Whether your company is planning to move to a new office location, set up a branch office, or renovate your existing office space, choosing the right commercial general contractor to remodel or build out your office can have a long-lasting effect on the future of your company. As you will soon see, there are many different types of commercial general contractors. In addition, different contractors have different levels of competency and pricing.
The goal of this article is to help you choose the best commercial general contractor for your office buildout and to avoid some of the most common mistakes that companies make in choosing a commercial general contractor.
What Is A Commercial General Contractor?
We are all familiar with general contractors for residential home building and remodeling. Most of us know what a general contractor is, at least in the residential sector. Today it is relatively easy to find a general contractor to work on your residential home space.
But a commercial general contractor is different. A commercial general contractor is a general contractor who specializes in building or remodeling commercial space for companies and businesses rather than residential space for individuals and families.
Examples of commercial space include offices, restaurants, shopping centers, schools, hospitals, doctor’s offices, dentist offices, and so on. Commercial space comes with a different set of building codes and zoning regulations than residential space and thus requires a general contractor who has knowledge and experience of building codes and zoning regulations that apply specifically to the commercial sector and not the residential sector.
What Are The Responsibilities Of A Commercial General Contractor?
The responsibilities of a commercial general contractor are similar to those of a residential general contractor:
- A general contractor assigns the right combination of subcontractors to execute the project according to the client’s goals, vision, and budget. Each subcontractor is responsible for executing a specific trade or skill. Examples of subcontractor skills include electrical wiring, plumbing, flooring, painting, kitchen space, bathrooms, HVAC, demolition, and computer network cabling.
- A general contractor manages the day-to-day operation of the project and is physically present at the site at all times. The general contractor coordinates the subcontractors to make sure they work smoothly to execute the client’s vision.
- A general contractor solves any problems that arise during the execution of the project. The solution to the problem must be consistent with the client’s overall goals, vision, and budget. For example, if a subcontractor finds that a particular type of electrical wiring won’t work, the general contractor finds a solution that fits the client’s budget, such as using a different type of wiring or altering the path of the wiring.
- A general contractor is responsible for the overall liability for the project. During the execution of a project, unforeseen things can happen. A general contractor’s liability insurance and/or bond covers these unforeseen incidents.
Sometimes You Will Need To Hire An Office Space Planner
For larger and more complicated office projects, you will need to hire the expertise of an office space designer. An office space designer will draw out a plan for how your office will look after it is built or renovated. This is usually done with computer software that can generate two-dimensional or three-dimensional images. Based on your feedback, these visual plans can be easily modified through the software.
The irreplaceable skills that office space designers bring to the table include knowledge of commercial building codes and zoning regulations as well as experience in designing office space that increases employee productivity, creativity, and job satisfaction. Office space planners are also knowledgable about construction and building engineering.
Thus, an office space planner is actually three different professions fused together into one:
- An office space planner is a construction engineer.
- An office space planner is a legal expert.
- An office space planner is an artist that boosts employee output and job satisfaction.
The role of an office space planner cannot be overestimated and could well be worth the investment to your company.
RI Group In New York Combines Office Space Planning With General Contractor Construction
As an example of innovation, RI Group, a firm located just outside New York City, combines both office space planning and general contractor construction synergistically to build, renovate, or remodel any commercial office space.
RI Group was founded by multiple experts in both (1) office space planning, and (2) general contracting in commercial building construction and interior renovation. These experts work, communicate, and collaborate together as a unified team. Thus, with RI Group, you never have to worry about whether your office space planner can communicate effectively or synergistically with your general contractor. With RI Group, that communication or synergy is already proven.
RI Group is also knowledgable about the latest modern office design trends that boost employee productivity, maximize employee job satisfaction, and attract the best employees to your company or organization.
The Different Types Of Commercial General Contractors
Commercial general contractors come in different types. Some specialize in restaurants. Some specialize in shopping centers. Some specialize in physician offices. And some specialize in white-collar office spaces.
Before you choose a commercial general contractor, make sure that the contractor has knowledge or experience in the type of commercial setting that is similar to yours. For example, if your project is a physician office, ask the contractor about his or her knowledge and experience in building or renovating doctor’s or dentist offices. If your project is a white-collar corporate headquarters, find out whether the contractor has had experience with white-collar office environments. This is important because if you choose the wrong commercial general contractor for the job, you will likely get less than impressive results.
