Business owners often have a difficult time finding a place to call home for their companies. Sometimes they can’t find the right fit from the start or they think they’ve found the right place, then they grow or their needs change and it is no longer ideal. That’s why many owners make the decision to build their own office to perfectly suit their needs. This can be a very smart decision that ends up serving the company very well in the long run, but the right professionals must be chosen to complete the project properly and ensure the end project is just what the business needs.
Some owners may be wondering if anyone is really building right now due to the recent economic downturn. Jean Petsch, Exective Director of the Nebraska Building Chapter of Associated General Contractors (AGC), shed some light on the state of commercial construction in the area. Jean discussed that the state of the economy has hurt the commercial construction industry, but that things are looking up in 2011. She said, “I think we’ve been at the bottom and now we’re starting to go back up.” Jean added, “We’re weathering the economic storm better than other places. The industry in this state is made up of long-standing firms with good management and secure financial situations. The outlook for the second, third and fourth quarter of 2011 sounds very positive.”
Wes Oestreich of Cheever Construction adds, “In general, commercial construction in the Lincoln area has remained pretty solid. There have been steady opportunities for new projects; however, there has been more competition for those few jobs than in the past. Lincoln has seen more contractors from the Omaha area enter the Lincoln bid and negotiated market, which has increased the number of competitors.”
“We suggest the current construction scenario makes today one of the best buyer’s markets in history,” explains Scott Sandquist of Sandquist Construction. “Low construction costs, reduced real estate costs and historically low interest rates to combine to create this atmosphere. These costs often move more inversely with each other, which makes right now an optimum time to take advantage!”
If you decide that now indeed is the time to build, there are a number of things you need to consider before you get started. Proper planning is the key to a low-stress project that delivers the results you want. Here are some things to consider.
Choosing a Contractor
Your choice of general contractor will have an extremely large impact on the overall success of your project. “There are at least two major issues that simply cannot be ignored in successfully selecting and hiring a general contractor,” says Scott Sandquist of Sandquist Construction. “First is the contractor’s actual construction experience. How long have they been in the business and how much expertise do they have with your specific project type? The second is honesty, integrity and reputation. Always ask for references and investigate their past projects. What is the contractor’s reputation with past clients? What is their record? Were they successful? Can you mesh?”
Wes of Cheever Construction echoes Scott’s sentiments with, “Past experience in like projects and a solid financial company history is key. Many can call themselves ‘commercial contractors’, but potential clients should do their research. What types and sizes of projects has the contractor completed? Do they have the financial capability to provide performance surety bonds? What opinions do local architects and banks have of them?”
Scott Sandquist warns of the danger in selecting a contractor based solely upon apparent costs. “Cost comparisons are entirely meaningless is every bidder is not pricing the same work,” he says. “And if each contractor is pricing exactly the same work, always remember, no one else was willing to perform the work as cheaply as the low bidder, hence the low-bid horror stories! Reputation is critical. We suggest selecting a contractor based upon their reputation and qualifications. Get your contractor on board as early as possible and they can team with the designer to insure that the project is designed as cost effectively as possible.”
Randy Harre of Schwisow Construction adds, “You can visit with past clients, read newsletters, check their websites and call the Associated Builders and Contractors, but I think the most important thing is to have a face-to-face with the builder and take a gut check.”
Once you have made the general contractor decision and plans have been made for the size, scope and layout of your new building, you can begin thinking of other areas you want to concentrate on to make your new office visually appealing, safe and energy efficient.
Scott Elley of Floors Inc. says, “It’s important to remember that floor covering is the 5th wall and a person’s eye will naturally be drawn to the floor since it is the largest uninterrupted block of color and space. You also need to realize that the business space and its environment is a direct reflection of your business as a whole. The impression your space makes will impact employees and customers alike and will influence how they view your company. When it comes to flooring, the objective things to think about include traffic, wear patterns, durability, ease of maintenance and the ease on installation.”
The best way to ensure you are choosing the best flooring for your business’s needs is to work with a reputable flooring company. “In this type of project, commercial flooring installation should be a company’s specialty,” states Scott. “Familiarity with installation methods is essential. Our expertise includes commercial carpets, tile, vinyl, rubber flooring, polished concrete and more. We offer top commercial grade flooring products from the nation’s leading manufacturers and can give you a reliable estimate and timeframe in line with your project budget. We also use the latest technology and installation techniques for the installation and maintaining of carpet and hard surface flooring.”
