By: Brian Sullivan
One of the biggest hurdles that we have to overcome on a building envelope restoration project is managing the Owner’s expectations for the project schedule. Often times, Owners anticipate that a project can start within a few weeks of retaining a design professional; however, realistically a proper design and bidding process takes several months. Proper, thorough design takes approximately four weeks, even on a relatively small building. Obtaining a work permit from the local building department takes several weeks (NYCDOB typically takes 6 weeks). Preparing forms and obtaining the necessary signatures as well as checks for the associated building department fees typically takes 1 to 2 weeks. If the building is located in a historic district, or is a designated landmark, add another 2 to 4 weeks to the filing schedule. If handled properly, the bidding and contractor interview process takes approximately 4 weeks. Enough time must be allocated for the contractors to prepare competitive bids, which must then be thoroughly reviewed. The Owner and the design professional should then interview the best candidates. Contract preparation, review and execution typically take at least 2 to 3 weeks. Ideally, the DOB filing, the bidding, the interviews and the contract award process will run simultaneously, since these items are not entirely dependent on each other.
Of course, the timelines identified above can vary greatly depending on the size and scope of the project. Sometimes, the timelines can be condensed, but this may result in the Owner paying a higher fee to the Design Professional, and/or a lack of thoroughness in the design and/or bidding process.
The exterior restoration construction season in the Northeast is typically mid-March to the end of November (St. Patrick’s Day to Thanksgiving). To take full advantage of this construction season, restoration work should begin as soon as the weather permits. Therefore, the pre-construction phase of a project should begin in late February or early March. Pre-construction includes review and approval of all products to be used on the project, followed by obtaining these products. Asbestos and/or lead abatement may begin during pre-construction depending on the project specifics. During pre-construction, on-site meetings should be held to or determine: the Owner’s expectations, material storage locations, access to water and electric, bathroom and changing facilities for the contractor(s), the project schedule, the contractor’s anticipated supervision and manpower, emergency contact information, communication protocols including notices to occupants, and a regular meeting schedule.
Based on the timelines we have outlined, design should begin in the Fall. However, it is our experience that it can be advantageous to an Owner if the design process can begin in the late Summer. Contractors bidding on projects in the early fall for work that will begin the following year, will often provide more competitive prices in order to secure that future work. Additionally, the chosen contractor is more apt to commit his best team to the project and to obtain materials in a timely manner if the project is awarded early. Design professionals who also want to secure work for the upcoming Spring may also offer more competitive proposals for design being performed during late Summer. Lastly, having contractor’s bids in hand in the fall often helps owners prepare a more accurate budget for the following year.
The accompanying schedule is an ideal one. However, professional and experienced design and consulting firms like Sullivan Engineering, along with our preferred contractors, realize that various factors can render this model impractical or impossible for the Owner. Therefore, it’s imperative we also remain flexible and are willing to adjust accordingly to our clients’ needs.