Commercial remodeling projects are a great way to improve upon an existing space, and the best part of this approach is that it offers a great deal of freedom—you can do as little or as much as you like! There is a great deal of diversity in commercial remodeling projects, due to the fact that each space is different, as well as the goals for each project.
Most remodeling projects involve some level of construction work, which requires the expertise, skills and leadership of a general contractor. A general contractor is responsible for the day-to-day oversight of a construction site, management of vendors and trades, and communication of information to involved parties throughout the course of a building project—basically the overall management of the entire project. The importance of working with someone who you trust and who also has verifiable experience and good references, and someone with whom you can communicate effectively, is truly paramount.
Wes Oestreich with Cheever Construction explains, “As a commercial general contractor, Cheever Construction provides complete coordination of obtaining competitive bids from all trade sub-contractors, administering contracts, and supervising all phases of construction. With our skilled employees, Cheever self-performs installation of concrete foundations, rough carpentry and finish carpentry installation of doors, hardware, cabinets, toilet partitions and many specialty items. As a full-service contractor, we construct new buildings and also are involved in many levels of commercial renovation; from limited to extensive projects in a variety of settings, and in both occupied and vacant buildings. Cheever Construction has a proven track record of successfully constructing and renovating many types of projects: schools, churches, office buildings, medical facilities, manufacturing, and senior living. We routinely complete small remodels all the way up to large multi-million projects, all with a goal of exceptional client service. Specifically, we excel at renovating occupied facilities.
Based upon our experience with commercial remodeling, the one constant is that for most every business or organization, whether it is a church, a school, a business, or a medical clinic, etc., there is never a ‘good time’ to remodel and upgrade your facility. There will be inconvenience and YES, some dust. We understand the challenges and do everything possible to educate and coordinate throughout the process. We can install temporary barriers and air filtration systems to control the work area impact on occupied surroundings. Coordination meetings are conducted to assure expectations and responsibilities are well understood and addressed.”
He adds, “Numerous renovation upgrades of local business and medical offices have been happening recently in Lincoln. Every few years, business owners need to ask themselves ‘is it time to freshen up our look?’
Recently, the cost of LED lighting upgrades has been coming down, making the upfront expense more manageable. Significant savings in energy costs help to bring ‘pay-back’ to that initial investment. It is a good idea to check with Lincoln Electric System for information and access to assistance programs that they have in place to reduce power consumption. Also, asking for references is always a must. This allows you to review past examples of successful work, and the opportunity to talk with those individuals about their satisfaction and experience. Owners might also consider speaking with their business peers about who may have performed past work for them or which Architects they are working with. As a general rule, not all commercial contractors have experience in every project type.
I encourage anyone who is considering a commercial renovation project to support your local builders. Lincoln has many excellent and capable commercial contractors who also utilize local trade craftsmen and suppliers. This all helps to strengthen our local economy and make Lincoln a quality community to live and raise families.”
Remodeling a commercial space can have a number of benefits for both the owner and to those who work in the building or visit regularly. A successful commercial remodeling project should make the location look more attractive to current or potential clients while improving the efficiency or accommodating employee use. You’d be surprised at what a difference a few improvements or updates make and you might not be aware of all of the resources that are available to you for this type of project.
Scott Elley of Lund-Ross Constructors says, “One of the things we specialize in is commercial renovations; especially historical renovations. We frequently work with property management companies, such as NAI FMA Realty in Lincoln or CBRE in Omaha, and their tenants for this type of project. For example, if someone is leasing office space inside of Wells Fargo, the property management company will provide them with a set budget to remodel annually. Therefore if you are leasing the site, it is very important to know if there are funds available to you as a part of your contract, and if so, exactly what the budget or allowance is for updates and how often the funds will be provided to you. Many times, a huge benefit in leasing is that a certain amount is allotted from the property firm specifically for remodeling. Looking into this and being aware of the resources that are available to you will have a huge impact on the scope of your remodeling project.
If you are the owner of the space and you are planning to remodel, you will likely work with an architect who will do the initial drawings, and then a general contractor such as Lund Ross will work closely with the architect to provide a seamless process for the client.
In either scenario, it is beneficial to work with a general contractor who is very experienced and focused, who can effectively maintain communication between several parties, and someone who is client-focused and interested in building a solid, lasting relationship. Commercial renovations are much more similar to residential projects as opposed to constructing a Walmart in the middle of nowhere, so interfacing with clients in this type of project is crucial.
