Tag Archives: tenant improvement

Meet David Torres—Snyder Building Construction’s Newest Project Manager

Meet David Torres—Snyder Building Construction’s Newest Project Manager

October 17, 2018
by: Audrey Wilson

We are excited to share that David Torres is on board as our newest project manager. He will be leading jobs in all sectors of our portfolio from tenant improvement to ground-up, including restaurant, retail, office, metal buildings, and historic renovations.

David Torres, Project Manager

David earned his Bachelor of Science in Structural Engineering from Cal Poly Pomona in Pomona, California. He’s a pretty smart cookie. Since then, he’s been managing projects with excellence for 11 years.

His approach to working with clients? “Be trustworthy, be persistent, lead by example, and trust the abilities of others,” he told us. We think that’s a pretty great strategy!

David has bid, estimated and managed the gamut construction projects ranging from $25,000 to $15,000,000.

Most notably, he bid and managed the historic renovation of an existing multi-story building that was originally built in 1888. The renovation included dropping the basement ten feet to allow for a future restaurant tenant, a complete structural retrofit and a new rooftop bar & events center. He also bid and managed a 25,000 square-foot, ground-up construction project for the Disney Archive Library—a new place to house and archive old Disney cartoon and movie reels. Other past projects include multiple projects at Disney Resorts, Pixar executive housing, Shell and Chevron gas stations, Discount Tire shops, full service restaurants, Lululemon Athletica yoga retail locations, multi-family mixed-use buildings, Wal-Marts, schools, churches and architecture offices.

When he’s not busy working, you’ll find him spending time outdoors with his wife or hunting with his bird dogs Chester and Reba.

Your Budget Will Thank Us — 8 Design Trends to Consider When Value Engineering | Part III: Bars, Restaurants, and Breweries, Oh my!

Your Budget Will Thank Us — 8 Design Trends to Consider When Value Engineering

A Three-Part Construction Series. Part III: Bars, Restaurants, and Breweries, Oh my! — A Three-Part Construction Series

April 12, 2018
collaboration by: Matt Redick & Audrey Wilson

With the infrastructure engineered and a strong team and plan in place, it’s time to talk interiors and finishes. In their semi-state-of-the-union, Architectural Digest notes 2018 restaurant design continues trending toward Instagrammable, well-lit spaces that incorporate natural greenery. Alvarez-Diaz and  Villalon add that experience-driven design will also reign. “There is a shift in restaurant atmosphere, from cozy and rugged to clean and modern. Expect more green in the form of plants and living walls, adding life and comfort,” says Rachael Lyman of Studio Atlantis. In addition to plants, sustainability will continue to be a “green” focus.

 When it comes to saving money during construction, it boils down to two things: (1) plan your best ahead of time; and (2) value engineering, meaning to think critically about your “must-haves” and make tough decisions around what design elements to keep in order to meet your budget. Do the planning up front and then let the design play out. As a general rule of thumb, design changes in the field can cost up to 3x more than making design decisions at the early stages—this is due to plan revisions, time lost, lead times, and extra project management time.

There’s no doubt you’ll end up spending a lot of your budget is on kitchen equipment, any “wet” areas of the restaurant including restrooms, lighting packages, and infrastructure upgrades (mechanical, electrical, plumbing). In the sections below, we look at a few areas of consideration and dive into some 2018 restaurant design trends to discuss what’s happening and identify areas of cost savings (a.k.a. value engineering or ‘VE’).

If you missed Part I of the conversation, check out the Nuts & Bolts of building a restaurant here.

SOCIAL MEDIA DRIVEN DESIGN
Whether you’re building a franchise brand or a local owner/operated concept, brands have to be unique to distinguish themselves. How brands connect to their consumers these days is intrinsically tied to their social media conversation. With your physical store presence, you have to weigh the options of spending more to have a unique brand experience (i.e. a unique Instagram/Snapchat moment) or spending less for a simpler look. When it comes to construction, custom items such as art, fixtures, furniture and features will most likely be more expensive than what you can find off the shelf. Trends shift quickly, so be prepared for an interiors update as soon as five years to keep up with the changes.

VE Option: Keep the structural/built design elements classic or simple. As design trends shift, furnishings are easier than structural/architectural elements to change. Choose the number of custom features carefully—custom work is almost always more expensive.

FEATURE LIGHTING
The lighting package and associated electrical work will be a high-priced ticket item during your construction build out. Long lead times for light fixtures may make it tough to keep on schedule without proper planning with your design and construction team. We recommend deciding on your lighting package early so that material can be ordered as quickly as possible which is your best hope at keeping this activity line on schedule. Added days to the schedule = increased cost.

