The Commercial Construction Process – Part Two

When we left off with part one of the commercial construction process, we were discussing how an architect develops plans and specifications that a contractor uses to bid the project.  (As a side-note, a contractor can use the plans and specifications to assist with a remodel, too, but for the purposes of this blog, we are only discussing new construction.)

It is good practice to solicit bids from at least three general contractors and then determine which one will be the best fit to work on the project.  The contractor needs to view a list of building materials.  This is usually provided in the plans and specifications.  A determination can then be made on material and labor costs.

Once a general contractor is selected, that person will often bring his or her own sub-contractor team in to consult on the project.  Several items will have to be installed in the new building, including HVAC, electric wiring, mechanical devices, utilities and plumbing.  The contractor will apply for a building permit at the city.  Once the city approves the building permit and the fees are paid, work can begin.

The first step in putting up the building is to break ground.  Many new owners love to bring their personal shovel in to get a picture made of themselves scooping up the first pile of dirt for their new business address.  After the festivities have commenced, they step aside and excavation begins.

During the excavation process, the soil is removed and/or compacted to assure a suitable base for the building foundation.  Rocks, tree roots, glass, debris and the like are removed during this period.

Next, if any pipes need to be installed under the building for sewer and water, this needs to be done before the foundation is constructed.  No work can be performed until this occurs.  After that, construction of the foundation usually consists of pouring concrete within forms prepared by the contractor.

After the concrete foundation has cured, the initial framework can begin.  During this time, the contractor will construct the exterior walls and roof.  Once the building shell is completed, interior can begin.  At this time, insulation, interior walls, drywall, doors, HVAC, electrical, plumbing are all completed.

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

-Dan Hebert

A Day in the Life of a General Contractor

The day starts early for a general contractor.  He or she is up before the sun and plans out a schedule for the day.  After checking email and grabbing paperwork, he or she is out the door and running.

The typical first stop of the day is the construction site.  There the general contractor will meet with the subcontractors and review the progress that they have made since his or her last visit.

The general contractor has already hired several subcontractors through a bidding process.  Once a subcontractor is selected, plans and specifications are reviewed to value engineer the project.  This ensures the client will receive the best materials and equipment to meet any current and future needs.  The general contractor needs to pay particular attention to the project budget during this process.

While the general contractor has several construction sites to manage at once and will be driving all around town, the subcontractors will generally stay on site to supervise their team of workers.  Subcontractors typically include carpenters, electricians, plumbers and others.

It is the responsibility of the general contractor and the subcontractors to ensure that the work performed is in accordance with the plans and specifications while following state laws and local building codes.  It is also everyone’s responsibility that all work is performed in a safe manor adhering to applicable safety regulations.

After finishing the meeting with the subcontractors, the general contractor may proceed to a mid-morning pre-bid meeting.  There he or she will find architects and engineers who have been selected to design new buildings envisioned by a commercial real estate developer.

This commercial real estate developer could be working for the government or a private entity, but he or she has been tasked with building or redesigning an area for future use.  He or she has already met with an architect and engineer in order to communicate the ideas of the design.

The architect has spent time preparing plans and specifications and consulting with engineers to make sure that the building design is feasible and follows building codes.

When the general contractor arrives at this meeting, he or she may see other contractors there.  They may be gathering there to get information on new developments coming to the area.  After having the opportunity to hear about the new project, inspect the site and acquire the plans and specifications, the general contractor will return to the office and begin working on a bid.

The commercial real estate developer or the client will choose the best value bid and award the building rights to that general contractor.  Often, the best value bid is not based solely on price but will include other considerations, such as general contractor past experience and project team.  The bid usually details the price of labor and materials for the project.  Some general contractors take their fee as a percentage of the total building cost.  Others may charge a flat fee after considering the project.

When the general contractor returns to the office, he or she has a meeting with his or her assistants to determine the scope of work for the project and what subcontractors need to be contacted to obtain bids.  The assistants will then contact subcontractors required for the project to discuss their specific portion of work.

Finally, at the end of the day, the general contractor will make phone calls, order new supplies, interview new subcontractors for upcoming jobs, approve invoices for payment, and review the progress of the bid he or she left the team in charge of.

As the sun is starting to set, the general contractor grabs his or her paperwork and heads for home.  Another long but successful day is in the books, and he or she is excited to see the new developments coming to life within the community.