Existing Spaces: Accurate As-Builts

When you’re taking over a new space, or remodeling an existing space, you want the most accurate information that you can get. That means sending someone out to scope your site. Whether it’s your internal team or external consultants, you’ll want to make sure they are trained and equipped with the right tools to create accurate as-built drawings before you design and build.

But what information needs to be gathered, and who needs to be involved? That depends on the existing conditions of the building and what alterations need to be made. We’ll take a look at some initial considerations, what to look for when you’re there, and who is the best type of professional to make recommendations.

What are some initial questions to ask?

Maybe you’re looking to update the refrigeration units to more energy-efficient models that save you money in the long run. Or maybe your company has gone through a rebrand and you’re planning to update fixtures along with the look and feel of the store. Perhaps your online sales have skyrocketed and you need to make changes to accommodate the demand. Each of these scenarios has a list of different questions you’ll want answered. While you’ll likely have additional questions based on your specific goals, here are a few to get started.

  • Will your shelving/display units work and how many will fit?
  • Is the space compliant with accessibility requirements?
  • Does the facility offer your desired operational flexibility?
  • Do you need to add or move restrooms? Add shower facilities?
  • What’s the condition of the roof structure and roofing system?
  • If additional equipment needs to be added to the roof structure, can it support the weight?
  • Are the existing ceilings appropriate for reuse or do they need to be replaced?
  • What is the condition of the building shell walls and interior walls? Can you utilize the existing walls or do you need to remove, alter, or build new ones to serve your needs?
  • Will the fire protection system require an upgrade or additional equipment?
  • How well coordinated are the lighting and sprinkler systems?
  • If you’re upgrading equipment on the roof, is there a line of sight restriction or screening requirement for rooftop equipment?
  • Are your floors unlevel, cracked, or damaged? Is the floor finish reusable or will it need to be repaired or replaced?
  • Does the electrical system need to be upgraded?
  • Does the structure need to be reinforced?
  • Are there sound attenuation considerations based on adjacent tenants?
  • Are any new exterior openings required?

What else needs to be considered?

With all these considerations at play, you’ll want to make sure whoever is scoping your site takes detailed measurements of the building or space, including the interior and exterior walls, column spacing, and clear heights to the bottom of the structure. Even though the original building plans were drawn with a level of precision, construction tolerances vary resulting in dimensional discrepancies. We’ve encountered buildings where the back wall was a full foot wider than the front.

You’ll need a site investigation to detect and document these deviations. Not only do you need to make sure there’s sufficient space to include your furniture, fixtures, and equipment, but you’ll need to leave enough space between to comply with accessibility requirements. While your architect is completing a site investigation for your as-built conditions, it would be a perfect time for them to evaluate accessibility for anything you’re planning to modify as part of your remodel.

You’ll need to comply with federal ADA law as well as local accessibility codes. The most commonly used code is ICC A117.1 – 2017. It contains guidelines for everything from bathroom stall heights to turning radius, reach ranges, sidewalk slopes, and so much more. You can learn a little more about ICC A117.1 – 2017 Standard for Accessible & Usable Buildings and Facilities and its impact on Retail Projects here.

As you contemplate a remodel and consider operational flexibility, keeping these things in mind can save major headaches later on as store layouts or floor plans are redesigned. Fire-rated walls, occupant loads, travel distances, sprinkler heads, toilet counts, and lighting types all play roles in how you develop a store layout. Remember that as shopper tendencies evolve, so do retail strategies. So what you are currently using as front-of-house space might become back-of-house space in the future. It makes sense to plan for accommodating online orders via a micro fulfillment center.

Perhaps your floor plan will change, and walls will be moved so the existing sprinkler head throw will no longer be sufficient to extinguish a fire. Or maybe the types of materials you plan to stock in a specific space are more combustible and would require modifications to an existing fire suppression system. Just as you want to avoid dark spots when considering lighting layouts, you want to avoid dry spots when considering fire suppression. And if you have to add a fire pump, the sooner you can allocate space for that in your floor plan the better.

Who is the right person for the job?

After you’ve determined what you want out of the space, it’s a good idea to think about who you need to have look at the location with you. To get answers to all of these questions and ensure accuracy, you’ll want to hire qualified professionals.

Depending on the amount of information and level of detail you need, you might want to start with a 3D laser scan of the building or space. An architect might then be engaged to visit the site to gather additional scoping information and assess existing conditions relative to the planned construction. The architect will take pictures and measurements including above the lay-in ceiling and can evaluate accessibility compliance. They will also be able to tell you if they saw anything that’s out of line with what they’d expect to see and may recommend other consultants to take a look at the location.

If they noticed a potential issue with the structure, they will suggest talking to a structural engineer. A structural engineer can also help determine the designed load capacity of your joists, girders, or trusses by completing a more in-depth site survey, or by reviewing a previous set of structural drawings.

If your architect notices older or outdated HVAC and refrigeration systems, or if you need to add additional plumbing, they may recommend an MEP engineer. Fire protection consultants can also help determine if your fire protection system needs to be upgraded or modified.

One thing we run into somewhat regularly is outdated or insufficient electrical systems. Upgrading equipment, or deciding to install some automation into a location, can put a strain on older, outdated electrical systems that may not be able to handle the new load. An electrical engineer can determine your transformer size and if your electrical system is sufficient for your needs.

The architect might even suggest a civil engineer to evaluate on-site utilities, the parking lot, and sidewalks.

If you’re willing to spend the time and money up-front, having all of these design consultants on-site at the same time can be very helpful when evaluating a takeovers pace or remodel.

If you’d like to get started with an architect or 3D laser scanning, we can help.

Which tools and technologies can improve accuracy?

A great way to keep all this information in one place is to have the building scanned to create a digital twin. The evolution of laser scanning has allowed significant time savings in the as-built survey process. This reduces the time and personnel required to complete a survey and provides a revolutionary 360-degree walkthrough of your space. You can also house all of your building system information within the digital twin created from the scan, giving you a better idea of what you have, what you need, and what you can do within your space.

An architect will also utilize a laser distance meter, tape measure, door pressure gauge, laser level, digital camera, flashlight, straight edge, thumbtacks, painter’s tape, and a construction calculator. Knowing when to use the right equipment is essential to obtain accurate measurements and information to prepare final drawings.

As you can see, there are many considerations when it comes to a thorough and accurate as-built. Architects and engineers collaborate in leveraging their combined experience, knowledge, and efficiency. Being proactive and paying attention to details will help minimize changes during your remodel so you can get your business up and running as quickly as possible.


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