Certain lighting is required by code. To meet code requirements in Denver, you must plan to reduce overall lighting power consumption by using enhanced lighting controls. This means drawing less power altogether via LED fixtures or changing out light switches to an occupancy sensor switch. In some cases, a fully integrated, lighting-control panel may also be required by the local jurisdiction. Another typical health department requirement is task lighting behind and underneath the bar for employee visibility.

Consider that track lighting offers flexibility in pointing light where you want it to go (accent walls, highlighting art, etc.) and is great for open ceiling plans. Recessed lighting works well for drywall hard lid or acoustical tile ceilings.

VE Options: Choose less expensive ambient lighting and spend your lighting dollars for accent/feature lighting. Choose less expensive fixtures in the back of the house and focus on making impact in guest areas.

NATURAL GREENERY
Having plants in a space can improve ambiance and mood. Consider, however, that with live greenery it’s imperative to maintain and water them to keep plans looking healthy and great. Plant maintenance will add monthly costs, something to think about before you add them into your design.

Adding plants to your restaurant can happen before or after the build out depending on the application within the design. Examples include built-in planters, live green walls, etc. Will plants be hung from the ceiling? If so, how will they be hung? Are you choosing indoor or outdoor planters? If you plan to incorporate greenery into fixed design elements, consider drainage plans, non-porous materials, access for maintenance, ability to provide watering, and proximity to food production to avoid cross contamination.

EXPERIENCE-DRIVEN DESIGN
Jeff Sheppard of Roth Sheppard Architects in Denver gave a talk earlier this year at the Colorado Real Estate Journal’s conference about the importance of experience-driven design. To drive home his point, Sheppard talked about how “airports are the new mall” and how self-service kiosks in restaurants and retail are also becoming more and more prevalent. When you look around, you see some local chefs already driving this experience innovation. Take Five Point’s Birdcall with iPad order kiosks and only a few service staff. And First Draft Taproom & Kitchen where guests pour their own beer and are charged by the ounce. Self-service sparkling water is on the rise as well.

All of these experience-driven design choices require intentional storage, electrical, plumbing, and service flow planning. While you will spend money on building for these, you could save on labor costs once open.

PICKING APPROPRIATE FINISHES
Picking appropriate finishes means choosing what meets the budget, fits the design, and serves its purpose for a long time. Right now, 2018 predictions are bringing back wood and white for a light, open-airy feeling. Along with this, we may see a shift in the decision to use finished concrete as the floor option. Floor tile can be a great alternative to finished concrete and has an incredibly wide-range of possibilities. Be cautious in your choices, as tile cost varies widely and can have long lead times, especially if shipped from overseas.

Picking finishes that look great and stand up to the commercial, high-volume traffic matters. “Don’t skimp on the quality of the kitchen floor. It costs you more up front but saves you money in the end,” says Rich Snyder, Owner of Snyder Building Construction. The back of the house gets heavy use with foot traffic, deliveries, dirt, and grease grime. It’s easier to spend more money up front for an easy to maintain and durable floor. Patching and repairing down the line is costly and disturbs your business. Further, patches may not always match the original quality.

Some common floor finish choices include, finished concrete, epoxy flooring, and quarry tile. Polished concrete is the least expensive, but it’s porous so can stain, will easily break a dropped dish, and is hard on the human body after standing all day. Some local health departments will not allow concrete treatments, so check with your design team if this is a floor you’re considering. Quarry tile is mid-range in terms of price and is very durable, but not as attractive. Epoxy flooring costs a bit more, but can accomplish the goals of looking great, reducing smallware breakage, and increased employee comfort despite all-day standing.

In wet areas of the restaurant (like bar and back of house), another material consideration is stainless steel. Plastic laminate or other less expensive options won’t hold up to the constant wear and tear. Stainless steel kitchen sinks and fixtures can come in a wide range of pricing and it can be tempting to go for the most expensive “Cadillac” equipment package, but it is not always necessary. You can save money by picking less expensive brands because stainless steel equipment and sinks typically utilitarian pieces of equipment. Unless you’re considering an open kitchen, you don’t need to choose the most expensive. All that said, equipment that offers better sustainability in terms of energy or water use typically cost more up front but save you in costs years down the line—and are better for the environment. If sustainability is a priority for you, it may be worth the extra money to invest in this type of equipment.

BRINGING THE OUTDOORS INDOORS
Welcome Spring! Which means it’s time for patios, roof tops, open windows, and door rollups. Read on for tips on these design options to make sure you’ve planned for everything.

