Regardless of if this is your first commercial architectural construction project or the tenth there will always be mistakes. This is the nature of “reinventing the wheel”. The key is to keep the mistakes to a minimum through using “Due diligence” in your practices. Here are a few simple steps to avoid a costly disaster?
1. While it may seem tempting to look for shortcuts and many TV shows encourage you to look for the cheapest deal, the main thing that you need to do is to work with licensed and reputable people. To get licensed and reputable people to work with you for affordable prices you need to represent yourself as a rational person who has a logical thought process. Many people who would never consider going to a Restaurants and telling the waiter that they don’t know what they want to eat, will go to an architect, contractor or real estate broker without knowing what they want. Try to boil down what you want to a simple statement. Examples:
a. I want a Restaurants about the size as Bob’s Breakfast Egg Place on 123 Main Street,
b. I need a dentist office with 3 exam chairs, a private office for the dentist, waiting area for 10 people, an x-ray machine area, a work room 9x12, two clerical staff at the front desk and a break room.
c. I need a car show room with rooms for 4 cars, a VIP (waiting) area, two sales desks, an executive office, a 2 car repair bay and a coffee bar.
2. Once you have made up your mind about what you want you can then decide what way is the best road for expediency. You could call a real estate broker and tell them that you want an existing building with those features. Or if you intend to build, you could hire an architect and have him make up a preliminary design sketch to figure out what area you need for functionality and use that information to hunt for a location.
3. When drawing your preliminary design the architect will know how to calculate the number of toilets that you need, the amount of circulation, how many doors and will help you to decide many more important issues.
4. Under many circumstances you will want to use this preliminary sketch investment to find out more things. If you are designing a new building then you should ask that your architect take your preliminary design sketch to the planning department of your jurisdiction (city, county etc.) to have a discussion with them. This preliminary due diligence process may not uncover every potential problem. But it usually uncovers the big obvious (or not so obvious) disastrous problems. Examples:
a. There are corner commercial sites that have sat unbuilt for years. One such site was discovered to not have any driveways allowed. For years it has functioned as a Christmas tree lot and Halloween pumpkin sales and Valentine’s Day sales seasonally. That lot will probably never be built upon because driveways were traded away in a former use approval deal.
b. Another lot looks great but further discovery showed that it was rendered unusable because the government had a regulation making the front and back recreational walkways and much of the middle was a utility easement.
c. One client hired a real estate broker to find an existing building for his use as a medical office. After the initial analysis of the building was done by the owner the layout of the rooms and other items looked ideal for his use because the prior user had used the existing building for essentially the same purpose. The architect was commissioned to conduct and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) survey. When the ADA survey was conducted the result was that the building would require about $150,000 of remodeling work and about 3 months for construction before it could be occupied. The recipient of the survey had previously thought that he would pay a premium for a building that he could more right into. He handed the seller the survey and promptly got a reduced counter offer. His project began without surprises and not by discovering a problem after the sale was executed.
5. As architects we were able to discover these problems and inform the clients. Clients may not decide to avoid purchasing these properties. Armed with the preliminary discovery information the client can go back to the seller and make a fair offer according to the value of the property for the intended purpose.
6. If you are looking for a “Screaming deal” and find one, you are probably just unaware of something that your predecessors have already discovered. This is the reason why you want the use the preliminary sketch process to figure out why that corner lot is so much cheaper than an apparently lesser lot nearby.
7. You can and often should take your preliminary sketch to a contractor to get an opinion of the cost. But remember that shopping for a deal using the sketch is probably a way to find the biggest optimist or liar. One or at most two opinions on a sketch is more than enough because you are not taking bids. Sketches just leave too much up to the imagination go get a sharp pencil price.
8. As you take each step in the due diligence and architectural design process you should look at the last step only as validation that you are willing to risk the money for the next step. If you decide that you are in a hurry and don’t want to delay or pay for a step, that is ok. Just be aware that skipping steps increases your risk and act accordingly.