From time to time, any commercial space -- be it a restaurant, retail store, hotel, office or medical space -- will require some level of renovation or remodeling in order to stay both functional and aesthetically pleasing. As a national commercial contractor that has managed renovation projects across nearly all commercial real estate sectors, I can tell you one of the biggest concerns of business owners is whether they'll be able to keep their doors open during the renovation of their space.
Of course the answer to that question depends on the scope and timing of the project. But in most cases business can go on as usual during construction as long as the construction team and client plan in advance for several key factors:
1. Safety: Safety is the top priority on any construction site, but that is especially true when the space remains open to the public. While construction workers are trained to recognize and avoid construction hazards, extra precautions are necessary for the general public. The best way to address both the additional safety needed during an open renovation, as well as minimize disruption to the business, is to tackle the work in sections and barricade the work area. Also, have extra ventilation in place, be mindful of flooring transitions and potential trip hazards, and create a staging area to safely store equipment and materials.
2. Dust and Noise: One of the main disruptions during a renovation is the dust and noise that go hand-in-hand with construction. However, a skilled construction team will usually seal off the work area with plastic sheeting in order to help contain dust. Also, any contractor worth their salt will do a thorough cleanup at the end of every day, which prevents dirt being spread to non-affected areas.
In terms of minimizing noise, scheduling work is the most important factor -- particularly for businesses like hotels, apartment and condominium buildings, and senior housing communities that need to accommodate residents and guests. It takes more planning, and work may need to stop and start frequently, but most construction firms can schedule work to avoid noise at certain times.
We once partnered with downtown Chicago's Drake Hotel to convert several suites into a fitness center. The construction zone was directly above a ballroom, where many events were already on the calendar. We couldn't simply start jack hammering in the middle of someone's wedding reception, so we coordinated with the hotel to plan our work around the existing event schedule. Also, it should go without saying that construction work should never begin before 9 a.m. in a facility with overnight guests.
3. Function: One of the biggest questions to ask before deciding to keep a space open during a renovation is if it is feasible for it to serve its purpose during construction. By discussing this ahead of time, the construction team can try to make arrangements to accommodate the function of the space. Plus, constant communication during construction helps everyone involved plan accordingly.
Englewood once completed an extensive renovation of a corporate kitchen and cafeteria for a Fortune 500 company. It was imperative that the kitchen remain open during construction, so a key part of planning was talking with the corporate chef about our schedule so he could anticipate how it would affect what the cafeteria could serve. For example, because he knew when we would be replacing his chicken roaster, he could plan alternate items to include on his menu. We also worked with the chef to set up a temporary kitchen -- outside the construction zone -- so his team had access to must-have items throughout the project.
A renovation is exciting, and it doesn't have to be a headache. With a little planning, there's no reason business can't go on as usual.
• Chuck Taylor is director of operations for Lemont-based Englewood Construction, a national commercial contractor specializing in retail, restaurant, shopping center, hotel, education and office/industrial projects throughout the U.S.