  • Roof Top Patios – Structures must support the weight of a specific live load to be used for occupancy. Check with your engineers and building owner/landlord if applicable!
  • Outdoor Ground Patios – Code requires at least 5’ of clearance around the patio for pedestrian travel. You’ll need a handrail or demarcation line around the patio for exterior alcohol service (and an approved liquor license).
  • Overhead Doors – Because overhead and rollup doors breach the inside and outside and require building into the walls of the building, negotiate with the landlord as to whether this is a landlord provided item or tenant provided. Additionally, there are special code requirements regarding clearance to travel and fire suppression lines above and below the track.

SUSTAINABILITY
Did you know that when furniture for the US is made, the wood is typically harvested in North America, is usually shipped overseas for production and fabrication, and then shipped back to sell in the U.S.? The amount of fossil fuels and energy required for that intercontinental supply chain isn’t sustainable.  Housefish, a Denver-based furniture manufacturer hopes to change that by sourcing local materials and making furniture in the city.

Other ways to incorporate sustainability into your restaurant include LED lighting, sourcing local, energy-efficient equipment, and planning for dimmers/controls. Dimmers and controls are great in a restaurant setting because they allow you to change the mood and lighting based on time of day. Divided, rough-use bins are also a strong idea. LarkBurger is a front runner on this idea who feature built-in bins divided for trash, mixed recycling, and compost. The company composts 100% of its packaging when commercially available. You’ll need to plan for service pick-ups to make sure recycling compost is disposed of properly once it leaves your facility.

A/V and ELECTRICITY
While this wasn’t pointed out as a 2018 trend in our research, these are must-haves in our digital world. Convenience outlets and USB ports are integral these days. Further, consider the flexibility of your sound system and are you streaming radio/music? How’s your internet connection and Wifi? Is it public wifi? If you are streaming music, you will want to make sure your internet connection is strong.  Can you put outlets on the guest side of the bar for phone charging and sometimes laptop work? Lastly, it’s never fun if an electrical circuit gets tripped. Make sure your point of sale kiosks are each on a dedicated circuit so that if the inevitable happens, not all of them cut off altogether. Redundancy will save the day!

Other Pro-Tips:
You’ll thank us later.

  • You can’t move in furniture or train staff in the space until a passing health inspection and TCO is acquired. Not following this rule can be detrimental to your move in.
  • Denver has an ordinance that all single-stall bathrooms are to be built as gender neutral.
  • Save yourself stress and partner with an experienced food-service architect and general contractor. You will save time because there are unique rules regarding floor drains, sanitization stations, finish specifications, etc. that these partners can help with.
  • Do the planning up front and let the design play out. Design changes in the field can cost up to 3x more than making design choices at the early stages due to plan revisions, time lost, lead times, extra project management time.

Ready for more? Contact Snyder Building Construction for concept budget pricing or support on building your restaurant at info@snyderbuilding.com or 720.900.5082.

Bars, Restaurants, and Breweries, Oh my! Part I: The Nuts & Bolts

Bars, Restaurants, and Breweries, Oh my!
Part I: The Nuts and Bolts of Building a Restaurant | A Guide for New Owners

A Three-Part Construction Series

January 30, 2018
collaboration by: Audrey Wilson & Matt Redick

Construction consideration begins before you even ever sign a lease. You want people who not only know how to build restaurants but who knows what matters to you and can support your goals. Building a restaurant is a huge undertaking! Our team has over 25 years of restaurant, bar, and brewery experience and we know how stressful and hard it can be. We pride ourselves in being a general contractor that can support you from start to finish from operations tips, to kitchen layout, vendor management, preconstruction, and launch. We are there for you during the whole journey.

If you’re just getting started, this series may be just the ticket! In Part 1: The Nuts and Bolts of Building a Restaurant we dive into a holistic overview considering the big four: The People, The Places, The Budget, and The Schedule. Keep in mind, we’re based in Denver, Colorado so pricing and timeline could vary based on your location and timing—construction pricing changes rapidly every year.

Buckle up and read on!

The People | Get a good team on board early.

“Hire people because you think they’ll give you the best advice and then trust what they say.” – Matt Redick, Senior Project Manager – Snyder Building Construction

Building a restaurant requires a complete understanding of back of house and front of house operations from the very beginning. While the whole process is incredibly cyclical and evolving, having a good grasp on the big picture as well as minute details (like what’s on the menu!) can have a huge impact on the entire project. That’s a lot to ask at the beginning! Thus, choose an architect construction team (and any consultants) who are well versed in restaurants and get them on board early! Choose one who has time in their company’s work load to really serve you well. Consider there are a plethora of health department and unique building code requirements when building a restaurant, you want partners who will get this right for you. The key? The earlier you get your people together in the same room the better.

