Occu-Tec Interview: The Proactive Building Renovation Process

I recently spoke with Jay Hurst, Vice President of Operations at Occu-Tec on the subject Occu-Tec calls the Proactive Building Renovation Process. Proactive Building Renovation is something that Occu-Tec’s clients have gravitated toward and found to be a valuable way for them to approach building renovation. 

First, let’s talk about the term, “Proactive Building Renovation.” Can you define it for us?

For us, Proactive Building Renovation refers to the environmental aspects that are expected to impact a renovation project. It involves getting ahead of the project’s schedule and doing your due diligence on the front end so that you are not caught by surprises during the overall construction and renovation process.

What Problem or Problems would you say that it solves?

Typically the problems that we see occur are: delays in project start-up, putting responsibilities on contractors that may not have the right insurance coverage to assume those responsibilities, as well as running into project delays, not knowing what materials will be impacted due to asbestos, mold, lead based paint. A lot of contractors have insurance policies written such that they are not allowed to touch those materials. And if they don’t know they have those environmental problems until the very last minute, there are significant time and money costs.

Do you have any examples where clients have told you these factors really cost them in the past, prior to working with you?

We had a recent experience where the contractors on a project didn’t mention anything about lead-based paint and were almost done with the entire project. They were running behind schedule the entire time. Right before they were done, they brought up the concern about lead-based paint. This caused a delay in the production cycle for the building to be turned over for re-occupancy. They had to wait until the lead-based paint was addressed and remediated. It all could’ve been avoided by proactively looking at the building plans, deciding what the impact would be for the different materials within the building, and doing a proper survey on the front end.

Who is the right candidate for OCCU-TEC’s Proactive Renovation Process?

Anyone who will be actively renovating a building or buildings. Typically these are Facility Managers, Building Owners, Construction Project Managers, Architects, and Engineers. Anyone who will touch one of those projects within a renovation throughout the lifespan of the building.

The words “Proactive” and “Reactive” are subjective. I imagine some people believe they have a proactive renovation process, when in reality they have anything but. Can you give us some indicators of what a non-proactive building renovation process might look like?

I think a lot of times, what you will hear is construction, architectural and engineering firms claim they can handle all of the building needs. But their approach includes removing walls, removing ceilings, and overall focus on how the final renovation will look at completion. But they often don’t look at what type of environmental remediation might have to occur or if there are alternative approaches that will have less environmental impact. Ultimately, they may get started on the project and there has been no conversation about asbestos, lead, or mold. If it wasn’t part of the planning conversations there is a good possibility that the project’s final budget didn’t fully address the project needs. So, the inefficiency of adding it later ends up costing the client significant time and money.

Do you have a recent example of implementing OCCU-TEC’s Proactive Building Renovation Process and what were the results?

We recently completed several building projects for a local school district. Even on a very tight timeline, we were involved with the Architectural and Engineering firm, as well as the general contractor from the beginning. We met early on, discussed the entire project scope, and helped them make the right decisions based on the school district’s budget, what project plans would have the least amount of impact on the environment within the properties, and what would keep the project on the timeline. Even with good planning inevitably something will turn up that needs to be addressed. Since we were part of the initial planning process and ongoing progress meetings everyone involved knew exactly who to call and whose responsibility it was for any environmental concern allowing for quick response, decisions, and project task sequencing. The entire scope had to be completed between the last day of school in the spring and first day of school in the fall. School started in those facilities on time. We had a very similar example in a local university. In both cases they shared that it helps greatly to have every piece involved from the beginning. Every company and contractor involved was working from a different contract and each piece had a different timeline. Everyone knew upfront what their roles were, who was working for the client, who was working for the general contractor, etc. If we had waited to communicate with each other after the projects had started, it would’ve been very difficult to get each party on the same page.

I’ve heard you talk a lot about Occu-Tec’s commitment to the customer and they things your customers receive that are unexpected or in addition to the agreed upon deliverables. Do you have an example of that commitment for possible Proactive Building Renovation Process clients?

Regarding the university, they wanted to have complete facility drawings at the end of the project, so they could redo their fire evacuation and life safety maps. We were able to generate new CAD drawings of all of their facilities during our inspection process. If we had not been involved early, they would’ve had to contract a separate firm and devote additional funds in order to accomplish that goal We were also able to help them plan renovation projects and budgets for years to come.