Plan Now for Spring Construction

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Credit: Courtesy Heather Lewis

Credit: Courtesy Heather Lewis

This time of year, our phones here at Animal Arts are ringing with calls from veterinarians and farm owners who are ready to start their hospital or barn improvement projects. For many, this is a great time of year to plan construction projects, before the busy seasons of spring and summer. But don't schedule that move-in party yet! Construction projects can have very different timelines depending on their size and complexity. In this article, we outline the typical requirements and timelines for various types of projects.

One Trade Projects

Projects that involve only one trade, such as fencing, flooring or painting, can be planned and implemented fairly quickly. Let's take the example of fencing. You can price different options yourself and move ahead with this project once you have chosen the manufacturer and supplier that suits your needs and your budget. Even if you are planning a simple project, it's still important to slow down enough to do your homework. Make sure the product you have chosen is of acceptable quality and the installer has a good reputation. Check with recent references for the product prior to proceeding. Ask your installer to give you a schedule for installation, keeping in mind the time needed to work around your daily operations.

Most simple one-trade projects can be planned and fully constructed within a couple of months.

Small Remodels

If you're planning a non-structural project such as a minor interior upgrade, chances are that you can begin the project quickly and without detailed architectural or engineering drawings. A general contractor can help with this type of project and can usually pull over-the-counter permits for work such as minor electrical improvements. You may find it helpful to have a designer involved to help you select finishes and document the design.

Larger Upgrades

Upgrades involving the relocation of walls, structural changes, mechanical work and the redesign of spaces will require more extensive drawings to obtain a building permit. The best way to understand what is required is to visit your building permit office. They will have guidelines for what types of projects require review, and they can outline the typical timeline for obtaining any necessary permits. We know from our experience that any construction project involving permitting and multiple trades will take at least four months to be completed, and may take longer. While there are exceptions, a permit review process typically takes between four and six weeks.

Prefabricated Barns and Outbuildings

Prefabricated barns and outbuildings are quick and easy to construct. They are somewhat formulaic. Once you have met with the supplier to define the features and options that you want and have approved the budget, your building walls can be constructed before you know it. But before you go prefab with everything, consider this information:

  • You may still need a general contractor and possibly an engineer and/or architect to coordinate and construct the items that are out of the prefabricated building's scope, such as foundations and utilities.
  • Prefabricated buildings are great for big, utilitarian structures such as arenas and not so good for veterinary hospitals, due to the requirements for all of the detailed interior finishes.
  • Our rule of thumb--you can realize cost savings on prefabricated buildings that are larger than 6,000 square feet, but this is not always true for projects below this size.

A realistic minimum timeline for the construction of a simple prefabricated building is six months, including the design of the ancillary work and obtaining permits, as well as the construction. More complex projects involving a lot of interior work could go months longer.

Custom buildings

Custom buildings, including freestanding hospitals and major building additions, are the most time-consuming projects. A realistic minimum timeline for a freestanding building is as follows:

  • Six to eight weeks for initial design.
  • Two to three months for construction drawings or blueprints.
  • Two months for permitting.
  • Ten months for construction.

Because there are usually other steps along the way such as financing, budgeting, contractor selection, etc., we find that it is not unusual for large construction projects to take 18 months to two years from the dream to the move in.

Take advantage of this excellent time of year to plan your construction project. But also keep in mind that you will need to keep up your efforts for projects that have longer timelines. Work with your team to develop realistic and achievable targets for milestone dates, such as ground breaking and move in. Ultimately, understanding your project timeline is essential to your overall business plan and for your long-term success.

Heather E. Lewis joined Animal Arts in August 2000 and has been a principal in the firm since 2004. Her primary area of expertise is the design and management of equine and large animal projects. Examples of Heather’s equine and large animal work include master planning for Woodside Equine Clinic in Ashland, Virginia, the repurposing of existing buildings for equine hospitals in Kamuela, Hawaii and Murrysville, Pennsylvania, and freestanding equine facilities such as Evergreen Equine in Reading, Vermont. Heather has worked on the design of two significant equine facilities in Australia, including the Equine Health Centre for the University of Adelaide, Roseworthy Campus in Roseworthy, South Australia. Heather recently completed work on the renovation of the equine adoption center for the Harmony Equine Center for the Dumb Friends League in Franktown, Colorado.