Decorative concrete plays a big part of the commercial construction from the flooring to the countertops and furniture. According to Tyler Buckbee of Buckbee Decorative Concrete, “All of these are great cost efficient ways to incorporate decorative concrete into the office. Stained floors are low maintenance and the concrete is already on the floor just waiting to be enhanced. Incorporating logos into the stain at the entry way is also a popular but unique way to get your customers’ attention. Receptionist desks and the lobby are great places to have concrete counters and furniture. Looks from rustic stain to your favorite wine bottles crushed and ground into the counter are available. This creates great conversation pieces! Turn the old gray into a gleaming center piece of the room.”
There are a number of options for windows in your new office that can make it a more pleasant, energy efficient for you, your employees and your clients. One example window tinting and frosting. According to Keith May of The Tint Shop, “Window tinting can not only eliminate harmful UV rays, visible light, heat, and glare from the exterior windows of the building, but decorative frost films can give you privacy where you want privacy.”
Frost films can also be used on interior glass as well. “Many offices these days have a lot of interior glass, which can often result in a cluttered look,” explains Keith. “Frost films can break up all that clear glass with a nice etched glass look and can also hide clutter in offices while at the same time brightening up a whole room by reflecting light off the “white” finish of the film, insuring you do not lose any natural light.”
“As a Commercial General Contractor we have a fairly extensive list of subcontractors that perform specific divisions of work, i.e. drywall, concrete, carpeting, electrical, plumbing, etc.,” says Wes Oestreich of Cheever Construction. “When we bid projects for an owner (whether for a negotiated project or a hard-bid competitive project) we solicit bid prices from as many of these various subs as we can to insure we have a good cross-section of bids for each division of work. We are sure to invite those subs who we know specifically have the ability, personnel and past history of the particular type of project we are bidding. [Example: we look for commercial electricians on a school project or medical center; so we might exclude an electrician who has mostly worked on residential projects. A small staff electrician might work well for a tenant remodel but not a large scale office building, etc.]”
Chad Aldrich of TCW Construction states, “TCW Construction chooses their subcontractors selectively. There are several areas we look into when doing so. One is that the subcontractor has the complete scope for their phase of the project. The other is if the subcontractor has the ability and resources to perform their scope of work and meet the general contractor’s schedule for the project. We also prefer to build relationships with our subcontractors just like owners do with general contractors. This helps us ensure that we will get the quality of work we need to make the project a success for our client and build repeat business with our clients and create a positive reference data base with them.”
“Sometimes, a specific owner may have a strong history with a flooring contractor or electrician who has done all their work for the past years,” says Oestreich. “That owner may request that we ONLY get bids from their select sub OR may just want to make sure the select sub gets an equal chance at their new project. Regardless of how subs are recruited for bidding, it is very important for general contractors AND owners that the subcontractors they award a contract to are reputable, have a good credit history with supply houses and have a list references that can be checked. In the recent and current economy, many a general contractor and/or owner have been ‘stung’ by a sub who is behind on payments to his suppliers and begins to float his payments from a current job to cover old expenses from a previous job. When that ‘deck of cards’ comes falling down, owners/general contractors get caught in the middle and mechanics liens get filed against property, etc.
Competitive bidding among quality reputable subs assures the owner of fair pricing for the work required and assures banking loan partners that proper diligence is being practiced. It keeps are economy moving on a supply/demand basis and everyone shares in a successful project. When unscrupulous contractors (subs or GC’s) promote bid gouging and are unable to perform professionally, owners get hurt and the industry gains another ‘black-eye’.”
Facility Management Systems Experts
Facility Management Systems are extremely helpful for business owners as they control security systems as well as heating and cooling elements without you having to be on the premises. When it comes to selecting a Facility Management Systems, Engineered Controls is fully prepared to assist in the development of building controls and security performance criteria. Engineered Controls maintains a sales staff that can assist with the preparation of specification, sequence writing, equipment selection and procurement. ECI sales engineers can work with your design team to create an integrated control system to meet your building automation and budget needs.
Pat Killeen of Engineered Controls says, “Furthermore, our team of LEED AP accredited professionals has experience in LEED gold and platinum projects and can work with building owners to meet the certification requirement they desire. Engineered Controls can also help you leverage your new or existing investment in building systems by integrating HVAC, electrical and security equipment and applications from numerous manufactures into one common control network.”