“Have you hired your head chef already or are you the chef/owner? Get this key player involved in the design process as soon as you can.”  – Rich Snyder, Owner, Snyder Building Construction

If you’re hiring engineers and/or consultants, we recommend you choose ones with lots of restaurant experience. Deciding whether or not to use a kitchen design consultant is an important factor in the design process. The menu drives equipment and the equipment drives MEP drawings. We often see three common pitfalls with restaurant clients: (1) Not allocating enough budget; (2) Not reviewing the restaurant’s equipment requirements and planning for the right pieces of equipment, thus ending up with incorrect or extra items; (3) Not involving the kitchen designers early enough. Kitchen design companies are experts in equipment and kitchen flow efficiency and they provide very specific equipment power/rough-in requirements—crucial information for the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing drawings. This information is necessary and critical at the beginning to ensure accurate construction drawings are produced for the construction team.

So I know you’re thinking so far, this sounds fairly simple. However, owners/restaurateurs are responsible for managing a whole slew of additional vendors, from equipment suppliers to security, to audio/visual, point of sale systems, beverage services, beer tap systems, specialized lighting, small wares, menu design, signage (exterior and wayfinding) and furniture. It’s a lot to manage especially when you’re still navigating and planning funding, business plans, operations, weekly construction meetings and staff hiring. Let us help you lighten this workload—as restaurant specialists we’ve managed this for dozens of owners and seek to make the experience for you seamless.

Get folks on board early. We cannot reiterate this enough. With your architect and general contractor and consultants on at the very beginning of the design phase, we have the ability to support you more holistically through the preconstruction process, which includes discovery, site survey, scheduling and budgeting. For helpful tips on choosing your team, check out our other blog post “Building Your Construction Team.” Having expert eyes on existing conditions can save much needed headache and money down the line. Which leads us to the next section: The Place.

Side Note: It’s totally up to you as the owner whether you want that team to work in tandem (Design-Build) during design of the restaurant, or have construction documents prepared by the architect before handing them off for bidding, budgeting, and building with the general contractor (Design-Bid-Build). The word “design” can also somewhat be a misnomer—it really refers to the process of an architect creating the drawings of the restaurant. How will it flow? Where is the front door? Where is the kitchen, dining room, flow of egress? Interior design happens concurrently but is a smaller piece of the “design” process. Your architectural drawings are created in multiple stages rather than all at once such that changes/refinements happen more seamlessly. Once you have Construction Documents (the last stage) or “CDs” then in general you are ready for permitting and construction!

The Place | Conduct a site survey to identify existing conditions.

“Good buildings come from good people, and all problems are solved by good design.” -Stephen Gardiner

Whether you’re preferred restaurant location is a brand new building or an existing space needing renovation, conducting a site survey and understanding existing conditions is critical. At the beginning stages of discovery, it is worthwhile for you and your architect to hire mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineers to survey your site.  This will save you money and time during the construction phase. You need to know what your infrastructure is like prior to committing on a space. You’ll likely incur some fees during this phase, but the information gained at this early stage is very important to answer questions about whether or not the space is right for your planned use.

Here’s a handy list of items to consider and check for during your site survey. Not checking for these could add anywhere from $15-$100K right off the bat.

  • Water line tie-in needs to be 1 ½” minimum. ($50K price tag to alter)
  • Electrical capacity to the building needs to be at least 225 Amp service. Most restaurants really require 400 Amp service. (Upgrading service could cost upwards of $15-20K)
  • Is there an existing grease trap to tie into? Are there accurate drawings that show the elevation of the grease trap? (New systems or upgrades may add up to $25K)
  • Most restaurants require a 4” minimum waste line. If not, we’d recommend considering another building or space altogether.
  • Ceiling height & structure (what does roof deck look like if wanting an open ceiling look)
  • Does the building have Landmark Protected status? If so, this adds an extra layer of review and thus, added time before permitting can even begin.
  • If a multi-story building, where are the grease duct and refrigeration lines running?
  • Is there good access for future deliveries to the back of the house?
  • Where will the truck park to pump out and service the grease trap?
  • Will you have a CO2 supplier or a need for CO2 tanks? If so, how accessible is your soda rack for these deliveries?
  • Is there existing storage or space to build in storage?

If your restaurant will be part of a new building, some additional things to consider:

  • Height limitations/code for your roof deck/outdoor patio. This is based on your jurisdiction and considered during the permitting process.
  • Understand what the landlord is providing in their work letter. A lawyer should help review.
  • What kind of HVAC system will work the best for the space? Is there enough flat roof area and structural capacity on the roof for RTU’s (Roof Top Units) or is a Split System going to be used requiring a location outside on the ground for condensers to be placed?

The Budget | Plan for design, consulting, permits, fees, construction, and 10% contingency.

