When most people think of architectural de sign, they think of modern glass-enclosed office towers, glittering retail centers and majestic cultural institutions. Rarely do images of warehouses and factories, classrooms and laboratories come to mind. Yet the architect is an essential player in any major renovation project and the challenges of a typical renovation of an older structure are many.

Building codes, HVAC equipment, technology requirements and even work styles have evolved substantially from what the structure was originally designed for. Construction practices of the past often yield surprises during renovation. More government oversight of construction work adds complexity and time to projects. An architect must be prepared to address these and other issues to achieve the goal of a modern, well-functioning and attractive renovated space.

Here is a checklist of things to consider.

Experience: An architect with experience in rehabilitation projects can anticipate problems likely to be found, and has already developed solutions that can fit in the project budget.

Knowledge of Regulations and Codes: Depending on the type of structure, intended use and industry, architects today must be familiar not only with local building codes, but may need to work with several government agencies in order to design and oversee a renovation project. For example, we work with many clients in the airline industry. Our terminal and airport property renovation projects routinely involve coordination of technical requirements from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (or comparable governing body outside the New York metro area), the Federal Aviation Administration, the Transportation Security Administration, specialized equipment manufacturers and consultants in the security and computer system fields.Technology Integration: Many older structures were built long before demands of today’s technology were ever imagined. Insufficient electrical power supply and HVAC equipment, ceiling and space constraints, even structural load issues can impact renovation designs. For example, we have converted underutilized university classroom space into faculty office and other use space at several campuses. Existing ceiling height, often lower than today’s standard, required creative designs to upgrade or add HVAC ductwork and achieve a clean, attractive appearance for the space.

Design Network: Does the architect have an established working relationship with experienced engineering firms, mechanical and electrical subcontractors and other critical equipment providers? A strong architectural design team network fosters superior collaboration to solve problems, keeps projects moving on schedule and minimizes change orders.

Preservation: Pre-design surveys and construction can reveal hidden treasures that can be cleverly incorporated into redesigned spaces, often with the added benefit of cost savings in terms of material and construction labor. We have integrated the old with the new in several projects, including renovating almost 180 lobbies of a major New York City residential complex, saving the project expense, time and labor when analysis indicated that the existing terrazzo floors could continue to serve well once highly polished to their original luster.

Operations Impact: Unlike new construction projects, renovations usually involve keeping existing operations in progress during construction. There should be an understanding of the client’s business and how the construction process is likely to affect operations. A renovation plan can be devised that uses techniques such as phased construction and off-hours material deliveries and inspections to minimize disruption and keep clients and their tenants happy.

The views expressed here are those of the author and not of Real Estate Media or its publications.

Howard Graf is a partner in the firm of Graf & Lewent Architects of Elmhurst, NY, and can be reached at [email protected].

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