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

Blogs that are Good for Business

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

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

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

Customer Service Request – Quick Service after Construction

Posted by Cory Sursely on Wed, Feb 28, 2018 @ 10:36 AM

smallprojects.jpgBusiness owners can have a difficult time finding a contractor to complete small projects within their buildings.  Switching out doors, replacing trim, or hanging coat racks are projects that most general contractors put on the back burner as they are busy handling larger projects.  We believe, a business owner would want to use the contractor who built their building, or the subcontractor who was originally involved on the project when a change or repair is needed because these workers already know the building inside and out.  Hence, we created our Customer Service Request System (CSR) for our clients more than a decade ago.

Again, most General Contractors will be focused on the large projects they have to complete and only filling in with the small stuff as time becomes available.  The smaller projects for a General Contractor have a tendency to be less of a priority and can even fall through the cracks at times.  We didn’t want it to be that way for our valued clients with whom we have established and respected relationships. 

Prior to our CSR system, it was hard to organize and manage the follow-up work that our customers needed, not because we didn’t want to do the work, but because there could be multiple players involved that lead to communication mishaps without a dedicated plan in place.  Our CSR system is a means for tracking the work, communicating progress with all key players, and keeping on top of the schedule.  Now our clients can easily contact us as they need any maintenance service or new projects for their building.

The process starts with a CSR form.  Whichever Wolgast Employee-Owner takes the order (usually your Project Manager), they’ll enter the pertinent information on the CSR form, which kicks off the team organization, scheduling, materials, equipment, and mobilization plan.  Once work is complete, you or your client representative signs the form and we have a record of our activity.  The program is reviewed a minimum of two times per month to ensure progress is taking place.  We also have a dedicated team to push progress on the jobs.

We find that the CSR is an excellent program for our clients to get their small projects completed and also for us to keep in touch, maintain the buildings we built, and continue the customer service that our clients deserve.  Customers love it and we go all-out to make our customers happy!

Inquire Here

Tags: Professional General Contractor

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.

Inquire Here

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

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.

Inquire Here

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

How Self-Performed Trades Keep Construction Schedules on Track

Posted by Cory Sursely on Tue, Mar 28, 2017 @ 09:59 AM

cement-pour.jpgIn order to maintain a stellar reputation as a professional contractor, speed, quick problem solving and meeting deadlines are critical.  The biggest complaint and almost a disappointing anticipation in our industry is that a job will take longer than estimated.  We strive to disprove that assumption on each and every project.  Here’s one way that we do that.

After 65+ years in the business, we understand that our projects run smoother and more efficiently when we rely on setting the schedules and completing the work ourselves for three specific trades.  Having our own work crews to self-perform site work, concrete and carpentry is the best way to keep projects on track and with the quality that meets the standard of excellence we uphold.  Some general contractors don’t have their own self-performed trades and they’re reliant on outsourced contractors’ availability to provide all services.  In the summer and fall, when contractors’ schedules are typically full, subcontractors can be too busy to start site work, so the general contractor is dependent upon when the crew is available and the priority of their workload, which is also true for concrete and carpentry.  With these trades in-house, we know our schedule and what we have in our pipeline, which allows us to manage workloads and progress better for our customers.  Additionally, all our crews are trained “the Wolgast Way” and consistently perform to our standards in a timely manner, saving time and producing a quality product. 

When using Design/Build construction, site work can start before plans are even complete.  Having a site crew on staff helps us control the start of the project and gives us an advantage (sometimes by several months) over general contractors who have to be queued into a subcontractor’s lineup (out of their control).  A concrete crew is also critical to keeping a job moving.  Pouring slabs as soon as the site work is complete and having our crews scheduled in advance keeps us moving without costly stoppage.  Similarly, we self-perform carpentry (rough, finish and millwork).  Getting the framing erected on schedule and providing a reliable schedule for outsourced electricians, plumbers, HVAC, drywallers, then painters and flooring installers, etc. to get in and do their jobs when anticipated supports the rest of the trades to follow.  These are the essential trades to keeping a job on track and the reason why we shoulder the expense of having them on our team.  It’s more responsibility and risk to employ additional staff members when we could outsource the work, but the benefit of satisfied clients and expected outcomes outweighs costly delays and missed deadlines.

