The Commercial Construction Process – Part One

Let’s say you are a small business owner and are ready to take your business from a rental unit to your own brick and mortar location.  Assuming you have a lot of capital and want to build in an undeveloped location, how do you get started?  This is a three-part series that will walk you through the steps.

The first thing to do is to meet with a commercial real estate broker, who will work with you to select just the right spot for your desired business.  You should already have an idea of the general size of the building and know how much square footage you will need in order to operate successfully.

If you are purchasing land, then once you find something suitable and enter a contract, you will go through the due diligence stage where a number of items must be checked.  One of the first things to do is to have an environmental sample performed.  This will check for a variety of important things such as the structural foundation of the land, any chemical or biological waste that may be present, water analysis and air pollution.

As the land is being evaluated, it’s also important to have the title company check for any liens against the property.  While this is going on, you will want to check on the neighboring infrastructure.  Is your new location zoned for the type of business you want to open?  Are other businesses in the area doing well?  Is the area growing?

Next, have the property surveyed.  This will tell you whether any easements are there and show the legal boundaries that you must operate within.  Are any new roads being planned by your city or state government that would cut off access to your property?

Will the location you’ve chosen give you easy access to rails or highways?  Will large trucks bearing your supplies be able to get in and out for delivery?  Will your customers have an easy time parking, and will you be able to develop special parking to meet the codes established by the American’s with Disabilities Act?

If you’re sure that your new location meets all of the criteria listed above and any other special city or state requirements, then it’s safe to purchase the land.

After the purchase of land, it’s time to hire an architect.  This person will be responsible for the general look of your building.  It’s fine to suggest building styles or ideas that you like, but remember that this person is the professional and will need to consider the overall function of the building as he or she develops the initial sketches.

A good architect will visit the proposed building site.  Then, he or she will use the survey and will also be looking at land measurements in order to render the drawings.  At this stage, it will just be an initial design concept.  Most architects will provide a set of sketches for you to choose from.  These are often referred to as schematic designs.  Rough costs are mentioned during this phase.

After you work with the architect to fine tune the design (known as design development), the architect will begin developing it into blueprints.  These blueprints (sometimes known as construction documents) are the tools that contractors will use as you move into the bidding process.

Look for part two of our series to continue in a few weeks.

-Dan Hebert