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Completing a renovation or expansion project in an existing facility while it is occupied is a difficult job. It’s a challenge because the building owner and facility manager need to renovate, expand or alter the structure in some way but they can’t empty the building of human traffic or completely shut down operations. However, by balancing safety, coordination, communication, project scope and expectations, all stakeholders can work together to make the facility run much smoother.

Below are 5 tips to minimize disruption for building users during your next renovation project.

Getting Renovations Done Efficiently

1) Carefully plan coexistence during construction

The most convenient way to renovate a building would be to suspend all non-construction staff traffic into the premises for the duration of the project but going that route is not always possible. Staying in operation during a renovation means that the facility can continue providing value to its users whether it’s a school that needs to keep educating children, a factory that needs to continue producing products, or a hospital that needs to keep caring for the sick.

But the fact is, services will be affected. The biggest consideration for the project team will be the minimum disruption and safety of the occupants.

They will need to sit down well beforehand to plan how to avoid major clashes of activities to prevent loss of business revenue. This plan will map out strict rules for both the construction team and the building users and ensure that everyone is aware when any major construction work is taking place and what or where they need to be at that time.

A good way to handle busy buildings with lots of activities is to shuffle people and their workaround. In that case, renovation or expansion can proceed in phases maybe during normal business hours or at night when the building is less busy. Note that this can work but it tends to be quite distracting to keep moving employees around especially in an office environment. If renovation work must happen during peak periods, it’s good practice to properly barricade work areas and any construction equipment.

If the kind of work done on the building is so sensitive that shuffling people and equipment around is likely to affect productivity, the next option would be strictly overnight and weekend work. Workers can then work without disruption and the construction team can proceed without having to worry about disturbing employees.

The keys to successful coexistence are flexibility and prompt communication.

2) Vet the contractor
Remember that renovating an occupied building is not like working on an empty structure. The contractor you choose to do the job will need to understand this and work with you to avoid major problems. Just any old builder will not do in this case.

Here are a few things to clarify from every contractor before making a choice:

  • Find out if they have done these kinds of jobs and if they have, let them show you proof.
  • Check their ability to provide reliable workers and subcontractors for weekend or night work (if required).
  • Check their safety policies and readiness for emergencies.

3) Clarify timeline and milestones

Another important thing to agree on is how long the renovation will take and when specific parts of the project would be completed. Even with the best planning, the fact remains that there will be some interruptions along the way.

To make it easier for everyone, ensure that all stakeholders are aware of what to expect well in advance and everyone should understand exactly how their own office or living space will be affected. Dates and times should be well-documented and kept to strictly.

In addition, keep everyone abreast of any proposed changes. The worst thing you can do is assume it’s just a “small change anyway” and fail to communicate then an important task gets disrupted with serious financial losses or even worse, safety implications. Communicate delays with subcontractors, delays with sourcing materials, logistics problems, etc and how they are likely to affect the timeline and milestones.

4) Do not forget contingency time

Under promise but over deliver. It’s way better to give the a longer timeline than necessary and then finish before time than to allow yourself be boxed into a tight timeline then fail to complete the renovation on time. You’re not doing anyone any favors this way.

Instead, build in some contingency time into the timeline to allow for unforeseen issues and help the renovation project run smoothly. In the event of any challenges, you will still have some leeway to catch up and not affect the completion date of the project.

5) Specify any preparation requirements

It’s a common mistake: a contractor arrives ready to proceed for the day but basic preparations have not been made. This could happen either because the requirements were not communicated in advance or nobody took it as their responsibility.

For instance, the flooring is to be changed today within a tight timeline but nobody remembered to have all furniture and equipment removed from the space before the contractor arrived on-site.

Avoid this kind of scenario by appointing someone to check preparations to remove any obstacles for work a day or two beforehand.

With these tips, your next building renovation should proceed relatively smoothly with the least disruption to other activities in the premises.

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