“Cost, schedule, and quality—all three are in play but you can only pick two.” – Age-Old Saying.

A good starting point for restaurant construction costs in Denver is $130-$225/SF for a 2,500-5,000 sf space. However, this can vary a lot depending on the design choices that you make.  Size, for example has an inverse relationship with cost per square foot—the bigger the space, the less cost per square foot. This is JUST construction cost. This pricing does not include architect fees, design, equipment, extensive infrastructure improvements, fine or fancy finishes, training costs, weather/unforeseen conditions or schedule impacts. When you plan your budget, consider all of these costs. In addition, we advise planning a 10% contingency line in your budget—there’s a myriad of moving parts in a restaurant build and it’s just better to be on the safe end.

From an interior design/impact stand point restrooms and interior finishes seems like a great place to spend money. And they are! However, big ticket items during construction are often kitchen equipment, wet areas like the bar, lighting in the space, and mechanical, electrical, or plumbing infrastructure upgrades.

Plan to spend money on all of the following:

  • Construction costs
  • Architectural design services
  • Restaurant consulting
  • Permitting
  • Equipment deposits
  • Long-lead/exotic material deposits
  • Fees for due diligence/feedback from engineers
  • Signage – own permitting process (start early) design fees, etc.
  • Owner items: security, audio/visual, POS, Coke/Pepsi, beer systems, signage, furniture, specialty lighting

Construction costs are usually billed monthly based on percentage of work completed during that month. Thus, you’ll spend the majority of your budget in the beginning and middle of the project as things are gearing up, and then payments begin to taper off as far as design and construction costs are concerned. See the graph below to get a better idea:

Lastly, spending time and money refining design up front before construction starts saves time and money at the end! Changing design elements in the field after construction has begun can easily triple costs for the changes in no time.

 The Schedule | Varies greatly!

“The most powerful force ever known on this planet is human cooperation—a force for construction and destruction.” – Jonathan Haidt

 We’ll dive deeper into scheduling in a separate blog post. For now, we’ll touch on it briefly. For projects roughly 2,500-5,000 SF in size you’re looking at about 12-14 weeks of construction time. You’ll want to add surveying, planning, design, permitting, etc… to get a true sense of your timeline. This could add anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks on the front end. Additionally, the exterior signage process has its own permitting and timeline process outside of the construction timeline through local zoning departments.

The 12-14 week construction portion will run somewhat like this ….. 1-2 weeks for underground plumbing and electrical work (Another reason having solid MEP drawings and information at the beginning is critical! We can’t start without this.); 3 weeks framing/rough-ins; 3 weeks equipment installation/overhead; 4-6 weeks for paint, tile, lighting, and finishes throughout.

Note, permitting jurisdictions will not allow you to move in furniture or train staff in the space until a health inspection, and final building inspections are completed.  If the space is a change of use, or a new space, a CO (Certificate of Occupancy) will also need to be obtained after final inspections. Unfortunately, this is an absolute so you’ll want to plan building your team and training staff for operations accordingly.

Check back soon for Part II for more budgeting, pricing, strong mechanical, electrical, plumbing drawings, and designing for efficient service!

Ready to learn more and get to work with us?? Email info@snyderbuilding.com or call us at 720.900.5082.

 

Building Your Construction Team

Building Your Construction Team

Tips and Questions for Your Potential Architect & General Contractor

January 24, 2018
collaboration by: Matt Redick & Audrey Wilson

Construction projects can be complex! Whether you’ve managed dozens of projects or are just getting started, these questions and tips can help make sure you’re bringing the best team on board for the job.

Questions for Your Potential Architect:

  • What is their work load like? How many other projects are they attending to and of what size?
  • What is the size and experience level of their staff for the type of project (new build, tenant improvement, restaurant, medical, or laboratory, etc.)
  • Who do you recommend for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) engineering? What are their reputations?
  • What do your Construction Administration (CA) services entail?
    (i.e. How will they support you once construction begins and what services are included? ex. Review of submittals, attendance at weekly meetings, punch list process?)

Questions for your General Contractor:

  • If you are hired, how many projects will my superintendent and PM be managing concurrently other than mine? What are their experience levels related to this type of project?
  • Describe your preconstruction services. How can you support me prior to construction
  • When do you generally prefer to be involved in the project?
  • How do you handle changes and/or unforeseen conditions when they come up?

 Owner Tips/Responsibilities:

  • Hire your team early on in the process!
  • Stay on top of phone calls and emails during construction as some items may need immediate attention.
  • Ask for updated schedules and budgets weekly from your general contractor/GC.
  • Ask your team questions about what is depicted on the Construction Documents (CD’s).
  • Know what items are included with the design and construction contracts and what items for which you will be responsible.
  • Get all agreements in writing.

