Occupants Come First: Undertaking Construction in an Occupied Building: Unique Challenges, Unique Expertise

By Chip Weir, Director/Group Manager & Kathleen Morro, LEED GA, Project Director

Building a new building is easy. Renovating or updating an occupied building, however, presents great planning, logistical and scheduling challenges. Our approach to occupied buildings focuses on how the users and occupants live, work, and interact with construction projects that might affect their everyday life. There are several simple ways to ensure an “Occupants First” approach that benefits both the owner and users. Not all project management service providers have the planning acumen to efficiently and safely manage occupied building construction with minimal disruption to residents.

How can disruption be minimized for occupants during construction?

The first is recognizing that facilities are for the people who use them. Proactive pre-planning is critical. Your occupied project won’t be as clear or straightforward as a ground-up new building. Project managers must get to know governance structures, and devise ways to interface clearly with residents. Funding sources, phasing, logistics, scheduling, and safety all become more nuanced. Your plan of finance, complex scheduling, communications plan, site logistics, and day-to-day coordination, are just some of the elements to factor when analyzing your needs. The communications plan will set expectations, focus on listening, and include reminders, graphics, and emergency plans. It will let residents know what to expect regarding noise, vibration, access/egress, odor, and cleanliness. Environmental considerations need to be determined upfront.

 

Pictured: Kennelly Square Condominium, Chicago, Illinois

What types of projects benefit from an Occupants First approach?

All of them – especially additions, elevator modernizations, plumbing and riser upgrades, roof decks and repairs, mechanical plant replacements, façade renovations, and safety and security upgrades. From historical renovations to mechanical system replacements, for Condo/Co-Op, Apartment, Hotel, Office, and Retail projects, we understand the challenges in an occupied building. It is our goal to support your schedule, budget, and safety as you proceed through design, product/system selection, procurement, and through the construction process.

What expertise is preferred in a Project Manager?

Look for project managers with deep experience with additions, and with critical building system replacements while a building is operational. In a busy building, it’s key that elevators, HVAC, and fire life-safety are never compromised. Choose a firm with a wide array of skills and services. Design and construction teams need to work around you. To do so, they need clear and comprehensive information and direction. We know what, how, and when to ask the design and construction teams. We also know what is possible from “can do” building industry professionals. We develop solutions that minimize disruptions, time, and cost to achieve your goals.

Authors
Chip Weir Director/Group Manager
Kathleen Morro, LEED GA Project Director