Article Date: 3/1/2007

Untitled Document

Office Design Diary: CHAPTER 2

In part two of our series, we find out that construction of a business often differs greatly from that of a house.


In our last article, we discussed the reasons we’re constructing a new building and covered how we acquired the land. Once we acquired the land and developed a working model for the new office, it was time to select an architect and engineer to draw formal building and site plans. We also started talking to builders at this time.

More than we bargained for
Since our practice hasn’t built a new office since 1978, we didn’t know what architectural and engineer services were necessary. So, we met with a local architect to obtain general information about the building project, such as size, location, style and function. As naive doctors, we expected our architectural fees for drawing up plans to be similar to the fees involved with building a house, which are about 1% to 2% of the building cost. So, we were surprised to find that fees for architectural and engineering services are typically about 5% to 8% of the building cost. Commercial buildings are subject to many more codes than home plans. These include water run-off control, water hydrant location, handicap access and fire suppression. An architect and civil engineer must approve and stamp commercial plans. The city and the fire marshall must also approve plans, all of which require permits. We talked with a few architects to confirm the fees we were given were reasonable. Ultimately, we decided to use the same architect and engineer as the learning center to be built next to our practice. We did this to simplify the process, as both buildings are being constructed at the same time, in the same style, and many aspects of the site plan could be done together. This allowed for a combined parking lot, main water line, detention pond and fire hydrant. Because we used the same architect and engineering services as the owner of the learning center, they agreed to a lesser fee, keeping our expense to about 4% of the projected building cost. The architect and engineer agreed to a set fee, which included all necessary services.
Designing the building
Once we selected the architect and engineer, we handed over all our drawings and sketches. The architect used these to design formal plans for the building. These plans included details from the type of shingles that should be used, to foundation design. Since the learning center will share a parking area, we agreed the buildings should be similar in design. The architect made liberal changes in size and shape to the first plans to make our building look more like the learning center (the owner already had early plans at this point). After receiving the plans, it was clear they wouldn’t be ideal for our desired workflow. We met with the architect and were eventually able to create a plan similar in style to the learning center, but much closer to the layout of our original model to facilitate patient flow.
Designing the site

While the architect designed the building, the civil engineer worked on the site plan. This included elevations for dirt work, parking lot design, building placement on the lot, water and electrical lines, sewage lines, fire hydrant placement, detention pond placement and anything else outside the actual building. Each building will have its own entrance. Combining the site plan also allowed for just one detention pond for the two buildings. We split the cost to build it and we will share the cost of its upkeep with the learning center owner. After the site and building plans were complete, it was time to get building permits. The architect and engineer took the plans to the city and after making several minor changes such as the type of door and fire suppression system, we acquired the permits needed to start building. Choosing a builder
With plans well under way, it was time to select a general contractor. We considered several local builders who had good reputations. The investor building the learning center had already selected a contractor, so we also talked to him. The contractor assured us he could reduce our cost by building both buildings at the same time, so we decided to use the same builder. However, after receiving a bid from the contractor, the savings were not apparent. In fact, the cost was about 20% higher than the going rate in our area. So, we had several local contractors re-bid the cost of building the office and decided on a builder in our community. Ironically, after we changed builders, the owner of the learning center also jumped ship due to a disagreement and decided to use our contractor as well. Since we were once again using the same builder, he was able to suggest other ways we could cut some cost by coordinating the construction of the two buildings.
Getting started

With a builder selected and final plans approved, construction could begin. Dozers began to move trees and dirt. Shortly after beginning work, our builder informed us that the engineer had miscalculated and there wouldn’t be enough dirt to meet the projected elevation for the building pad. Next month, we’ll discuss the options we were given to fix the problem. We will also discuss other expenses and delays we’ve encountered along the way.

Dr. Christensen specializes in contact lenses and primary care. He is senior vice president of Vision Source, L.P. and past president of Heart of America Contact Lens Society.

Dr. Christensen is a 2004 graduate of Northeastern State College of Optometry.

Dr. Smay is a 1996 graduate of Northeastern State University College of Optometry. After graduation, he completed an Ocular Pathology Residency at the Western Oklahoma Eye Center in Elk City, Okla.

Optometric Management, Issue: March 2007