INSIGHT ON: Construction Services – Working with what's out there

Posted on Feb 3, 2014 :: Construction Services , Insight On
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

It starts as a dream to construct your own commercial space. But another choice is becoming a trend in Northeast Wisconsin: finding and renovating what’s already out there.

“It’s more than a 50-50 split now,” Ken Koziczkowski, senior manager at Ganther Construction, says. The Oshkosh company is receiving an increasing number of requests to weigh in on the worth of an old building, along with the potential costs to rehab it.

“The cost really is the No. 1 consideration when remodeling,” Koziczkowski says. “And when it comes to finding one to fix up, it also has to fit your needs. Does it make sense to rehab it? Or would it be more cost-efficient to tear it down and rebuild? There are also some clients still interested in paying for property to build a brand new commercial space. But during the last few years, there have been quite a bit of these new boxes built and many have vacancies — which is why we may be seeing a return to renovating what’s available. Both old and new, but already constructed space, is what we’re being asked to work on right now.”

One of Koziczkowski’s favorite examples of a well-redone business space is Cineviz in Green Bay. The owners of the interactive media branding company purchased a 100-year-old building on Main Street, then asked the team at Ganther Construction to weigh in on a possible renovation. They wanted this location knowing a recent study indicated more than 20,000 cars per day pass by, and the price was right with much of the area still in a downward slide. There were two basic questions about the building: What can we do to make it useable? And what will it cost to do it? Koziczkowski describes it as a worthy challenge.

“Cineviz is a creative, purpose-driven business and wanted the space to be a showpiece to its customers, almost a way of selling what they can do just by experiencing the atmosphere of the building,” Koziczkowski says. “Some may just need the basics to log time in an office setting, but not Cineviz.”

In the end, the strong bones and character of the building, with its existing brick walls, wooden floors and high ceilings, won out. The latest in technology helped pave the way to provide inspiration, Koziczkowski says. Building Information Modeling (BIM) designers created a three-dimensional, high-definition, color, animated view – an almost “fly-through” of the space, showing the expected outcome. Since BIM is computerized, changing any of the building features during the process is easy and keeps the project on schedule, while remaining affordable.

Cost isn’t the only concern during construction, as many designers find businesses want a high-end flare on a low-end budget. Nancy Higgs started the Madison-based Pure + Simple Online Interior Design with the goal of answering both needs. And since the work is done electronically, she has clients around the globe.

“It’s everything from space planning for an office where manufactured cubes will be used, to waiting rooms with the goal of comfortable furniture and calming colors, or a restaurant in need of appealing to the subconscious level of a customer to get them to enjoy the environment and eat,” Higgs says.

The effort typically starts with photos, plans or measurements of the design-challenged space, along with an idea of style, and a budget. Higgs answers with renderings in 3-D, along with a shopping guide.

“Oftentimes, businesses can go the environmentally friendly route by reusing what’s already in the space,” Higgs says. “I’ll suggest reupholstering, or finding a new way to use an accessory. And of course, reuse is also a trend in design right now. It’s leading to what I describe as a cool, eclectic look by bringing different styles together in a comfortable way. The colors used also lead to comfort in a work space, and the days of beige or brown are over. Muted gray-tones of blue and green are what’s popular, and it’s getting compliments from many of my clients’ customers.”

Adapting technology

Kelly Thompson, owner of Kontext Architects, LLC in Sun Prairie, says the economy has created a more collaborative approach among companies working on building and remodeling projects.

Kelly Thompson, owner of Kontext Architects, LLC in Sun Prairie, says the economy has created a more collaborative approach among companies working on building and remodeling projects.

Involving an electrician early in a remodeling project can allow for a more efficient space with creative options.

“We are being brought in much earlier than ever in the past,” says Michael Rebman, master electrician and vice president of Appleton-based Triumph Electric, Inc. “Many remodeling projects, especially renovations to existing office spaces, are on a fast-track schedule. It makes sense to include your tradesmen right away so we can offer suggestions on the best placement of services based on use and needs, and of course before all the walls are up.”

The company isn’t doing much in the way of new business builds, but rather rewiring spaces being remodeled, providing the most up-to-date systems for communication, alarms, lights and power.

“We’re already seeing and using some of what’s being called the next generation in electronics, and it’s unbelievable. From energy efficient lighting, to the fastest wiring systems for computer centers, it is changing daily,” Rebman says.

The current changes in design and construction are also feeding a more collaborative approach for all involved in the process.

“The recession changed everything,” says Kelly Thompson, owner of Kontext Architects, LLC in Sun Prairie, whose clients are throughout the Midwest, including one of his largest in Winnebago County. “We were all competing prior to it, but now we’re finding we can work together to pool resources. Some of us are even sharing staff, especially on the bigger building or remodeling projects. I don’t see this ending anytime soon.

“We collaborate on public projects starting very early in the process,” Thompson says. “This includes the contractor, plumber, electrician, even designer. It’s quickly carrying over into the private business sector, which is allowing an immediate conversation about going green with every project. I don’t even consider it a trend anymore, but a common part of the planning known as adaptable reuse. Can we save and use what’s already there or recycle it somewhere else? We’ll put natural light and well-insulated walls in every plan and look into any possible incentives from the power company, with solar increasingly on the business must-have list.” Thompson also values social history, calling old buildings an important part of a city’s culture, and has gone to great lengths to preserve when possible.

“Creating something, then providing full service through the design, build and completion in a collaborative manner isn’t just good for the client,” Thompson says. “It is good for our industry and should be expected.”