ADA which is mandated by the government to provide accessibility for disabled people within publicly used buildings, Universal Design is a choice that a building owner makes to include accommodations not regulated by the ADA to provide easy accessibility to everyone.

Going beyond ADA requirements and adopting Universal Design as a customer service practice can help you target new customers (or staff members) and also assist in marketing messages,  “Hey, we’re here for everyone! And we’ve taken measures to make sure you can easily shop here!”  Such things as having a clear approach to your building, an elevator, wider aisles, open spots for wheelchairs at tables or other seating areas can be enjoyed by many and a relief for disabled people.

For instance, years ago we worked with a national retailer on several of their Michigan stores to design and remodel required ADA updates to their restrooms.  And now through their current and vast remodeling efforts to update their stores, they’re meeting their ADA requirements and incorporating even more Universal Design elements, including: public accessibility, clear paths from the parking lot, expanding doorways, communicating barrier free assistance through labels and arrows, adding braille signage on restroom signs, updating counter heights, expanding turning radiuses in the restrooms, and making space for wheelchairs at select tables.  Some of these items are required, but not all of them are, our client is considering the usage of all its customers for easier access.

In addition, another long standing client incorporated a whole new business model by expanding through partner programs designed for children with special needs—becoming the only entity like it in Michigan.   After planning and enlisting Wolgast Architect, Rick Keith, they added a medical facility with overnight accommodations for doctors, ramps to amenities, and barrier free access for medical attention to their existing establishment, which has helped them to enhance their entire program, and further realize their mission as an organization. 

Finally, being inclusive through Universal Design is undoubtedly more expensive than not including those measures; however, it can help you when it’s time to sell your business or building.  For some businesses, remodeling now to include mandated ADA changes and beyond (i.e. Universal Design) can be sound business for customer service and the long term use of your building.

1 www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2015/p0730-us-disability.html,  “53 million adults in US live with disability”.

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Tags: Design, Good for Business, Remodel

Pardon Our Dust - Under Construction

Posted by Cory Sursely on Tue, Apr 25, 2017 @ 09:58 AM

Three Options to Keep Your Clients Happy During Your Remodel Project

Pardon.jpgDuring a commercial remodel, there is more you can do than just posting a good looking “Pardon Our Dust” sign when it comes to your customers and your staff.  We know all too well how it is when you’re trying to run a business, but need to update or reconfigure your working space.  The thought of disrupting business as usual is just too much, and losing out on customer traffic is out of the question.  But never fear, Wolgast has solutions to help you get through a remodel with only a little interruption to staff or customers.

  • We can schedule your project in phases, so that operations can be temporarily shifted or moved, but you’re still functioning as an office, manufacturer, school or shop. We’ll help you plan prior to the start of the remodel.  This applies to doctor’s offices as much as it does restaurants or schools, mostly all business types.  Open communication with your contractor will help minimize stress as you serve your customers.

  • We’re able to accommodate after hours remodeling in many instances and clean-up for your operational use in the morning. We do this when Phasing just won’t work and it may take a little longer, but it’s an option if needed.
  • Build next to or around your existing space. It has been more economical for some of our customers to build new rather than renovate, but they didn’t want to lose their current location.  As a design/build construction firm, we were able to configure how to build on their site, right next to their office.  We were able to reuse most of their existing parking lot and help them benefit from cost savings with utilities already onsite.  In many instances, once the team has moved into the new space, the old one can be demolished and cleared in a day or two.

 
We have found that there are many understanding consumers, as long as they’re able to safely enter your establishment; they will still come to you while you remodel.  For restaurants, many times we can keep your kitchen open as long as possible while working on your dining room, so a drive-thru or take out is still available.  Schools luckily have the summer to schedule their work with less interruption to their full staff.  Medical and Dental offices need special accommodations for keeping clean spaces, so we plan ahead to ensure dust doesn’t get where it will cause serious problems.

For staff, we know that demolition, nail guns and electric screw drivers can be loud.  We remodeled our own office last winter and know the excitement we felt to see the progress and also having a completion date made most noises tolerable.  Additionally, some of the noisy parts were held off until after office hours, so it all worked out with little disruption.  And if you put out a friendly “Pardon Our Dust” sign, you’ll probably get customers excited to come back and see the changes – updates on Facebook are good means to reach out as well, with a steady flow of messages to share.

We’re happy to answer any of your remodeling, or even new build questions, any time! 800-WOLGAST.

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Tags: Design/Build, Professional General Contractor, the Wolgast Way, Good for Business

Use CM When Your Client List Is Full of Building Contractors

Posted by Cory Sursely on Mon, Mar 06, 2017 @ 09:56 AM
Uncommon (and Common) Reasons to Use Construction Management

What is CM Delivery?

Subs-1.jpgOne of our Construction Management (CM) clients recently stated that starting a large construction project is similar to drinking from a fire hose.  He has appreciated relying on us to help him through the process.  If you don’t know, CM is a construction delivery method where an owner hires both the Architect and Contractor on the team before the design process begins.  The Owner, the Architect, and the CM work together to identify the scope of the project, estimate the budget, and determine the schedule.  During the Design Phase, the Architect is responsible for creating the design based on the scope, and the CM estimates the budget needed for constructing it and coordinates the schedule.  During the Construction Phase, the CM finds the subcontractors and oversees construction through the Warranty Phase; the Architect offers checks and balances to ensure that their design is executed accurately and that schedules and budgets are met.  This method is typically suited for most large projects that either span more than a year, involve more than one building, or both.  It is also suitable for other types of projects in instances described below.

Benefits of Using CM

Common benefits of CM include the use of wide spread resources/contacts, vetted construction experience, and scheduling/coordination abilities.  A CM isn’t necessary to keep large projects on track, but having the support, construction knowledge, and established relationships with subcontractors helps a large project run smoothly and feel less like “drinking from a fire hose”.  There are also uncommon benefits of using CM services.  For business owners whose clientele includes members of the construction industry (i.e. churches, banks, auto dealers, membership organizations, etc.), they now face becoming the customer to several of their standing clients who may be expecting a returned “favor”.  A CM is able to break down work scopes to include more opportunities for subcontractors and in turn involve more of their clientele to keep them happy, or help the Owner narrow down a tough decision when needed.  Finally, the CM approach offers an “open book” relationship in which fees or costs associated with the project are known and directly shared with the owner, and the CM’s fee is fixed.

 

Wolgast’s CM Department was established in 1996 and we’re systemized to provide efficient services to focus on construction while you focus on your business.  We’ve been responsible for more than $2 Billion worth of in-place construction for a third of the school districts in the state.  We’ve also been the CM for hotels, manufacturing operations, colleges, medical facilities, financial institutions, entertainment establishments and municipal projects.  Contact Steve Salyers, VP Construction Management, to see if CM is the right fit for your upcoming project at 800-WOLGAST.  According to Steve, our CM team is “the Owner’s professional representative who maximizes the value of each dollar the Owner spends.”

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Also Read: How Economies of Scale Works in Construction and The Inside Scoop on the Construction Manager at Risk Delivery Method

Tags: Construction Management, Good for Business