Renovation Projects: The Risks and Controls

Renovation Projects: The Risks and Controls


Often times we work with clients to make something old, something new. This involves turning a former factory lobby into a café or what was once an office or boutique, into a pizza restaurant. Either way, there are risks and ways to mitigate them by being diligent, forthcoming, and taking an approach some may not be aware of. That said, let’s address three important concepts to your potential reno project.

Unknowns & Assessment of Risks


Understand your budget and appetite for risks and unforeseen conditions. If you have as-builts of the existing space, find them, and update with any new information especially concerning HVAC, Electrical, and plumbing systems. Have you added a fixture and plumbing that is now concealed? Has a subpanel been added with service overhead or underground? Where is it and how deep? Discovering these issues in the midst of a renovation at a minimum causes disruption to the progress, but may also cause redesign and project stalls that are waiting on these kinds of answers. Finding these issues with a saw or an excavator pulling something out of the ground causes disruptions to existing services, and can be hazardous to the trade professionals performing the work.

Invest in Investigation


With any renovation, the pricing and schedule can only be as accurate as the information the contractor has of the existing structure, conditions, and goals of the client. Often clients want to minimize the “upfront” costs of a renovation including investigations into the structure and utilities. On renovation projects, the dollars being spent do not go directly into the finished product, but if maintaining functional use of a structure, strict deadlines, or budgets are important, then the costs for investigation and testing may pay off in the end. The upfront costs mitigate the risk during construction.

Delivery Method Matters


Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) and Design-Build method of contracting work well with renovations. With CMAR or Design-Build, the involvement of the contractor early in the process means that budgeting is happening from day one and is refined through the process. As design progresses, questions get answered, and thoughts are transformed to paper as the risk of unknowns reduces and finalizes into a reliable budget. The alternative to these two methods, and often pricier Design-Bid-Build method, leaves a client learning the price after they are excited to start to sometimes find out there is a budget issue once pricing is received.

- Alley Linder, J. Davis GC Division Leader
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