For more information, contact info@snyderbuilding.com or 720.900.5082.

How to Crush Your Next Tenant Improvement or Interior Construction Project

How to Crush Your Next Tenant Improvement or Interior Construction Project

Tips from Business Owners on the Commercial Renovation Process

May 31, 2017


photo by Becky Dibble, Screen Pilot

A collaboration effort with Screen Pilot (Owners Tom & Becky Dibble)
written by: Audrey Wilson

We’ve been building tenant improvements for a while now. And while we feel pretty strong we know the order of things, the real story is the experience from the client’s perspective. After all, a tenant improvement indicates some type of shift for their business, generally a move toward growth or new experiences–these are moments of celebration!

As a general contractor, our hope is to make the transition seamless, so tenants can focus on their own priorities. However, how do we really know if we are on the right track? What is it like from the client’s perspective? How else can we be preparing and supporting our clients? For fresh perspective, we decided to unveil the other side of the story.

Clients Tom and Becky Dibble of Screen Pilot, graciously agreed to talk with us about their tenant improvement experience. Their hospitality-focused marketing agency recently expanded into an entire floor of a historic building in Downtown Denver and hired us for general contracting.

THE INTERVIEW:

Snyder Building Construction (SBC): Before we dive into your direct experience with the expansion construction, thank you! We had a great time building your new space. We’d love to know more about what takes place inside these walls. Tell us more about Screen Pilot.

Screen Pilot – Becky: We started as a small consulting firm, operating out of a home office, to now, a 20-person, thriving agency who continue to grow their client base. We built Screen Pilot on the desire to create a digital marketing agency that could deliver engaging and enviable client experience with pride and commitment.

SBC: You picked Denver over London, your hometown—I love it.

Becky:  Yes, our roots are firmly in the Mile High City, although we’d like to think an office in London is a possibility, in our future!

SBC: Clearly, the expansion means you’re growing and needed more space. Why expand in a historic building rather than go somewhere new?

Screen Pilot – Tom: Expanding as the only tenant on this floor meant more privacy and a sense of growth that we are experiencing not only in head count but as a business overall. Downtown Denver is burgeoning with new builds left, right and center, and it’s an amazing location on LoDo, we wanted to stay in the thick of it all.

SBC: And you really are so close to everything. 16th street mall, Union Station, some of the most amazing Denver restaurants—having met your team this choice absolutely fits the vibe at Screen Pilot. On the inside, how did you prioritize team needs and decide the floor plan layout?

Tom: We wanted to create a much more open plan space and sectioned off private meeting rooms for client meetings and internal meetings. That way we could accomplish both sense of privacy and collaboration.

SBC: It seems like the finished outcome definitely accomplishes what you were hoping for. On a random note, we were curious, did you have any previous experience with the commercial tenant improvement process?

Tom: When taking the lease in the first place, our initial experience with commercial construction was limited to what the landlord was managing. So very little. On a commercial basis, we had no experience working with a general contractor.

SBC: No way—y’all asked all the right questions! I would have never known. When you started the process, what kind of relationship did you hope to have with your GC? And what were your priorities during the construction process?

Tom: Trust was paramount. If you can’t trust your GC, you may as well do it yourself! We also wanted to mitigate noise for both the commercial and residential tenants in our mixed-use building, but also get the job done to plan, on-time and on budget.

SBC: We couldn’t have said it any better. Trust allows the project to move together smoothly and allows for more conscious decision making when discrepancies arise. This kind of relationship ultimately leads to on-time, on-budget projects.

The construction experience from the perspective of other people and businesses is obviously crucial in a historic, mixed-use building like yours. Commercial tenants are working during the day and families are at home early in the morning and in the evenings.

SBC: Were there any surprises during the process?

Tom: Not really surprises as such, but that’s not a bad thing!

Becky: During the demo phase, pipes and strange electrical wirings were exposed, not a huge surprise due to renovating a building of its age. Thankfully, a quick call from our GC meant an effective and satisfactory outcome so the project was not delayed.

In the end, we had to know how we did overall—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Tom (in his kind, British accent) simply said, “You guys crushed it. Apart from the standard sticker shock of the cost of commercial construction, which is universal I feel, having you guys running the project has been one of the better referrals that I’ve had for a service provider in a long time. The attention to detail and acute attentiveness to our needs but also running the tradespeople on the job from what we saw was fantastic.”

“At the start of our construction project, the whole team helped pack up our existing office and we all headed home to work. Our company thrives on teamwork and collaboration, so getting back together within the same space as soon as possible was paramount. SBC ensured this happened as efficiently as the project allowed,” said Becky.


photo by Becky Dibble, Screen Pilot

Ultimately, their trust in us made for a great relationship and project experience. We had no idea Becky and Tom were unexperienced in commercial construction. They were always so confident and asking great questions.