Even within the area of white-collar office environments, there are many niches. There are different types of white-collar office space setups that are popular among companies today. For example, some companies prefer an open office design where employees are seated very close to one another to encourage collaboration and communication efficiency. However, other companies might prefer a semi-open office design where some employees are more secluded from others due to the nature of their profession. Another type of office design trend that has recently gained popularity is the industrial office design with exposed ceiling pipes and air ducts; unpainted brick interior walls, large open windows, concrete floors, and overhanging light fixtures with exposed light bulbs. This type of office design is relatively popular among small startup companies, particularly in the technology and software development sector. Choosing a commercial general contractor for your office project requires finding out whether the general contractor has experience with the type of office design trend that you are looking for.
5 Questions You Should Ask Any Commercial General Contractor
Here are five questions that you should ask any commercial general contractor before hiring them for an office buildout, remodel, or renovation:
- Do you have a license, bond, and insurance? Amazingly, many general contractors do not have a license. If you hire a general contractor without a license, you cannot go to your state’s licensing board to access the bond or file a complaint in the event that something bad happens. Insurance is needed in the event that the general contractor or one of its subcontractors causes damage to your office, employees, or company. Ask the general contractor for proof of insurance. Many insurance companies issue certificates of insurance which the general contractor can copy and send to you as proof of their insurance coverage. You will also want to make sure that the coverage limits of the insurance policy are sufficient to cover any unforeseen liability. A bond, on the other hand, works differently than an insurance policy. If the general contractor disappears on you before completing the project, you can access the bond money from an independent third party to recover your costs.
- Do you have experience in the type of commercial space that I am looking for? Again, there are many different types of commercial space. Even within the area of white-collar office environments, there are several different types of modern design trends. You will need a commercial general contractor who has experience in the exact design trend that you are looking for.
- Do you have references? You will want the commercial general contractor to give you references to past clients on projects that are similar to yours. Follow up on these references and give them a call. A little bit of followup work here can prevent a world of hurt later on. A great question to ask each reference is, “Has this general contractor been on time and on budget with your project?”
- Can you give me a detailed listing of the scope of work that you are bidding on? This allows you to compare apples to apples when comparing bids between different contractors. Some contractors omit certain items that they know you’ll eventually need in order to bid the lowest price possible. The lowest bid doesn’t always mean the lowest price.
- Will you be supervising the contractors on the project site on a daily basis? One of the primary responsibilities of a general contractor is to be on site to manage the subcontractors and to solve problems as they arise. This is why you are paying them. If they aren’t on site, then they aren’t being a general contractor.
Financial Solvency Of The Commercial General Contractor
In addition to the above questions, you should also seek to understand the general contractor’s financial strength. The reason is that you want to make sure that the general contractor has enough money to pay the subcontractors, purchase supplies, and cover any unexpected costs that arise during the execution of the project. The last thing you want to happen is for the general contractor to suddenly disappear due to lack of funds and to leave you holding the bag.
Thus you will want to be sure that the general contractor either has enough money in their bank account or can access a line of credit that allows them to borrow money to cover any unexpected or unforeseen costs.
Choose A Commercial General Contractor That You Can Communicate With
For best results, you will need a commercial general contractor who is willing and able to communicate with you effectively.
The office of your dreams is not something that can be manufactured on a factory assembly line. The office of your dreams is unique to you and your company and thus requires a high level of detailed communication with your general contractor.
In addition, you will need a general contractor who can communicate with you on a regular basis throughout the execution of the project. For example, you and the general contractor may agree on holding a meeting every week to discuss the current state of progress. This will make you aware of any problems or issues that the general contractor may be facing so that you can manage around those problems or issues.
Ideally you will want a commercial general contractor who you feel comfortable communicating with. This is not something that you can know for sure until you actually start working with them. Thus it may be safer to hire them for a small project first before moving onto bigger projects with them later on.
Whether your company is moving to a new location, setting up a new branch office, or renovating your existing office, you will need to hire a competent commercial general contractor to convert your dream into reality.
Choosing the right general contractor can mean the difference between being under budget or over budget; completing the project on time or too late; and a job well done or damage to your company. There are so many factors and potential pitfalls that you must consider when evaluating the right people to hire.
In addition, you may need to hire an office space planner to ensure an office design that is consistent with your company’s values and long-term strategy. In particular, office design has a tremendous impact on the productivity, creativity, and motivation of your company’s employees. The right office design can also attract the best employees to your company and away from your competitors.
RI Group, located in the New York City area, combines both office space planning and commercial general contractor construction and remodeling services into a single unified team of professionals. This ensures harmonious communication between the two roles of office space planning and commercial general contracting. RI Group also has extensive experience designing office spaces that can boost employee productivity, creativity, and motivation while attracting the best employees to your company.