Your ultimate fit-out guide

What to prepare before hiring a commercial design and build company?

Look for an interior design and build company that has expertise in the commercial field

It is important that you work with a general contractor that has been in business for a long period of time or has enough experience to professionally handle your build out. General contracting can be a “fly by night” type of industry, which could leave you exposed to poor construction or an undelivered build out.

Before hiring a right interior design and fit-out partner, you could ask them these questions: 

Remember, getting a cheaper design and build quote is not everything

While finding the best man for the job should be your number one priority, it’s only natural that price is going to play a big factor in who you pick as your contractor. If a quote looks too good to be true, it probably is. Here's why you should be wary.

Identify your design and build objectives

Interior designers work to create many kinds of indoor environments, including residential, medical, educational, cultural, civic, and commercial. Commercial interior design includes a broad spectrum of interior commercial spaces and environments, including offices, retail stores, restaurants, and other spaces where business is conducted.

At a minimum, these commercial interior spaces must be designed to be functional to conduct business efficiently for the company occupying the building. Well-designed interior spaces are essential for business. The layout and flow of an office or retail space is critical to the experience of both clients and employees, which directly impacts the long-term success of the business.

However, you as a business owner, should identify your design and build objectives and communicate to the interior designers effectively, to allow them incorporate your insights into their design.

Go in-depth to your property lease agreement

First and foremost, you need to understand that your lease is a binding, legal agreement between you and your landlord. It states what is expected on both sides. Sometimes items on a lease may be negotiable, but even if they are not, you still need to know what to expect and what your landlord expects from you.

Your lease should state obvious things, like how long you are required to operate your business in there, the amount of rent due each month, and when it is due. It should also list the amounts of any deposits due and also discuss any possible increases in rent. However, there is more involved with renting a property than just the rent and deposits.

Reading your lease in its entirety should also help you understand the following issues:

  1. What is the cost of over-time air conditioning charge?
  2. Can you alter anything physically in the premise, for example, setting back the façade in order to generate more space?
  3. Is the corridor out of the premise in common use, or does it belong to Landlord?
  4. What is the fit-out requirement?
  5. Who is responsible for purchasing insurance, and what is the required amount and insured party?

As you can see, there is more to a lease than just the amount of rent you need to pay and when it is due. Your lease contains a wealth of information that you need to know to have a positive rental experience. Don’t worry about making people wait for you as you read it. This is one place where you don’t want to cut corners. Finally, make sure that you save a copy of the lease for your own records in case you need to refer back to it later.  

Inspect the site thoroughly before possession

Asset managers have several options when it comes to hiring a commercial building inspector. The first option is to hire an engineer or architect. These individuals possess varied backgrounds in the building trades, facilities management, maintenance and similar subjects. However, it is important to note that engineers and architects may charge premium fees for their services and specialized knowledge.

A second option is to hire a commercial building inspector. Many companies specialize in both residential and commercial inspections, but be careful. The nature of a commercial inspection is unlike a residential inspection. It’s a good idea to hire a company that not only specializes in commercial inspections but also understands that commercial properties are a company asset, business expense and income generator.

Commercial real estate acquisitions revolve around return on investment (ROI) and residual value. Portfolio managers want to know two things: “How much will this cost?” and “How much will I make on this investment?” 

This is where an inspection comes in handy. An inspection will reveal the life spans of five major systems within the building, including the following:

  • Roofing
  • Structural Integrity
  • Electrical
  • Plumbing
  • Heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC)

Real estate management teams want to know if the roof or HVAC system will need to be replaced in the coming years, or if electrical elements will need to be upgraded due to a change in building use. A building audit or inspection will provide insight on these questions. The resulting report will ultimately advise the portfolio company whether or not buying the property is worth the investment. 

4 Things A Commercial Building Inspector Will Check

1. The building's five major systems - Electrical, Mechanical, Heating, Plumbing and Air Conditioning/Ventilation. Inspectors will check that these systems are in good working condition.  If a system is not up to par, the inspector will estimate the cost of repair or replacement.

2. The building's exterior - A building’s exterior doesn’t just include its outer walls; it also includes parking lots or structures, landscaping and roofing. The inspector will determine whether the building is structurally sound and highlight any necessary repair costs. Inspectors may rely on insight from roofing experts, construction contractors or building code inspectors to fully inspect the exterior health of a building.

3. The building's interior - This portion of the inspection serves two purposes: to check that interior spaces meet local building codes, and to check for safety-related risks and hazards. The inspector will observe the building’s walls, floors, bathrooms, offices, kitchen spaces and similar areas. This portion of the inspection will illuminate any need for interior renovations (especially if anything within the building is not up to code).

4. The building's documentation - Commercial building inspectors review many documents during the inspection process. They may review appraisals, building plans, citations, certificates of occupancy, construction permits, evacuation plans, environmental studies, fire safety system records, floor plans, maintenance records and surveys. These records will reveal the true cost of owning the building and help the investor determine the value of the property. An inspector’s findings will be compiled in a final property condition report (PCR). The report will feature written evidence of observations, as well as photos for clarification. The report will also include any recommendations from the inspector on how to conduct corrective action or request follow-up testing by a specialist. In most cases there will be a cost estimate for repairs and future replacements.

Be sure that you get a full set of as-built drawing

What is an "as-built"?

Also known as record drawings and red-line drawings, as-builts drawings are documents that allow a compare and contrast between the designed versus final specifications, and provide a detailed blueprint of the building and the land around it as actually constructed in the end. According to Business Dictionary, as-builts are a “revised set of drawings submitted by a contractor upon completion of a project or a particular job. They reflect all changes made in the specifications and working drawings during the construction process, and show the exact dimensions, geometry and location of all elements of the work completed under the contract.”

The final as-built drawings include any and all of the following, as well as every other change made during the construction phase of a project:

  • Modifications
  • Field changes
  • Shop drawing changes
  • Design changes
  • Extra works

As- built drawings go hand-in-hand with as-built surveys, also called as-built maps. These are used during the construction phase to continually track how the land and building is changing as work progresses. Dedicated as-built surveys make as-built drawings much easier to construct in the end, because of the greater level of detail recorded from every stage of the project.

What should be included in as-built?

In order to make your as-builts as clear and useful as possible, you must include a wide variety of details and documents. This information includes, but is not limited to:

1. Recording changes in scale, or ideally using the same scale as the original drawings

2. Using clear labels and descriptions rather than vague phrases such as “similar” or “equal to”

3. Including changes in sizing, materials, dimensions, location, installation, fabrication and so on

4. Noting unexpected obstructions encountered, and the solutions decided upon

5. Noting dates when changes were made

6. Recording any changes made as a result of final inspection

7. Attaching all related shop drawings and appendices

Importance of as-built drawings

As-built drawings are essential in construction projects for the following reasons:

1. As-built drawings provide precise details about the changes performed at any interim stage of the project. It facilitates easy visualization of the upcoming steps, notice complications, and early solving of issues.

2. As-built drawings provide details of installations to the owners and clients to help them with any future modifications of the structure. 

3. As-built drawings are valuable documents that provide future buyers with a clear idea of what is sold and purchased. It also forms a foundation to conduct future modifications.