It is also important to be aware of your current, existing space. Depending on how in depth the remodel will be, you may run into electrical or plumbing issues. For example, if you are removing floor coverings, you may run into asbestos or rotting floorboards. Unfortunately, there are a host of hidden issues that are often uncovered in the walls or under the flooring during the remodeling process. A general contractor also works closely with trade professionals who can handle these unforeseen issues promptly without worry of damage or negligence. Moreover, how will you use the space? It is beneficial to have an idea in mind of what your goal is, how best to meet that goal, what you need, and how you want it to function. Repurposing space or individual rooms is common also.
To freshen things up a bit, an easy and cost effective approach that is currently very popular is to change the floor and wall coverings or window coverings/treatments. Incorporating open spaces with brighter colors and designing the space with natural transitions as opposed to dividing the space with walls are also relevant trends, in moving away from industrial features and more towards personalized commercial spaces.”
A commercial remodel also presents the perfect opportunity to upgrade your HVAC control system, and the professionals at Integrated Controls work with the other contractors on site in order to ensure a seamless changeover to your new system. Hannah Ahlstedt of Integrated Controls advises, “Buildings account for 40% of the world’s energy use, and that’s not something you want to overlook when renovating your building. There are varying levels to choose from when upgrading your building automation system. Sometimes it is as simple as updating your front-end, other times it may be necessary to replace individual controllers and units themselves. This is also a great time to go through a commissioning process and verify that the physical units and the existing control sequences are working together the way they should to optimize your building. We highly recommend contacting us if you are planning a remodel, as we will work with you to determine exactly what type of upgrade your equipment may or may not need. For example, if you have an older control system, there have been major changes in the building automation world since it was installed. From higher security standards to more advanced products and greater ease of operating your system, the technology is always changing. A control system needs to be monitored and maintained in order for it to save you money and energy the way it should. Mobile graphics, trending, scheduling, and alarming help to make it easier than ever to keep an eye on your building from your mobile device.”
Commercial remodeling can encompass exterior features, interior features, or both—it just depends on your needs and what you are trying to achieve with your project. McGill Restoration specializes in restoration projects of all types, and regarding commercial renovation projects, their most popular services center around repair and restoration of various exterior aspects. This includes exterior cladding or veneer systems, such as brick, stone, stucco, protective coatings, etc. and parking structures. Darin Cielocha, Vice President of McGill Restoration, explains, “Commercial remodeling in Eastern Nebraska is still trending very highly in the area of sustainability. There is a lot of focus within our culture on the need for companies to be conscious of the fact that being sustainable is something that everyone needs to try be a part of. Taking something that is ‘vintage’ and cleaning it up and making it functional is perceived as being very environmental friendly. So, there is no greater act of sustainability in construction than renovating and/or restoring an existing structure of a building! It really does keep us from filling up our landfills. Furthermore, renovating older warehouse facilities into new office spaces or condos/apartments in downtown urban parts of Lincoln and Omaha is currently quite popular. This type of work continues to thrive and new projects seem to spring forth ever year.”
Cielocha advises, “One way to ensure the success of your project is to make sure that you put a very experienced team together. There are contractors, like us, that work closely with many architects and engineers to make sure that the buildings are restored correctly and safely. Most of the projects that we have worked on to successfully capture the owner’s vision and desired use of the structure have involved a great team of people with years of combined experience in restoration. Our scope of the project usually involves the negotiated work, which allows us to take our lead directly from the owner and their consulting team of design professionals. Since you do not know always what you are going to uncover and/or encounter on a restoration project. There are sometimes unseen costs or changes that will often occur in this type of construction work, and it’s important that the owner is made fully aware of changes in order to keep a project on budget.
In addition to renovation possibilities, there are general maintenance items that need to be addressed either yearly or at least once every 3-5 years on commercial building and structures. Those areas include all joint sealants on the exterior of the building and horizontal concrete. All areas that are painted or coated need to be looked at also every 5 – 7 years. These areas of the buildings are critical areas that if ignored can accelerate the deterioration of any structure, so every year, put a little money aside to have troubled areas maintained. A simple lesson, it can cost you a little money every year or two or a lot of money down the road when something seriously can go wrong!”
