Design-Phase Mistakes in Factory Expansions

Factories are rarely the focus of high-priced architects. In most cases, the money is spent on production equipment, and the building itself is the bare minimum to protect the assets inside. In the rush to build the new location, fit-out an existing shell, or expand an older building to accommodate growth, hassles, setbacks, change orders, and budget exceedances always seem to creep in. Here are 5 of the most common planning mistakes that are at the root cause of the above-mentioned problems.

1) Failing to plan and working the plan

This classic saying could be the golden rule for construction of factory buildings. Think for a moment about the impacts the project will have on your company’s ability to function. What happens if the project falls behind schedule, is delayed by weather, or there is a shortage of materials? How do these delays affect the plans for moving equipment around, or consolidating warehouse space at an off-site location? These are example issues. There are many more, all of which merit adherence to a plan, with contingencies and redundancies.

2) Not hiring a temporary construction manager

Let’s be honest. You are in the business of making your products, not in the business of building buildings. For the typical cost ($40,000 – $70,000 over a six to 12-month period) of a professional Owners Rep / Construction Manager, you can avoid 2 to 10 times that amount in delays, miscommunications and other time-gobbling hassles that add no value to your company’s bottom line. Look for someone with a track record and good references, and without any direct or indirect ties to the construction company.

3) Looking only at first costs – not operating / maintenance costs

Quality materials used in building a structure are just as important as quality materials in making a product. Inexpensive roofing materials, low-cost HVAC units, cheap doors, etc., all contribute to more expense down the road for problems such as fixing leaks, call-backs in the cooling season, and potential security risks to the building.

4) Failing to research and acquire all relevant incentives (tax credits, grants, energy incentives) 

These days, towns and cities all over the US are looking to attract and retain manufacturing jobs in their community. Utilities desire large stable customers, and want to incentivize them to be energy efficient. The federal government even gives a tax credit of $1.80 per square foot if you are energy efficient with your renovations. The problem is, most manufacturers don’t know that these “pools of free money” exist until after the project is done and it’s too late. What to do? Call your local utility, the city, state, and even your local elected representatives and ask for help finding the programs. The state and local departments of economic development usually have good programs, or will know where to point you.

5) Keeping employees out of the loop

Simply letting people know when the project starts is missing the point. Where should they park? What routes of escape should they use if the usual ones are closed off? Will they need to wear hard hats near the areas being worked on? Or how about asking for their input from the start? What do they think needs to be changed to make the work area more functional? Do they have any ideas on how to make the new addition more energy efficient, greener, quieter, a better place to work?

What design-phase mistakes have you seen?

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