Things To Consider When Planning A Building Rennovation

by Sam Frost | Nov 27, 2019

The renovation of a building is often a significant financial investment. Being well-informed and aware of the challenges that lie ahead with a large-scale project can help to minimise potential obstacles and disappointment.

The following is a guide that advises you of areas that must be taken into consideration as you plan a building renovation of any size. Following this set of guidelines should provide an improved final result – one that both you and your client will be proud of.

Consideration 1: Assessing the core reason for the building renovation.

Before embarking on a building renovation journey, it is vital that you understand the core reason for undertaking the planned work. This is an essential step since it helps you to prioritise what you have to spend and focuses your attention on what matters the most to you.

For example, if you have a 30-year-old building that has a long-standing tenant, and it is in a good location, it may have out-of-date aluminium joinery that has failed, thus allowing water to leak into the building. In this instance, you would focus your renovation budget on upgrading the façade and windows, rather than recladding the roof, redoing the landscaping, or replacing the HVAC.

In any building renovation project, it is easy to get carried away with a wish list of bright-and-shiny items, thus losing sight of the core reason for the project. Losing focus may cause undue stress when the wish list causes the original budget for the project to be exceeded. If the scope of the project is clear from the beginning and the core reason for the project is adhered to, undue financial pressure can be lessened or eliminated.

Key take away: Thoroughly brainstorm the core reason for your building renovation ahead of time. Then ensure that each follow-on decision is made according to the pre-established core reason.

Consideration 2: Understanding the implications of altering or modifying specified systems.

Let’s begin by establishing what a specified system is. A specified system is a building component or system that is specified and required to meet the New Zealand building code. Any alteration or modification to a specified system will generally require a building consent.

Example: If you modify a building’s internal layout, and that results in the existing fire alarm and sprinklers becoming non-compliant with the current standards of building codes, you will need a building consent to modify the fire protection systems, thus ensuring that they are compliant with the New Zealand Building Code.

Now that you understand what a specified system is, it is critical also to understand that alterations or modifications to specified systems can have significant cost implications relating to the planned building renovation costs that were initially laid out.

For example, a 50-years-old building may have single-glazing and lightweight cement-based cladding, and you plan to modernise the building and update the façade, glazing, and cladding. By doing so, you may trigger the requirements under the New Zealand building code to meet the current building code legislation for external moisture, structural changes, seismic bracing, insulation, and noise prevention. The result could be that what you considered to be a simple re-clad could end up as an expensive project requiring upgrades on bracing, insulation, flashings, and the need to obtain new permits so that the building meets current codes.

Key take away: Before diving into flashy concept design, it’s worthwhile engaging a licensed building consultant or building compliance specialist to discuss your proposals. They can then explain the implications, potential costs, and areas of concern.

Consideration 3: Understanding how long a building refurbishment takes.

The actual time that it takes to plan out, design properly, and complete a building refurbishment project is often overlooked. Below, we’ll examine the necessary steps and provide a typical timeline for a building refurbishment project.

Concept Development – This part of the process is often the slowest, but it is critical in getting the rest of the project done correctly. Depending on the complexity of the project and how detailed the design brief is, the concept development phase can typically take up to three months. This time period allows the developer to understand the client’s core reason, research the potential concept options or storyboard ideas, produce two or three conceptual designs, and develop the final concept designs. This is all done before moving to the working drawing stage.

Working Drawings – At this stage, the detailed designs are completed, and the involvement of engineers is required to produce project-specific designs and all necessary documentation for essential areas such as fire, structural, and ventilation planning. Depending on the complexity of the design, this process can take between two to four months.

Consent – Obtaining consent is the biggest unknown factor. It is often the primary cause for delay in a project. It is a well-known fact that councils have 20 days to process a building consent application. However, the mostly unknown fact is that as soon as the council sends out an RFI or request for information document, the clock stops on the application process and the 20-day rule limit is extended. It would be wise to allow two full months for a consent application to be processed

Construction – This varies widely from project to project and will largely depend on the scale and complexity of the individual project.

However, we can give some well-informed construction times based on the project cost.

  • $10,000 to $20,000 — from 3 days to 2 weeks
  • $20,000 to $40,000 – from 3 to 5 weeks
  • $40,000 to $60,000 – from 5 to 8 weeks
  • $60,000 to $90,000 – from 8 to 12 weeks
  • $90,000 to $150,000 – from 3 to 4 months

Key take away – Be prepared ahead of time by understanding how long things take to reach completion. It can be stressful to have expectations of the completion time for a project, only to discover that it will take a full month longer to reach the end date. Knowing that, it’s better to begin planning as early as possible, and always allow for unexpected contingencies.

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