Article Date: 5/1/2007

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Office Design Diary:

In part three of our series, we discuss several of the initial challenges of building a large office.


In our last article (see March OM, page 73), we discussed how we selected an architectural firm, builder and engineers. We also reviewed how we came to an agreement with the architects to help keep our costs lower. We had our building and site plans done and were ready to begin construction. However, 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.

Delays are typical
This was the first of several delays we encountered. We’ve found that delays in construction projects are fairly standard. While the problem doesn’t seem to be unique to any one builder, and many of the delays are out of their control, it does seem that builders in general are always more optimistic about completion dates than they should be.
The builder presented us with two options to work around the problem. The first was to lower the entire construction site by six inches. This would simply require a little more time from the subcontractors who were doing the bulldozer work. The second option: Have dirt hauled in from off-site. This would allow us to keep the original elevation but would be very expensive, adding several thousand dollars to the cost of the project.

Stuck again
We chose to proceed with option one and lower the site by six inches. This caused a delay because the builder had to have the original building permits changed and approved for the new elevation. Getting the permits changed didn’t pose any real problem, but it did delay the work on the site for about ten days. Once the permits were in proper order, we were ready to complete the dirt work, but were delayed again by several days of rain. When the site finally dried out and the bulldozer work began, the builder informed us that there still wouldn’t be enough dirt to reach the desired elevation. This time our only option was to bring in the dirt.
We needed to bring in several truckloads of dirt, so our builder gave us an estimate from a local company he used often. The person who was funding the construction of the learning center, being built concurrently, has been involved in several previous projects and had contacts with other dirt companies he felt would be able to do the job at a better price. So, we had a few other companies put in a bid and were able to bring in the dirt for a lower price than the original quote. Once all the dirt was in place, the bulldozer work proceeded fairly quickly, and the site was ready for the pouring of the foundation.

Beginning to build
The stem wall was poured first, and this part of the construction went quickly. It was nice to actually see the start of the building and not just dirt on the lot. Shortly after the builders completed the stem wall, the plumber laid the pipes for water and toilets that would be located below the slab. We also met with the electrician to review the locations of in-the-floor outlets for electricity and Ethernet connections. We walked the site holding a set of blue prints to determine whether all the pipes and electrical outlets were properly placed. After we were satisfied with everything, it was time to pour the concrete slab. This is where we ran into our longest delay.
In January, a large ice and sleet storm, followed by several weeks of very cold weather and more intermittent rain and snowstorms delayed pouring of the slab for three to four weeks. During this time, we spoke with our banker to see whether he could extend the maturation date of the construction loan, since the building wouldn’t be finished by our original completion date. We also reviewed the building layout to see whether we wanted any last-minute changes before the framing process began.
Finally the weather warmedup, and the ground dried enough for the slab to be poured. The framing process began very quickly thereafter. We now have the building mostly framed and can actually walk through and see exactly how our plans are materializing. Next month, we’ll discuss some of the issues that arose during the framing along with further progress of the project.

Dr. Christensen specializes in contact lenses and primary care. He is senior vice president of Vision Source, L.P. 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.

Optometric Management, Issue: May 2007