Commercial remodeling projects are often referred to as tenant improvements because they are typically designed for tenants who do not occupy the entire building. This is for projects where their use is already allowed and not subject to special government agencies. This is a best practices and common practices way to go about it.
1. Try to get the existing plans from the building owner or seller if you are purchasing the building. This will save you some cost and may describe some pitfalls. This will show how your building was originally analyzed under the building code and how your parking and toilet allocations were figured. It will also show the dimensions of the location and the actual property identification. These things can be “Figured out” again but everything costs money.
2. Make a list of what you need and or a sketch of what you want you layout to be. Most projects don’t finish as they began but you have to start somewhere. If you can’t follow plans, just make yourself a list of the requirements. Examples: break room with 5 tables having 4 chairs each, 3 exam rooms each with a dentist chair a table and a stool, a waiting room for dogs with seating for 6 and their dogs.
3. Before you sign a lease or purchase the building, hire an architect to provide a scaled drawing of your desired floor plan. Look for an architect who is:
a. A licensed architect in that state. Architects are licensed by state in the USA.
b. Sufficiently experienced in the general location of the work and hopefully near enough to go to the project site without costly travel time. This depends on your location. Many times an architect in the same city is fine. In the Las Vegas area any architect in the valley can get to any project in the Las Vegas area sufficiently.
c. Experienced in your type of project if the project is common enough to be known. So if its an office or retail or Restaurants then you want an experienced architect in that building type. If your project is very unusual then it may be impractical to find an architect who has designed one before.
4. Have the architect prepare a preliminary design sketch to make sure that what you need to do will fit inside the space that you have.
5. If you have a landlord, attach this to the lease indicating that the landlord will allow it.
6. If it fits the space and the landlord approves it direct the architect to draw construction documents for the building department and file them for plan check process.
7. While the “Plans” (construction documents) are being reviewed at the building department, ask contractors for bids or if you are negotiating with a single contractor then he should solicit subcontractor bids. Do not sign a construction contract until the plans have cleared plan check and the permit is ready. Your contractor is not really supposed to build without permits. The building departments often make comments that increase costs. The building departments hardly ever don’t make any comments that effect the final plans. Your best time to negotiate with your contractor is before you sign the contract.
8. When the plans have cleared plan check you will be told that your permit is ready and you then must select a contractor. Only contractors can obtain permits on commercial projects like tenant improvements. Attach a copy of the plans to the construction contract and make sure that the language in the contract says that what is indicated in the plans is included in the contractors bid. Check with the contractor’s licensing board to make sure that your contractor is licensed.
9. Before you can occupy the space your contractor must obtain a “Certificate of Occupancy” from the building department.
10. Remember that a buying building construction project is not like buying an existing object. If you haggle too much for a bottle of wine and get yourself a deal, the wine was already in the bottle before you were haggling. In construction, after you get your “Good deal” everyone has to still want to do a sufficiently good job to get you a satisfactory end result. Tell everyone thank you, but don’t say things that could later be interpreted as your acceptance of substandard work. Leave it up to your architect and building inspectors and others to do quality control. Saying thanks and I appreciate your work makes it “worth it” to workers or subcontractors and will sometimes even substitute for money. During every construction project there will be problems and stressful situations. Making good relationships will get you through it without starting your new venture with undue stress.
11. When the work is done collect, and carefully store the permitted plans and documentation on items installed. These will later turn out to be valuable.
12. This explanation covers projects not under the jurisdiction of special rules unique to that particular project type. See other information regarding Restaurants and the health department, used car lots and liquor stores requiring special use permits and others under zoning and special use permits.