Window tinting is another excellent update to consider during a commercial remodel, as it has significant benefits for both the interior and exterior aspects of your building. Keith May, owner of The Tint Shop, says, “More often than not, a company that is remodeling their building does not even know they have a need for any kind of window film until after the project is completed. For example, if they add new windows they may not realize that they are going to have a bigger heat or glare issue until the windows are in. Another situation that sometimes arises with remodeling is privacy, or obscuring areas that need to be hidden from sight or covered up (utility rooms, conference rooms, private offices, mechanical rooms, etc.). Currently, glass is a hugely growing trend in commercial remodeling. Not just exterior glass, but glass inside the building, such as glass partitions, glass cubicles, glass offices and conference rooms. Glass is being used more and more inside buildings to give them a more ‘open’ and spacious appearance. The problem then becomes one of a few issues. Either there’s no privacy, or there are cluttered desks and cords visible everywhere, or employees feel like they are ‘on display.’ The Tint Shop has a very vast array of frost, decorative patterned and opaque films that can solve all of these problems.
Another trend in commercial remodeling is adding more, or bigger, windows. Even though today’s windows are very energy efficient, a company may still experience heat and glare issues that they never had before. Furthermore, a standard window can only do so much for heat, and unless the glass has some kind of darkness, it will do nothing for glare (the annoying light that causes you to squint, or makes computer screens difficult to read and also causes headaches). 3M and The Tint Shop have many films that can cut heat by over 80% in some cases and will knock out over 85% of glare coming through those windows. In most cases, the entire window film purchase will pay for itself in 3-5 years depending on film, building characteristics, and initial investment.
Sometimes blinds and drapes or shades are added in on remodel projects, which is a good investment if privacy is a major concern. But unless they are solar type shades (which are very pricey) they will not help much with heat. In fact the only advantage shades and blinds have over window film is nighttime privacy and a decorative appeal. However, blinds or shades coupled with 3M Window Film is a very wise move. Not only will the window film stop the heat before it enters the building, it will block 99% of damaging UV rays that would normally be deteriorating the blinds or shades. Then at night, the blinds provide the needed privacy from outside.
Companies and building owners should never limit or change their desired look of their spaces because of solar control or privacy/obscuring worries. There is a window film at The Tint Shop for every situation and need. We can even add a little art decor to your building with 3M’s Fasara line of custom decorative films.”
Security is another important area that many businesses could benefit from improving or updating at any time, but there is no better time to do so than during a remodel in order to remain cohesive with the other changes in your facility. AlarmLink provides a variety of security systems that incorporate cutting-edge technology and numerous customizable features. Cloud-based camera systems and wireless IP cameras reduce the amount of hardware and cost of this equipment while providing reliable surveillance and can be easily accessed by the business owner or other authorized personnel. By controlling your facility, you are also protecting the assets inside such as products, equipment and databases that include private company, account or client information. You can monitor this information remotely, whether you are at home or across the country, through your smartphone, PC, laptop or tablet. R.J. Lipert, owner of AlarmLink, adds that several popular features among businesses are cameras that have a spotlight or play a recorded alert message once activated, which not only captures an image but makes the intruder aware of this as well, deterring them from any further criminal activities during the time it takes for response. Additionally, cameras can be placed in many elusive spots, such as inside light fixtures or can be wired into hidden areas that may be blocked or need special attention. AlarmLink is locally owned and operated, providing technical support by phone or in person 24 hours a day year round.
As previously mentioned, if you are doing any major renovations it is important to make sure that it won’t have an impact of the existing systems and utilities, such as electric, natural gas or plumbing.
Jon Eicher, Project Manager for ABC Electric, say, “ABC Electric plays many roles in the construction and/or renovation process. We are typically a subcontractor to the general contractor performing the overall scope of work for the job. In this role, we like to have input, and can contribute greatly to the overall planning in an advisor/consultant capacity, during the design stage of a project. Our other primary roles include producing cost estimates, procurement of building materials in a timely fashion, providing the labor workforce and project management teams, scheduling and cost accounting of our portion of the work. We can perform all facets of the electrical construction process including low voltage and data wiring, fiber optic cabling, control wiring, power and lighting requirements, underground and overhead high voltage installations and termination, parking lot and site lighting, traffic signal wiring and street lighting. We pride ourselves in our customer service and responsiveness to the owner’s needs.
Our wish is to be involved as early as possible to help in the building design and accurate cost estimates for the electrical portion of the project. This also helps in making sure the specific electrical requirements of the owner are being filled with the most economical options available. There are numerous energy saving lighting options, including LED lighting and occupancy sensors, which are changing weekly. LED lighting is definitely an option to consider.”