Although it may not be the first thing that comes to your mind when you’re planning your project, landscaping is a crucial element of your finished product. “A professional landscape designer should be involved with the building design team to insure that all building and development codes are followed,” explain Ken Svoboda of Ray’s Lawn & Home Care. “If the building owner has specific requests in regards to landscape design it’s best to know them early in the design process to insure a seamless completion of the project. Once rough grading is completed and at the approval of the general contractor, the landscaper can complete his or her work.”
John Kohler of KohlerCare adds, “Along with the actual construction itself, nothing helps identify a business more than the landscaping outside. A company’s landscaping not only attracts the eye of a prospective customer, but attractive grounds say to prospective customers, “We care. We know the importance of appearances. We are professionals.” Landscaping gives customers an indication of the business’s taste and dedication to their business as well as the pride they take in their company—an indication to customers that the company will also take pride in the service or product they produce and that customers won’t be disappointed.”
Choosing the right landscaping company is the next order of business. “Owners should look for a landscaper who can work with a variety of materials, who will listen to the owner’s wants and needs and then customize their service to meet the owner’s wishes and budget,” states John Kohler. “A good landscaper should develop ideas for their customer, walk the property with the owner with sketches and designs in hand, and explain what will work and won’t work and why. All of this should be a part of the landscaper’s free estimate and willingness to put themselves out there to the owner before a project is ever started. Equally important, a landscaper should be creative with skilled employees who can deliver the needed services in a timely manner. A good landscaper will also be available to the owner to maintain any landscaping project so that once done, it continues to look its best. “
“The best suggestion I can give business owners is to ask for references and contact them,” says Ken Svoboda. “It’s also important to find out if they have adequate insurance and to carefully construct a contract that describes the responsibilities of the landscaper. For example, who’s responsible for grading, maintaining plant material during construction and following completion? It’s best to document everything to avoid problems later.”
Although your landscaper will help you come up with ideas and develop the right landscape for your needs, it’s always nice to have some ideas on what you’d like. Keeping up on current trends is always a good way to make sure you are up-to-date on what’s available. “Commercial property managers and business owners continue to request landscapes that represent a successful business operation,” says Ken. “The use of color and texture while still following a low maintenance approach is always a high priority. The more progressive building owners are providing outdoor relaxation areas for both their clients and employees. If the property size is adequate, several business owners are now providing walking and exercise trails.”
John adds, “One exciting trend in commercial landscaping combines both recent turns in the economy as well as a desire for businesses to be eco-friendly: more and more commercial landscapers are including plants that are easily maintained, don’t take a lot of water and trimming, yet are lush and have an appealing beauty to them. Although it sounds contradictory to ‘going green’, water displays are not only attractive, but also warm and inviting and can look more expensive than they really are. It is important for businesses to keep in mind that regardless of what they select as part of a landscaping project, that they aim for simplicity, function, and flow to the look as part of the beauty of the property.”
After the Construction is Completed
Once construction and décor is complete and you are all moved into your new office, you may think the work is over. Think again! Building your own office is a major investment of time and money and the last thing you want to do is let any of that go to waste. Here are some tips on what you should be doing after construction is completed to make sure you are getting the most out of your investment.
Protect Your Investment
Your brand new office building can be an attractive target for thieves, vandals or other people who may wish you harm. You need to protect yourself and your company not only from people, but also from things out of your control (fires, natural disasters, etc.) First and foremost, your new office needs a top-notch security system. The important thing to note here is that when you take into consideration how much money you investing in your office, it doesn’t make much sense to go pick up a cheap security system and try to teach yourself how to use it. Make sure you consult with an expert in the security field who can analyze your building and recommend the best system for you as well as teach you how to use it properly. Many security systems also include fire and/or carbon monoxide detection, which, used in tandem with the appropriate fire alarms and extinguishers, can help protect you against a fire that could destroy your entire investment.
Maintain Your Investment
When you move into your new office, it’s spotless. Everything gleams and there is not a scratch, speck of dust or stray paper to be found. After one full workday, though, things begin to change. Within a few months, it’s likely your new office bears little resemblance to the office you moved into just months earlier. It’s next to impossible to maintain your office in the brand new condition it came in, but you can take measures to make sure the wear and tear and mess doesn’t completely take away from what your office should look like.
Hiring a cleaning company to clean your office regularly is an important component of maintaining your office building. It’s likely you have an assortment of types of people as employees, some neat and clean and some less so. You might not ever be able to insure that everyone’s offices are spic and span, but a cleaning company can at least make sure that common areas such as lobbies, bathrooms, meeting spaces and break rooms are cleaned regularly and look good for clients and guests.
