11 Easy Steps: the Pocket Guide to Relocation

What does it take to see a commercial project through from concept to completion?

Many of you already know, but for those who are new to the business or who just want a refresher course, here’s an 11-step pocket guide outlining the relocation process:

1. Preliminary programming and workplace strategy: This is the very first step, which, in everyday terms, simply means making a list of needs. Here we find out what the “nuts and bolts” of the project are, along with the client’s vision, thought patterns, budget and time frame.

2. Site tours: Based on the information we’ve just gathered and that menu of needs, it’s time to make a short list of possible spaces that might work. Your architect will help you scout out spaces with a real estate broker and narrow it down to a select few.

3. Test fits: Taking what you’ve leaned from the first two steps, you now begin, with speed and accuracy, documenting potential layouts for the short list of spaces. This helps define and dictate if they’re a comfortable fit for a tenant’s present or future expansion needs.

4. Lease negotiations support: Think you’ve selected your space? Time to gather the team! The architect will now work alongside the brokerage and legal team to back up the tenant’s needs and make sure they get what they need from the landlord, from an architectural perspective, in writing. All the finer details—mechanical, electrical, HVAC, level flooring, clean ceilings—should be part of the discussions so that the client feels protected and vouched for. 

5. Schematic design: If the lease is signed, or close to it, your architect will now be authorized to begin planning a more detailed design. This expands on the test fit process and plots the space out in much greater detail, including layout and aesthetics. It’s an early indication of the “look” a tenant is going for.

6. Design development: By now, the tenant is ready to take it to the next level, selecting finishes, specific lighting options and more. As all the details are nailed down, the architect should (and hopefully has been doing so each step of the way) perform a “sanity check”—the term I used in an article in this very column a few weeks back that describes the budget check that should be performed early on to make sure the reality lines up with the client’s actual budget.  

7. Construction documentation: This coordinated set of highly detailed documents will be used for pricing and specific bids from trades, as well as filing for approvals with the Department of Buildings and submitting plans to building ownership for review.

8. Bidding and negotiations: Time to get those approvals in place. This step is where you get the green light from the building, the city and the leveled trades so that you can move forward with building out the space.

9. Construction administration: Let the construction begin! During this phase, the architect will be in the field regularly, visiting to observe the process and make sure the construction is going smoothly and that all vendors are carrying through the design intent from the previous phases. Essentially, during this step, your making sure your client is getting what they’re paying for.

10. Punch list: By now, the project is winding down, but there is still some work to be done. During this step, the architect checks for any construction damages or imperfections to make sure they are resolved promptly.

11. Closeout: No project is complete without some paperwork. During this stage, there’s a myriad of municipal, local agency and landlord paperwork, sign-offs on fire alarms and sprinklers and more that needs to be approved and filed before the tenant can move in. All must be stamped, signed and approved. The architect should take an active role here, assisting in closing out the project as efficiently as possible.

And there’s one more step I never skip, though it’s not a technical “step” in relocation: thanking a client for their business.

Ever since opening our New York office many moons ago, I’ve made it a tradition to send an orchid to my client to signal the end of the project and the unveiling of their offices. I consider the gesture part of the closeout process and, true to my nature, take extra care in picking out just the right one to compliment the design of their new space.

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