He adds, “While very important, cost is not always the best method of determining which contractor or subcontractor to partner with. What may seem like a great deal or a low price up front may actually turn out to be a costly long term decision. At ABC Electric, we believe that our experience and attention to the details will ultimately give the owner more ‘bang for their buck’ over the long term. We want to be judged by our finished product and the quality of our workforce and management team. I always recommend working with a ‘known entity’– someone who has the long term experience and a proven track record. ABC Electric is a family owned local business with more than 80 years of continuous service to the community, spanning four generations. We are qualified to perform any and all electrical service you may require and we are responsive and conscientious. Furthermore, we are the first ever winner of the Better Business Bureau Integrity Award, an honor we are very proud to have achieved. Most importantly, our success is, and has always been, measured by that of our customers.”
Your building’s systems may need to be addressed during a commercial remodel, whether to improve them as the main goal or as a result of other factors related to the endeavor.
Pat Killeen of Engineered Controls advises, “All commercial buildings have some form of Control System currently in use. A control system may consist of a simple thermostat controlling a roof top unit or fan coil unit to a very large centralized building automation system with a dedicated network of sophisticated microprocessor controllers hosting a variety of inputs and outputs in order to control a centralized heating and cooling plant. The more important questions to consider are: 1) What level of technology does the building owner desire in their facility, 2) What is the building owner’s budget, 3) How important is energy conservation or “green” technology to the building owner and finally 4) Will the building owner be capable of operating a highly complex Control System.
Building Control Systems have changed dramatically over the past 20 years. In the 80’s, pneumatic controls systems which utilized compressed air systems to position (open or close) valves and actuators that controlled hot or chilled water and air movement in most all commercial buildings. But today with the advent of micro-electronics, highly complex digital control systems are used widely in the construction and retrofit industry. Today it is very common for small- to medium-sized buildings to utilize the same Building Control System technology that was only reserved for the larger building in the past.
Additionally, there are several trends that are beginning to surface in the control industry. We live in an era of where todays buildings of any size and shape can become intelligent buildings. With open protocol technology, they can connect multiple subsystems together, on one network, rather than operating them all independently – maximizing energy efficiency, lowering maintenance costs and providing centralized building control.
So several of these important developments are:
1. First, the digital control systems of today need to utilize some form of open protocol language to communicate data to all the devices in the control system network. Common open protocols we use today are BACnet, LonWorks and Modbus.
2. Secondly, it will be very important that the control system is capable of integrating multiple control systems to a common network. This is referred to as network integration, or it is also sometimes referred to as a control systems level of system interoperability. Either way it describes how intelligent building networks can be connected together (remember BACnet, the open system protocol comments earlier). The goal of this technology is to monitor and control all aspects of a building’s heating and cooling system and beyond.
3. Finally, the Building Control system must be capable of providing centralized control of other building subsystems beyond the traditional HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning). Centralized and integrated lighting control systems, indoor air quality (CO and CO2), security, card access, video surveillance systems, revenue based (and non-revenue) parking access systems, utility metering and finally water management control.
These are just a few examples of how a building’s Control System can be integrated together into one centralized Building Automation System. For those who will be considering a commercial remodel in the future, I highly recommend looking into updating their control system at the same time.”
Bruce E. Petersen, Vice President of Finance at Electronic Contracting Company (ECC), also speaks to the value of updating your building’s systems–especially its technology. He says, “We have seen an explosion of technology uptake in commercial spaces that includes projectors, smart boards, flat screen TVs, video conferencing, and distance learning. Another area we have seen a lot of activity is in IP camera systems and video logistics. Advances in video processing power have made it possible to analyze video in real time and have the system act upon it. Video analytics can now alert you via email, text, or other means if a certain condition occurs within a camera frame, and you can even choose what that condition might be. For example, you could be notified if something appears in an area of the frame like a package or if something goes missing from a frame like merchandise, equipment, etc. Furthermore, you can be notified of items that enter or leave the frame of a certain color, size or even in a specific direction of movement. Digital storage and transmission have set the stage for higher resolution cameras as well. A few years ago, megapixel CCTV cameras didn’t even exist. Today multi-megapixel cameras have increased the ability to capture high definition images that can help with identification of individuals and vehicles if necessary.
The reason for this is that bandwidth and processing power are becoming more available at a reasonable cost, and can enhance the ability of the systems to provide a smooth seamless high definition experience for users that just wasn’t cost effective only a few years ago. As processing power grows, the ability of the compression/decompression hardware and software grows. This allows for more feature rich content both locally and over wide area network connections.