Tips from Tom & Becky:

  1. 1. “Select your GC carefully and make sure you have your architects start talking to your GC earlier than you think you need to.” – Tom Dibble, Screen Pilot
  2. 2. Your general contractor’s attention to detail, communication, and level of organization will either help put you at ease or add stress to the transition.
  3. 3. Plan your space to include multiple work environments for varied tasks. Think about open space, private conference or work rooms, and relaxing/collaboration areas.

Thank you to Tom and Becky for trusting us to build your downtown space and for your continued partnership. We look forward to continue watching Screen Pilot grow!


photo by Becky Dibble, Screen Pilot

About Screen Pilot:
Screen Pilot is a Denver-based, digital marketing agency that specializes in telling the stories of hotels, resorts and hospitality brands through inspired communication. Learn more at www.screenpilot.com.

Say Hello to Tristan, our Newest Commercial Superintendent

Say Hello to Tristan, our Newest Commercial Superintendent

May 2, 2017
written by: Audrey Wilson

We are excited to share we’ve brought on Tristan Harmon as our newest superintendent for commercial tenant improvement and new build projects.

Starting as an Army general construction supervisor, Tristan has more than a decade of experience in the field and a natural ability to build relationships with subcontractors and owners.

In his own words, Tristan says, “I strive to bring both civilian and military leadership to our commercial projects. For me, an outcomes orientation and people-first approach is the only way to go.”

We agree! Welcome to the team, Tristan.

His specialties include electrical wiring, subcontractor relations, cost/schedule control, and detailed plan analysis. His most recent role was serving as assistant superintendent for a new $325M, 400,000-square-foot building at Denver Health Hospital in Denver, Colorado.


Tristan Harmon, superintendent

7 Strategies for a Successful Office Renovation

7 Strategies for a Successful Office Renovation

by Audrey Wilson
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Sixth Avenue West – Golden, Colorado

Often referred to as tenant improvements, office renovations provide an opportunity to care for your employees while optimizing for greater efficiency and sustainability in both work systems and energy use. Tenant improvement projects are often triggered upon signing a new office lease. In addition to upgraded finishes, health-conscious amenities, and flexible workspace plans, we’ve seen that the best remodels create a place where employees’ mental, physical, and socioemotional wellbeing is considered. This thinking isn’t new. Big technology companies like Google are known for their innovative, employee-centered spaces. And Steelcase, a global office furniture and interior design firm, has extensively studied the impact workplace environment can have on employee engagement. With the potential for happy and healthy employees, less turnover, increased efficiency, and long-term cost savings, what do you have to lose?

Even with all of the benefits, the reality of construction lead times, potential business disruption, and project complexity can make any tenant improvement process feel daunting. And poorly managed renovations can cost major time and money. It doesn’t have to be that way! We talked with building owners, brokers, property managers, and designers to uncover the most common pitfalls we see time and time again and created some strategies to help you avoid them.

Common Renovation Obstacles:

  • Hiring a non-reputable team
  • Poorly designed plans
  • Scope creep
  • Overspending
  • Stretched timelines
  • Employee dissatisfaction
  • Not considering sustainable design

Don’t fret! Taken holistically, the following tips will help you plan for success:

Strategy 1: Engage the Right Partners Early
“Experience and reputation are the most important factors in selecting general contractors and architects,” says Joe Lamkin, principal at Bancroft Capital. Poor quality partners can make mistakes that cost time and money. Start by asking your broker and/or building owner for general contractor and architect references. Research their previous work and ask people you trust about their reputability.

You’ll want a team invested in your success, rather than a mill. Find partners who understand the importance of communication, who anticipates your needs, and are thoughtful regarding all of your stakeholders. Once you’ve built your team, involve them early! General contractors are great for supporting owners on budget, timeline, and overall design feasibility.

Strategy 2: Develop a Solid Initial Design
Beyond the noticeable finish selections like paint color, flooring materials, and wood varietals, you want the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) drawings and aesthetic components to be code compliant. Older buildings generally need upgraded ADA elements and the MEP programming will be more complex. Your architect is the expert in this area and should ensure the plans are sound before providing the official stamp of approval. When you have stamped drawings in your hand, the last thing you need is a mishap in the permitting process. Every redraw or code compliance issue could add another 1-2 weeks to your construction start date! Lastly, great contract drawings make the bidding process easier and more accurate so you can feel confident in the estimates.