Keeping a relationship with professionals in the construction field is also important as you never know when you’ll need to bring someone in to repair a leaky faucet, broken cabinet, or other issue that compromises the look or functionality of your office.
Show Off Your Investment
Depending on what type of business you have, the people who see your new office may be limited to just those who work there, or it may include clients, customers or even walk-in traffic. No matter what type of business you have, you want to show off your new building and let people know that you believe in your employees, clients and business enough to make this large investment. One of the best things you can do to celebrate and show off your office is to have an open house. This can take place over the span of a couple of hours or even a week or two. Invite clients, potential clients, other professionals you work with, employees’ families and others to share in your excitement. Give tours, tell people why you decided to build, introduce them to your contractor and others who worked on the project (if they want to be included). Have food and drinks and even prize drawings to encourage people to attend. Not only is this a great way to show off your new office, but it’s also a great chance to touch base with clients and prospective clients and help the community become more familiar with you and what you do.
Though it may not be as booming as it was before the economic downtown, commercial construction projects in Lincoln and surrounding areas are still taking place. Here are some of the projects happening in the area.
For the past 5 to 6 years educational projects have been one of the more active areas of commercial construction, and Cheever has done a fair share of those new and renovation additions in Lincoln and the surrounding area. Currently, Cheever is working on two Lincoln Public School projects and for the Raymond Central School District.
~ LPS Zeman Elementary has been closed since the spring of 2010. We are doing extensive interior renovation, a new classroom addition, building new mechanical spaces on the roof and installing a geo-thermal well field for the new heating and cooling system for the entire building. This school will re-open for classes in fall of 2011.
~ LPS Lakeview Elementary has remained open during the renovation and addition work we began in October 2010. We are creating new mechanical spaces and installing a geo-thermal well field for the new heating and cooling system for the entire building. A new classroom addition is being added and the entire interior will be remodeled over the coming summer.
~ Raymond Central School is adding classrooms, new kitchen and cafeteria, a new practice gymnasium and renovation of the administration area. A new geothermal well field has been installed and upgraded electrical service to power this addition and the entire existing facility. The school has remained in operation throughout all construction and will be completed in time for the fall 2011 session.
~ Beginning in March of 2011, Cheever will begin a phased renovation to Louisville Public Schools which will include: a new 2-story classroom, band and vocal addition; renovation of existing school classrooms; mechanical systems upgrades; and a new track/football field with spectator seating and other site improvements.
Cheever also constructs medical facilities and is currently working on:
~ Several additions and remodels to the Lincoln Surgical Hospital which include a newly completed Sterilization Unit to serve the nine operating rooms. We are currently enlarging the on-site Pharmacy Unit and conducting preparatory work for a future three-story addition to being in March.
~ FLOSS Dental is a new dental office building being constructed adjacent to Fireworks Restaurant at 84th & Old Cheney Road
Cheever is also engaged in renovation of two Lincoln landmark buildings:
~ The historic Kennard Building at 10th & ‘K’ Streets is undergoing exterior tuckpointing of the existing brick veneer while new windows, toilets and interior stairway are being installed to prepare this building for new lease tenants.
~ The former MeadowGold Dairy plant (now called The Dairy House Renovation Project) is in the early stages of reuse. The planned conversions will eventually house office condos, a brewery, light manufacturing and perhaps some residential condos in the future.
Projects for Schwisow include: TMCO Inc. is adding two new facilities near 6th & “G” in Lincoln and Kamterter is being constructed in Waverly of about 30,000 square feet. Plains POWER & Equipment in York is adding 9,600 square feet and we are just completing a 17,000 square foot facility North of Cortland.
Sandquist Construction has recently completed the following projects:
–The Egg & I Restaurant in Clocktower on 70th and A
–Health Sciences Addition, Southeast Community College, 8800 O Street
–A&D Technical Supply Relocation on 18th and N Street
–Awards Unlimited Façade Improvements, 20th and O Street
–City of Lincoln Parking Garage improvements, 11th and N Street
–UNL Othmer Hall Improvements, 17th and Vine Street
–St. Vincent DePaul Church Improvements, Seward, NE
–Lebeda Mattress, 28th and Cornhusker Hwy
–Utopia Salon and Day Spa Remodel, 84th and Hwy 2
–College of Hair Design Modifications, 90th and Andermatt Drive
Future projects of theirs include:
–Kid’s First Day Care, 60th and L Street
–Pavement & Utilities on N. 54th Street
–Goodwill Retail Remodel, O Street