ECC can assist a commercial customer with renovations by providing them with options to update existing systems or add entirely new systems to their facility. Many times the cycles for a building renovation can be decades long and customers may find that a renovation brings opportunities to embrace new technologies. Examples might include sound masking for open office areas, addressable fire alarm systems for faster and more accurate responses to a fire hazard, or IP Camera systems with Digital Video Recorders that can allow an owner to view their building after hours through a smartphone or computer. Crestron touch screen controls for Board/Meeting/Classroom room Audio/Visual systems are another way to incorporate new technologies during a renovation. Touchscreens can be programmed to set up an entire room for a presentation with a single button. Functions may include turning on a projector, lowering a screen, dimming the lights, closing the drapes, and selecting an input all with a single button push. The touch screens make the technology easy to use and manufacturer agnostic. I’m sure you are familiar with a basket of remotes typical for a theater system with a separate remote for the TV, surround sound, DVD player, cable box, etc. These remotes can all be replaced with a portable touchscreen or iPad that can operate every piece of equipment and do multiple things with a single button push.”
Petersen adds, “My advice is to do your homework and consider the lifetime cost of the systems you are looking at. It’s just as important to consider the service rates of the contractor you select as it is the initial purchase price of the system. Also consider if your systems provider has been in the market and knows their trade. Ask for references, take a look at the installations the company has done, and also look at the company’s financial stability. A local radio business ad summed it up well when they said ‘The bitterness of poor quality lasts long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.’
We use the technology solutions every day that we offer to our customers. Our entire 25,000 sq. foot building is a showcase for systems that a commercial customer might use. Our facility located at 6501 N. 70th Street is one of the best sales tools we have. Customers can come in and see, touch, and use the technology and experience firsthand how technology can help their business. You can also explore technology solutions we offer on our website at www.eccoinc.com.”
During any renovation project, there will be waste that needs to be removed and disposed of. Roll off containers are a very efficient way to get this job done smoothly. Scott Niederhaus, owner of Niederhaus Refuse, says, “Providing waste removal services for commercial remodeling projects of any size and scope is right up our alley—we can supply containers ranging from 2 yards up to 40 yard roll off containers, which are very practical for large items. So if you’re tearing down some walls, tearing up concrete, re-roofing, tearing down a deck or maybe cutting down some trees, our 20yd to 40yd roll offs are ideal. So if you have the space for a roll off, be sure to keep us in mind. However, if your space is limited we can also provide you with something a little smaller. Our 2 or 3yd containers are very popular, and even better, some are on wheels so you can easily move them around.”
It also is advantageous to enlist the services of a commercial cleaning company during a commercial remodel, in order to keep your business or office presentable and so that you don’t have to take the time to deal with the mess yourself. ServiceMaster Professional Building Maintenance offers post construction/remodel clean-up as well as cleaning services during the process. Jon Paolini of ServiceMaster PBM says, “If you will be using part of the office while another area is being remodeled, keeping the areas you’re using clean is very important. This is something that should be discussed as early as the bid process, as clean-up may or may not be included in the total cost of the project depending on who you choose to work with. If you know ahead of time that you will be responsible for the resulting clean-up, this gives you plenty of time to look into the options that are available. On a large remodel, it is very common to keep some areas open while others are under construction, and these transitions make intermittent cleaning throughout the entire project that much more important. It is also a good idea to have the carpet cleaned after a remodel (if it wasn’t replaced), as the amount of soil embedded in the carpet—even after thorough vacuuming—would surprise most people.”
You will likely experience a time of transition during your commercial remodeling project where things are getting moved around like crazy. During this time it may be a good idea to utilize a storage facility so that your important and expensive items and safe from damage or theft and in one place where they can be easily located, but off-site where they aren’t in the way. Tom Friedman of Strong Box Storage says, “We have many different sizes of units, and each employee or individual who needs access to the unit is provided with a separate access code in order to track exactly who was in and out and at what times. We are a secured facility and can set up a unit for a customer onsite without any prior notification, or we can schedule a unit to be available for future dates. As far as payment, we are very flexible. We take all forms of payment–cash, check, and personal or company cards–and you can pay at our facility or online. You can also set up payment for a lump sum or payments on a monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis. Another one of our features that offers flexibility and is popular among our commercial clients is 24/7 access. Our facility offers lighted and paved roadways to make it easy and safe to get around, and if there are any problems we have staff on site six days a week. You can access your unit at whatever time is most convenient for you with no hassle, and we also have U-Haul trucks for rent if you need to move items to and from our facility and you don’t have access to an appropriate vehicle.”
When it comes to businesses and commercial space, every inch matters and if it doesn’t have a purpose, you can create one with a little agency. What also matters is the impression you are making on those who pass by, work in, or visit your establishment. There are many improvements and updates that are easy to make, and will dramatically affect the look and feel of your commercial space. Many updates also allow for increased efficiency, either in your building itself or of your operations.