Strategy 3: Clear Delegation & Responsibility
Scope creep can happen when elements have not been fully designed or project details are left undefined. When the scope of work is unclear, subcontractors may avoid responsibility or sometimes double up the work to protect themselves contractually. The best remedy? A strong team from the start. Really good design and construction professionals know to identify and delegate scope responsibility to avoid miscommunication, overwork, and overpaying.

Strategy 4: Budget Realistically and Plan for Contingency
“Many times clients do not allow enough budget for what has been designed and then end up making sacrifices regarding overall quality and durability or timeline,” says Rich Snyder, owner of Snyder Building Construction. For a mid-level commercial upgrade in Denver, be prepared to spend $45-$55 per square foot for construction. In addition to this amount, ensure you’re thoroughly considering the design and engineering processes for your basic trades (mechanical, electrical, and plumbing). A word to the wise, these estimated numbers do not include furniture and fixtures! And of course, actual cost will vary based on your individual project.

More importantly, plan a 5% contingency cost line into your budget. The industry is busy, and unforeseen field conditions are not uncommon. Plan ahead for this and you’ll have a better sense of actual costs for your renovation.

Strategy 5: Plan Ahead to Stay on Time
Do the preparation work to develop strong drawings. Gauge lead times for permitting, material delivery, and contractor mobilization appropriately. Every vendor and supplier is different. We’ve listed a few of our known long-leads based on trends here in Denver. Michelle Miller, licensed architect and principal of Jigsaw Design, noted you should expect timelines of about 10-12 weeks from the beginning of schematic design with the architect to the start of construction. Great general contractors are ahead of the game and develop schedules that are well versed in the lead times for their geographical area.

In Denver, expect 5 to 6 weeks for the design process and the architectural, MEP, and construction drawings to be completed. Add another 5 to 6 weeks for general contractor bidding and contracting. You can also expect typical long-lead items like decorative lighting and commercial furniture to run 8 to 12 weeks and 8 to 10 weeks respectively. These timelines are just a guide, but hopefully provide some insight into the scheduling components that need consideration.

Strategy 6: Get Employee Buy-In
If you’re moving into a new space, and the tenant improvement process is part of the initial lease agreement, the construction phases may be less of a disturbance to your team. Otherwise, if your team is currently occupying the space you plan to renovate, there are certainly things to consider. Will the team work remotely during the construction? Would you prefer to complete construction in sections and keep employees onsite? The general contractor can be an incredible guide in making these decisions as they are the most knowledgeable in terms of lead times, construction planning, potential noise, and disruption.

While the end result is anticipated to please your team, the moving process and relocation can be very disruptive to tenants. If the new space is underwhelming, it could have an opposite effect on company morale. “Team members and building tenants can become quick adversaries if construction noise, dust, and other nuisances become overwhelming,” says Lamkin. Consider involving your team in the early visioning process. Dialogue and surveys can provide insight to what your employees are really looking for. Professional space planners are also available for hire and can help with understanding what your employees are looking for.

Lastly, choose partners who will go the extra mile to inform about the construction process and who are proactive in their approach. Some ways we do this at Snyder Building Construction include: keeping highly disruptive work after hours or on weekends; keeping the work areas clean; using negative air fans with air filters; providing clear notification of construction areas; as well as keeping flow open and not blocking tenant access.

Strategy 7: Consider Sustainability and Health
We partnered with Bancroft Capital to study 51 possible sustainable upgrades for a tenant. Of those 51, we found three that provided good economical and environmental benefits⎼a huge win for the tenant and the owner. These three upgrades included: solatubes used in conjunction with advanced day-lighting controls, and ultra energy-efficient HVAC units. Consider looking into these options for your project as well.

Holistic health encourages physical, mental, and emotional wellness. We’ve seen success supporting employee health through bike storage, prominent staircases, standing desks, water bottle refill stations, and healthy snack vending.

BONUS Strategy
Quality, Time, and Cost⏤all three are in play, but you can only pick two.
This is age-old, industry wisdom. In almost all cases, owners want the highest quality products and performance while sticking to stringent budgets and timelines. The best general contractors, designers, and architects already know this and have your best interest in mind regarding all three. However, no matter how much planning goes into a project, you’ll want to know which two of these priorities mean the most to you. “The stakeholders (owner, tenant, and general contractor) must have a firm grasp on the desired outcome and the driving economic factors of the project,” says Lamkin. Together, your team serves as checks and balances to make sure all project elements are prioritized appropriately.

Want to learn more about how Snyder Building Construction can support your tenant improvement project? Contact us! We provide commercial and multi-family residential estimating, preconstruction, and full general contracting services in and around Denver. Special thanks to our contributors Bancroft Capital and Jigsaw Design, LLC. Audrey Wilson is an Assistant Project Manager with Snyder Building Construction.