Currently, we’re expanding our carpentry team through our Carpenter Apprenticeship Program.  It’s a four year program with a curriculum developed by the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER).  Through this program, we’re building a robust team of carpenters for the long-haul, which we expect to support us right through the current labor shortage.  Accordingly, we have our clients’ interest and needs first and we’re persistently planning on how to best accommodate their scheduling, quality, and economic needs when it comes to building their commercial or industrial building.

Tags: Design/Build, Professional General Contractor, Scheduling

How Employee-Owned (ESOP) Companies Deliver More Efficient and Reliable Results

Posted by Cory Sursely on Wed, Jan 18, 2017 @ 09:10 AM

Employee-Owners.jpg

Companies that offer an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) for their staff members provide an opportunity for their workforce to have a vested interest in their success.  By virtue this creates a long-term incentive for employees to stay with the company and an eagerness to make the company even more successful.

According to the National Center for Employee Ownership (NCEO) article, “Research on Employee Ownership, Corporate Performance and Employee Compensation” there are typically lower turnover rates at ESOP companies, therefore, an ESOP employer is more likely to keep the best employees on their roster.  For clients, this means that they will benefit from experienced, skilled employee-owners working on their project.  Long-term staff members should have a deeper understanding of what the company stands for and will pass along traditions and higher standards of quality as newer staff members join the organization.  Relationships and repeat business become a goal for every staff member on every level, not just the management or sales teams.

As an employee-owned company, all Wolgast employee-owners are entrusted to find ways to be more efficient in their work, suggest ways to perform better, be active with problem solving with the company or for clients, share employee-owner mentality, and lead by example.  Our folks do this to keep costs down for the company which enables us to be more competitive with our pricing and create a positive experience for our project owners.  Also, featured in the NCEO article, were results that showed ESOP companies have more longevity than their counterparts which shows that customer service and satisfaction mixed with a well-managed business results in long-term success of this type of organization. 

If you’re interested in a fair, competitive price by a skilled contractor that is focused on your satisfaction and that will be around for a long time, please contact us to build your commercial or industrial building.  We can also design it or if unfortunate mayhem strikes, we can restore it after the storm, flood, or fire.

Tags: Professional General Contractor, the Wolgast Way

Construction Broker Service Comes up Short in Professional Construction Services

Posted by Cory Sursely on Mon, Nov 28, 2016 @ 10:00 AM

worker-figuring-edt.jpgAs construction broker companies continue to pop up, they’re coming up short compared to a Design/ Build – General Construction (DB-GC) Firm in many important areas for project success.  DB-GCs provide much more control over the schedule and the budget on your project versus a construction services broker.

A DB-GC will typically have their own self-performed trades working on the project site.  Additionally, for us, a full-time, skilled, project supervisor will be onsite 100% of the time for the duration of a project.  Having these company representatives onsite helps set the pace of the work, keeps the jobsite and scheduling organized and as a result incites progress on the project which in turn controls the budget.  With a DB-GC, you’ll also be supported by administrative staff dedicated to keeping record of insurance, invoices, sworn statements, waivers, etc. which are easily tangled if not managed properly and in real time, causing issues with financing and liability.

Additionally, a brokerage company doesn’t have “skin in the game”.  They have very little committed, i.e. no office, no staff, no equipment, and typically no ties to the community.  It’s very easy for them to walk away if things don’t go well.  Some building owners may think that should result in lower fees because the broker doesn’t have the overhead, but they also don’t have much incentive to stick through complications or hold subs accountable to their contracts and warranty work if there’s an issue after the project is done.    

Across the industry, we’re facing a labor shortage.  A broker has to rely on finding an outside contractor for every single trade because they don’t self-perform any work nor have the staff to do so.  Going forward, this shortage could result in additional time to the schedule throughout the industry; however a DB-GC is able to self-perform several trades, so this will more likely help minimize the gaps the shortage could cause with the schedule.  For instance, a DB/GC can begin site work while the other skilled trades are scheduled in the meantime.  Additionally, as the project progresses, the DB-GC can start rough carpentry if other remaining subs are needed to be scheduled.  Again, this will result in better control over the budget and schedule. 

