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8 Things to Check Before Moving Ahead on That Commercial Remodel

As a contractor heading into a remodel or adaptive reuse project, there’s plenty of room for things to go wrong. At the same time, profit margins on commercial remodels aren’t much higher than they are on initial construction, so there’s a good reason to do everything you can to make sure a job goes as smoothly and quickly as possible.

With that in mind, we’ve developed a checklist you can refer to as you’re preparing to jump into a remodel so you can hit the ground running and nail down a profitable project. 

1) Is there a 3D constructible model of the building available? 

Depending on how old the structure you’re working on is, and how long it’s been since the last major renovation, you may be hard-pressed to find any digital assets at all. But, if a 3D model is available to work from, it will no doubt be a huge help as you plan and prepare for the work you need to do.

If the answer to this question is “no,” you can skip the next few questions and move on to number 5. 

2) Is the 3D model you’re working from a digital twin of the physical structure? 

Another way to ask this question is, “have all the model’s (applicable) components been developed to LOD 350?” Or, “are you working from completely reliable ‘as-built’ data?” 

This is important because just the fact that there’s a 3D model available doesn’t mean it’s reliable, or that it contains enough valid and accurate information to serve as a reliable basis for your adaptive reuse plans. However, if the 3D model you’re working from was developed to a high enough level that it can truly be considered a digital twin of the physical structure, then you’ve just taken a quantum leap in terms of the time and effort required to prepare for this project. 

If your answer to this question is “yes,” you still need to follow the next few questions but you can skip number 5. 

3) Is all the BIM data within the model still valid and up-to-date? 

If the applicable components of the model are at LOD 350, the basic measurements should still be fine unless there’s been some kind of significant damage to the building or change to the original design. Even if the geometry, manufacturer’s information, installation instructions and everything else included in your “as-built” model was completely accurate when it was completed, it’s possible some of that data is no longer reliable. For example, does the same manufacturer still make a given part? Is it still available in the size or configuration originally used? 

If you find some of the data needs updating, just note where it’s needed. We’ll come back to that in a moment.

This SketchUp model, designed by Andrew Bernish, shows The Miller's Court Apartment Building that contains Charmington's Coffee Shop and the Seawall Development offices. This was a former tin can manufacturing and Census building and has been reused as apartments and opened for residents. Originally built in the late 19th century, it is located along Howard Street (and 26th) in the Remington Neighborhood of Baltimore MD.

4) Have best practices changed since the structure was designed or built? 

This may or may not make a difference for your particular renovation or remodel, considering how much of the existing systems you know you’re going to be tearing out and/or replacing. However, it’s at least a good mental exercise to review how the original design was conceived and put together, then compare that with how you would approach the same build today. 

If the answer is “yes,” then the system can be improved, so that may inform what goes and what stays during the remodel. 

5) Perform a detailed 3D laser scan of the building’s components

If you skipped from the first question to this one, it’s because you have no 3D constructible model to work from at all. If you’ve worked your way down to this question, you’re working with a model that requires updating of some sort in order to be completely reliable. Either way, this step is indispensable if you’re going to apply the full power of a Constructible Process to your remodel or renovation project. 

Using a 3D laser scanner, you can render a 3D digital representation of everything as it currently exists. Whether you use that as the basis of your BIM renovation plan, or as a means of comparing to and updating the existing model, the end result is the same: a wholly reliable 3D model that will work for all your planning, detailing, and collaboration needs for this project.

After winning a renovation project to transform the Waikiki Trade Center into a 230-room contemporary Hyatt Centric hotel, the Dorvin D. Leis Company, Inc. (DDL), Hawaii’s largest mechanical contractor, decided to ditch the string and tape for the Trimble RPT600 paired with Trimble Field Link software. The cutting-edge technology helped DDL save time, increase productivity, and bring a constructible process from the office to the field and back again.

6) Set up your collaboration plan

No construction team or contractor works in a vacuum. Even on a relatively small project, there are at least a few stakeholders who need to be kept in the loop on the job’s progress and who needs to make decisions if and when changes are needed. It’s best to establish upfront how you’re going to implement technology with the owner, the general contractor, and anyone else involved in the project. Make sure it’s clear to everyone how communication is going to flow and who’s responsible for which deliverables and when. This speeds the workflow, enhances efficiency, and reduces bottlenecks. 

7) Put together your estimate and/or takeoff lists

Item numbers 7 and 8 go hand-in-hand and don’t necessarily need to go in order. What’s important to recognize here is this: The best option is to use all the tools at your disposal to generate as complete and detailed a plan as possible before moving ahead with demolition or reconstruction. The more you can accomplish inside the model, the fewer errors, questions, or surprises you’ll run into in “the real world”. 

8) Complete your design and detailing tasks

This is where all the preliminary work (from numbers 1-5) really offers its full value: with a wholly reliable constructible model to work from, and a clear understanding of which components will need to go or stay, you can effectively perform the full renovation digitally before you ever lift a tool in the physical world. Combined with the open communication you arranged in number 6, this virtual construction work can dramatically reduce rework, improve clash detection, and speed up the entire project. 

Having run through and checked these eight boxes, you’re in an optimal position to get to work renovating or remodeling any structure with full confidence you’ll be attacking the project as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Are you considering 3D laser scanning for your renovation project? Download Scan to BIM Best Practices: What You Need to Know to discover what you should know about 3D laser scanning and BIM.