April 14, 2006

New Office Photo - Couple of Eyes

Just received this photo of a new office that I designed right here in my home town, Portland, OR. The practice is called "Couple of Eyes," owned by husband and wife optometrists. When they first came to me they were thinking of leasing 2,000 square feet for their very first practice, opening cold. I advised them to scale down to 1,500 square feet or less to keep their initial construction costs and overhead down.

They wanted a very contemporary interior with a minimalist style and colors that would reflect their Asian heritage. I had to do a bit of searching to find just the perfect shade of brick red for the back wall. The reception counter is faced with metal laminate. Natural slate flooring in the entry provides rich texture and color.

Although the look is very "hip" we did not want patients to think all the frames are higher priced. Simple locking frame bars signal that the optical has moderate priced frames as well as high fashion frames. The contractor, Norwest General Contractors, did a great job and actually finished on time. That doesn't happen every day!

April 12, 2006

Display fixtures: Catalog or Custom?

Q. Should I buy display fixtures from a catalog or have my local contractor make them custom?

A. There is an upside and a downside to both approaches. You must weigh the choices and decide what is best for your particular situation.

CATALOG FIXTURES - Most fixture manufacturers will do a free dispensary layout for you and give you an exact price for the whole package. Fixtures can go with you if you move to a different location and it's easy to add more pieces in the future by just placing an order from the catalog. However, display fixtures are fairly expensive and some people want their office to have a different look than what can be achieved with pre-made fixtures.

CUSTOM FIXTURES - Your local cabinetmaker can build your dispensary fixtures if he has a well-detailed set of plans from a designer or architect experienced in optical design. The cost of your dispensary can vary greatly depending on how much custom cabinetry is required and you won't know the actual cost until the plans are done and you get the bids.

The quality of the work can vary also. It's up to you to choose the contractor wisely and refuse to accept any sub-par work. With custom fixtures your office will be one-of-kind and could cost less than if you bought all fixtures.

Many offices have a combination of the two. Free-standing showcases with built-in lighting and locking doors are complex pieces best left to a specialty manufacturer who builds them all day long. Your local cabinetmaker may not be able to give you the high quality you need in a showcase. However, much of the other cabinetry in the dispensary can be handled by a good local cabinetmaker without a problem.

April 10, 2006

How Long Will Construction Take?

How long will it take to build my new office?

Interior build-outs should take about 6 - 8 weeks, but always add another two weeks or more on to whatever date your contractor promises. Contractors rarely finish on time, even the good ones!

For the average small to medium size professional building a good contractor can do it in 6 months or so, but don't be surprised if it takes longer.

Do I Need A Building Permit?

Q. Do I need a building permit?

If you are doing minor cosmetic changes without any effect on the structure of the building or changes to the plumbing, heating or electrical systems, you probably don't need a building permit. If you are building walls, adding or moving electrical outlets, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, etc. you DO need a permit.

Q. What if I just go ahead with the work anyway without getting a permit?

In small towns and rural areas, the building department is usually more lenient than in a big city and you may be just fine. But in larger cities and towns the building department is more likely to come down hard on those who try to get away without a permit.

They can actually shut down your job and stop any work from progressing until you get a permit. They can make you tear out the drywall to see if your electrical outlets have been installed according to code. It simply is not worth the risk and aggravation. If you suspect you need a permit, go to your local building department, discuss your project with one of the planners or inspectors and find out for sure.

The worst case I ever saw a client go through involved having to enlarge and upgrade a restroom to meet current ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) requirements. Against my advice this client did extensive remodeling to an existing office on the second floor in a professional building WITHOUT a permit.

They opened for business and all went well for about 2 months. Then a city official stopped in and asked for their business license, which they did not have. When they applied for the business license, the city figured out that there was no building permit issued for this new business. They were caught!

They had no certificate of occupancy, which you get with your final inspection approval. The city shut down the practice and made them apply for a permit and do the restroom upgrades, which I had included in my plans. I knew the restroom had to be upgraded but they didn't want to believe me.

Don't let this happen to you. Get a permit!

April 6, 2006

How Long Does It Take To Get Plans Done?

Q. How long does it take to get plans done?

A. For an interior build-out a complete set of architectural plans takes an average of 6 - 8 weeks for your architect or designer to complete. It can take longer depending on how many revisions it takes to get your approval on the final drawings.

For a building it can take 4 months or more depending on how long it takes to get preliminary approvals on the site plan before the actual construction drawings can be started.