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Should We Stay or Should We Go: Making the Decision on Renovating vs. Building New

Should We Stay or Should We Go: Making the Decision on Renovating vs. Building New Banner Image

As businesses evolve and employee population increases, they often outgrow their space and have a difficult decision to make. We are seeing a lot of clients who have grown to multiple locations and are debating; do we keep multiple offices, or do we consolidate? And then within this question do we make changes at our existing facility, move to a different building and renovate or find a new site and build? Similar to The Clash song “Should I Stay or Should I Go” each scenario has its own benefits and challenges. If the choice is to move and build new without a strong plan there could be trouble, but also to stay and renovate without exhausting all options could result in double.

Typically, the process starts by doing an existing building assessment where we ask the questions: What is the remaining lifecycle of the existing infrastructure? Are there any deferred maintenance items that need immediate attention? What about any code or environmental issues that could put your business at risk? From there, we start to look at the programmatic elements for all business units; what concerns you have, what works well and what needs improvement, forecasting your growth and understanding if efficiencies can be gained through reinventing the way you work. Armed with this knowledge, we work with leadership to identify solutions for further study.

This may lead to working with a real estate broker to identify existing buildings or properties that fit the needs of your organization. For the top properties, we do a site analysis as well as existing building facility assessments to understand their ability to be repurposed. The analysis includes how much land can be built on, and what future expansion the site allows, identifying if there are views and walking paths or adjacencies that you can capitalize on. Sometimes, a very large piece of land is being presented which can provide additional opportunities for revenue generating use like retail, an entertainment venue or housing, that involve further vetting. With the analysis finished, we can then put an estimate to a renovation or new building based on data from recently completed projects and the current marketplace. It is our goal during this process, to be there for our clients at every step of the way, offering guidance and advice, but before even beginning this process, here are five things to keep in mind:

1. Do your due diligence

Reviewing all options available is key to making the right decision. For their regional headquarters, ABB was considering consolidating locations and reviewed multiple solutions. They reviewed expanding an existing manufacturing facility, building new on greenfield sites or even renovating an existing building in the old Pabst Brewery complex. Through analysis, it was determined the renovation at the Brewery complex would have manufacturing on multiple levels of the building and be more expensive in the long run. After weighing the pros and cons, a portion of the company stayed in the existing facility with renovations and the client facing departments moved to a new building on a greenfield site situated for maximum daylight with high brand visibility and convenient access to the highway.

When choosing an undeveloped or blank piece of land, sites can contain many unforeseen conditions that lie both underground and above ground. Expertise in local ordinances and existing conditions are key to the project’s overall success. Local ordinances can govern uses, density, materials, form giving, height, green space, landscape and parking to name a few. Site conditions can greatly influence a buildings placement, foundation systems, stormwater management strategies, accessibility and soil management. One prime example would be an urban site. Typically, these sites had previous uses which can contain old foundations, fill areas, abandoned or active underground utilities and possibly contaminated soils. Doing your due diligence on a site can prevent the scenario of starting a project and then pausing as you encounter unknowns, which can negatively affect the timeline and budget.

2. Identify Site Access and Surrounding Uses

A company’s biggest asset and often the largest expenditure is their employees. Understanding where employees live and the values which define them can offer great insight into new location possibilities. Similar to how new K-12 schools desire high visibility in the communities they support, we are seeing more and more corporate clients that want to establish a strong visual presence in their respected markets. These new prominent locations become a recruitment tool for attracting new and retaining established talent.

3. Environmental Factors

In addition to doing your due diligence to address any unforeseen environmental conditions, the natural setting or urban context can greatly impact a site’s viability. The ability to provide an attractive environment that extends past the inside walls of your facility such as walking paths, views of the outdoors, access to entertainment or cultural districts can enhance employee well-being and also increase employee enjoyment while at work, spurring them to stay on campus longer.

4. Exposure

Studies have shown that bringing natural daylighting into buildings enhances employee well-being. To maximize the natural light throughout the day, the longest facades should be placed along the Northern and Southern sides of the site. The orientation of a site may affect the building’s ability to maximize exposure to these directions. For Rockwell Automation’s Customer Experience Center (CEC), we were able to maximize daylight in the renovation by reconfiguring their space and placing conference rooms within the core of the building, utilizing glass walls and movable curtain walls to maximize natural light and throw it as deep into the space as possible.

5. Budget

The first step to any facility assessment is coming up with a budget. Getting a state of the current building and how much money needs to be put into it for renovations and then understanding the investment of a new build is a basis all projects need for decision making. It is also important to understand if each solution will provide the same intended benefit at the end. For our client, Landmark Credit Union, we evaluated their existing facility through a site study, helping them understand the cost to stay and renovate or build new, which resulted in a new highly visible corporate headquarters along Hwy 94.

Making the decision to move an entire organization requires a lot of preparation, planning and thought and a facility assessment is a key element that sets a baseline of information to inform the decision. In my role as a design architect, I find the facilities study to be one of the most enjoyable stages of the design process because of the foundation it sets for the future project course. There is always a different challenge and solution. Undecided about renovating an existing space or moving to a new one? Send me a message and let’s talk through your options.