By Jeff Eriks, Cambridge Companies
Every building is different, and every operation is different. Make sure that the design and construction team that you build takes the time to completely learn and understand your operations before they go and evaluate a proposed new site.
Starting with a clean sheet approach for a new facility is not always possible due to cost, timing, property availability or many other factors. Taking an existing facility and transforming it into a fully functioning, operationally efficient site is a complicated task. In this article we will be discussing some of the important factors to consider when you are doing this, whether it is a current site you own or one you are looking to buy or lease.
The first and most important item that I want to touch on is the major factor with existing buildings—the drastic difference in building and energy codes from 20+ years ago to today. What you will come to realize during this process is that, even if you are not modifying a particular part of a building, the local building official may still require you to bring the entire building up to current code. This includes ADA compliance, energy codes and several others that can have major cost impacts on your project.
It is important to do a deep analysis on the existing structure to identify these potential items so that you can build in the appropriate contingency in your timeline and budget to address them if they come up. There are times when you can work around it and other times when you cannot. Unfortunately, there is no standard when it comes to this because every building department is different. It is important to engage a design firm or design/build firm that can help you properly analyze your facility to identify these risks and help develop a plan to navigate them as much as possible. Now that we are past that issue, let’s focus on your business needs and the potential site itself.
When we begin to work with customers who are considering using existing building and sites, we like to dig into their company and learn the following, among other items more specific to your intended use:
- What specific operation will take place in this building? Is it a transfer station, maintenance shop, recycling facility, processing facility or some variation of one of these or a completely different type?
- What is driving the new need or what is the reason you are looking to do the project? For example, have you outgrown the current facility or are you entering a new market?
- Is there long-term growth that needs to be considered? If so, what does that look like?
- What does the evolution of the operation look like? What changes do you see coming in the future that would lead to changing how you do things?
- How flexible does the building need to be to accommodate future changes? Do we need to plan for expansion, if so, what does that look like?
- How many employees will work at this site?
- Will customers or others be coming to the site?
- How do we handle inbound materials or deliveries?
- What about outbound materials or items similar in nature?
- Does the building size, height and building materials meet your needs?
- How do you see traffic flowing around the site? What will the site operations plan look like and how can we make sure it is as efficient as possible?