The TI Race: From ROM to Market Ready

Tenant Improvement Construction Workers

The TI Race: From ROM to Market Ready

Brokers, CM/PM's, Estimation, NEWS /

Planning a renovation is kind of like a puzzle, especially when it comes to scheduling different companies and contractors. If you’re trying to plan your own Tenant Improvement construction project, it may seem easy to call designers, carpenters, and plumbers and schedule everything yourself. But when plans start to go awry, it can be hard to maintain a timeline without a general contractor.

This is why we recommend hiring a company with experience in tenant improvement (TI). Here at South Bay Construction (SBC), this is our specialty. Not only can we help make all the moving pieces fit together, but we also have connections all over the Bay Area, so when a problem arises we can find a solution as fast as possible. Meeting deadlines requires teamwork, dedication, professional expertise, and a realistic budget. Here’s how we recommend planning your next TI project:

It Pays to Be Choosy

Tenant Improvement Construction 1440 Multiversity

Clients and construction firms should each ask serious questions before committing to each other. Not all questions will be pertinent from the start, but it is vital to establish a level of trust early with someone you will work closely with for an extended period of time. As the client, it’s important to have a conversation about timeline before committing to a contractor. At SBC we aim to be honest when estimating time to completion, and have found that clients appreciate this and are surprised by how short our timelines often are.

The average tenant improvement construction project spans anywhere from eight to 18 weeks, though potentially longer depending on the scope and detail of the project. The planning process includes finalizing plans, estimating costs, detailing the timeline, scheduling, specifying materials, and placing orders. All of this can take between four and 12 weeks on top of the time it takes to complete the TI project—this is all time well invested.

Construction can be stressful and disruptive, even under the best of circumstances. But if you establish a positive working relationship with your contractor, and plan diligently together from the start, disruptions that arise won’t throw a project off track.

The Questions to Ask Your Contractor:

Tenant Improvement Construction

In addition to reading a contractor’s website and literature, ask pertinent questions and expect detailed answers about members of the building team, their experience, and areas of expertise.

Ask about previous projects completed in the immediate vicinity, and specific experience with the type of project you have in mind. If your project requires technical knowledge or certifications, A&E teams, cleanrooms, or specialized security and monitoring equipment, ask about that type of previous experience. You don’t want to assume your construction partner has installed those things before just because they have years of experience. Also ask about how long technical projects can take, or how long other projects that are similar to yours took. If a construction partner has experience in projects like yours, they should be willing to share this information.

You’ll also want to know about licenses, insurance, professional affiliations, and company history. Any reputable contractor will be pleased to supply references and basic financial information.

What Your Contractor Will Ask You:

Tenant Improvement Construction

An experienced professional contractor will also want to know about you as a potential client. Be prepared to discuss your budget and projected timeline in detail. You will also need to answer questions about plans and expectations, the level of finishes desired, and previous experiences with contractors. A builder will want the name of your architect and/or designer, and will want a detailed project description as well as preliminary plans if they are available, including scope of work and specifications.

If you are open and forthright about your experience — or lack of experience — with architects, designers, and builders, SBC can offer you suggestions. As a contractor with nearly 40 years of experience in the Bay Area, we have built a reputation based on mutual trust and exemplary performance. We can help you with budgetary considerations and advise you on ways to set realistic timelines for your TI project.

We believe in the value of having an effective team in place early on. From day one, we encourage collaboration between your project supervisor or construction manager and the architect/designer and construction company.

A final concern we take into consideration is contingency planning. There’s an old construction maxim that claims that “anything that can go wrong will.” While we have had projects follow timelines perfectly, we always design a schedule that accommodates delay days, and we build a budget that includes contingency funds. It’s the smart and effective way to plan for the unknown.

Plan to Consider Various Options

Tenant Improvement Construction Blueprints

The planning phase of a project is every bit as important as the renovation phase and can stretch over an equally long time span as actual construction.

The time it takes to create a “vision” for a project can be a slow process, especially when developing final plans and selecting a contractor and designer only once you think you’re ready. It may take months for construction to begin if you plan this way. And if the work requires renovation of existing space rather than simply finishing the interior of a newly-constructed building shell, the project may be complicated by the need for demolition and rehabilitation.

At SBC, we have a more efficient solution for speeding up a project timeline. We recommend exploring the concept of an open-book and design/build project rather than pursuing a traditional estimate-bid-build contract. By putting together a team consisting of builders and designer/architects from the start, it is possible to shave time off a schedule. It also assures that there is seamless, orderly progress and communication throughout the course of the project.

Planning Pays Off in Tenant Improvement Construction

Tenant Improvement Construction Blueprints

If you’re new to the world of TIs and shell retrofits, one of the most important things to learn is that the more detailed your plans are, the easier it is for the contractor to understand your vision and meet your expectations. Once you start working with a designer or architect, be sure to add a contractor to the mix as soon as possible.

Even if you don’t have a team yet but are considering a tenant improvement construction project, ask around for architect and contractor recommendations. Also ask questions of business associates whose spaces you admire. Do some initial investigation on your own concerning materials and options. Read commercial design magazines and sustainable building blogs. Become comfortable with the terminology of energy ratings and utility consumption, of “healthy” buildings and employee satisfaction ratings.

Building your knowledge of the industry will help you make important choices and alleviate stress when it comes to selecting your tenant improvement partners.

Finally, realize that the space you design should fulfill your individual needs in terms of function, energy efficiency, aesthetics, comfort, and technology. We want you to feel at home in your improved space. If you are considering a tenant improvement project, or already have an architect on your team and need a contractor, contact us. We know how to meet deadlines and ask the right questions so we can make your dream space a reality.

Photos: Shutterstock / MemoriesStocker, SBCI, Shutterstock / F8 studio, SBCI, Shutterstock / wavebreakmedia, Shutterstock / Olena Yakobchuk

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