Finally, lower price is the possible competitive benefit a broker can offer, which can make them attractive in the beginning.  In other words, a broker needs to shop around to get the lowest priced services to be competitive in the market.  Therefore, to get to that price point, they may have to select lesser quality subcontractors, which means that the quality of the work may be poorer, the schedule delayed, and warranties difficult to honor within a timely manner.  Often times, brokers are not local to the area and are blindly seeking their outside contractors in a market about which they know very little.  They don’t have relationships or the knowledge of subcontractor work history, which is a risk a building owner faces for the future of their building quality and warranties.

The leverage that a broker has over a full team of outside contractors pales in comparison to a professional DB-GC to maintain quality, protect the building owner, and deliver a project on schedule.  Our industry is going to be facing difficult times until we’re able to beef up the training programs for skilled labor, but by having our own team of craftsmen and subcontractor relationships throughout Michigan and reaching further into the Great Lakes Region, we’re able to deliver the quality and reliable construction services for which we’ve come to be known.

Inquire Here

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

How Economies of Scale Works in Construction

Posted by Cory Sursely on Wed, Oct 05, 2016 @ 10:26 AM

EconOfScale.jpgRay is the owner of a large corporation with his operation spanning over two locations.  When he outgrew his initial office, he got a great deal on a warehouse that was easily adaptable to expand his business.  Now, after years of hard work and smart decisions, he’s outgrowing both locations and has decided that it will be more efficient for his operation to all be under one roof.  But speculating on the costs involved, Ray is wondering if this is the best decision for his company right now?  What Ray may not be considering is economies of scale.  With his building being bigger and the duration of the project longer, and the fixed fees the same, he can benefit from the efficiencies that his design/builder will experience, which will lower the square footage cost.

In the construction industry, same as manufacturing, retail, and many other industries, there are ways to maximize work for optimal efficiency and also there are fixed costs that remain the same on any size project, which result in economies of scale.  For your meat market, it’s giving a discount for 3 lbs. of burger purchased so that they can sell out of the fresh stuff before grinding more and wasting what they have already ground.  For construction, it is a mix of labor and fixed costs that can result in a cost reduction for a building owner.

Large construction projects typically benefit from economies of scale for several reasons.  One, a contractor can hire an electrical crew to be assigned on site all-day for an extended period of time.  The electrician owner can anticipate consistently paying their staff a full day’s pay.  On smaller projects, the same crew could possibly work six hours, but still get paid for eight.  It’s unlikely that the crew can be assigned to a different project for those remaining two hours and still be productive.  This is less efficient use of their time versus a full shift and result in increased cost per square foot.

Two, there are fixed fees within general conditions (i.e. costs associated with making construction possible, beyond materials, supplies, and labor used on the building) that can remain the same regardless of the square footage.  For example, dumpsters, storage trailers, building permits, temporary electricity, barricades and insurance are a few types of things included in this category.  A project that is a longer duration will result in these fixed fees being a smaller percentage of their project cost than a project with a lesser duration because you only need to secure a permit one time, project signage and a fence are the same price once they’ve been installed throughout the duration, and once the equipment is mobilized to the site, the fee is the same while on site.    When you consider that a franchisee may elect to build three stores on three street corners in the same city, but each being a different size, the economies of scale will vary for each.  The largest store will have a lesser percentage of fixed fees per square foot, whereas the medium and smallest stores will have a larger percentage.  Bringing in a water line is the same cost for each, the bathrooms will likely be the same floorplan, but the percentage of the cost will be more in the smaller store than the largest store.

Third, going back to Ray and his building, he elected to use a pre-engineered metal building which was suitable for his operation.  He had to decide on using a 16 foot tall warehouse or a 20 foot tall warehouse.  He quickly realized that the fixed costs don’t change, so it would be mostly the material costs that would add to the final price of the building.  He chose the 20 foot tall warehouse to provide more storage and ultimately more room for his company to grow.

There are many factors that are in effect when estimating the cost of a building.  Regardless of the size, we have your best interest at heart and work to achieve the best value we can provide.  Please contact us when you’re ready to take the next step in expanding your business.  We can professionally design, accurately estimate, and expertly build your building quickly!  The Wolgast Way!

Inquire Here

Tags: Professional General Contractor, Financing Construction, Good for Business