10 Questions to Consider for Your Commercial Tenant Improvement


Embarking on a commercial tenant improvement project can be an exhilarating endeavor, promising to breathe new life into a space and elevate your business operations. However, beneath the surface of excitement lies a complex web of considerations and potential challenges. As any seasoned project manager knows, unforeseen obstacles often arise, threatening to derail timelines and budgets.

For many business owners, the world of renovations can feel like uncharted territory. While they may possess a clear vision for their space, they may not be fully equipped with the industry insights and expertise necessary to navigate the intricacies of a successful project. This knowledge gap can lead to delays and missed opportunities for optimization. In the realm of commercial tenant improvements, two critical factors reign supreme: schedule and budget. Yet, maintaining control over these pillars requires more than just wishful thinking. It demands the guidance of a skilled general contractor who can seamlessly orchestrate every aspect of the project, from inception to completion.

To shed light on the essential questions every business owner should consider before starting a commercial tenant improvement, we turn to our field experts that regularly work on tenant improvements of all shapes and sizes. Join us as we delve into the key inquiries that lay the foundation for a seamless and successful renovation endeavor.

Do you have an architect or engineer, yet?

Engaging an architect or engineer early in the tenant improvement process is essential for developing detailed plans and ensuring compliance with building codes and regulations. These professionals bring expertise in design and structural integrity, laying the foundation for a successful construction project. While some general contractors offer in-house design teams, most work hand-in-hand with outside agencies. This partnership is essential to creating accurate, functional blueprints for the construction teams.

Imagine you’re renovating an office space and wish to hang large, framed photos and several designer light fixtures. By incorporating an architect or engineer early on, they can help you not only create the best layout, they can also offer industry insight for pricing, confirm the products are hung according to code, and ensure your design falls within the property managers guidelines.

Do you have permits started or scheduled?

Securing permits is a critical step in the commercial tenant improvement process, as it ensures compliance with local regulations and building codes. In most cases, construction can’t even begin without proper permits or city notices. If these aren’t secured early on in the process, construction activities may be halted or delayed in the future, leading to costly disruptions and legal consequences.

Consider a scenario where you’re renovating a retail storefront to create a more inviting shopping environment. Without obtaining permits for exterior modifications or signage, you risk fines or enforcement actions from local authorities. By scheduling permits early in the project timeline and ensuring all necessary approvals are obtained, you can proceed with construction confidently and avoid unnecessary delays.

Do you have an approved budget?

Having an approved budget is essential for managing costs and ensuring that the tenant improvement project remains financially viable. By establishing a clear budget upfront, project managers can make informed decisions about resource allocation, prioritize expenditures, and identify cost-saving opportunities to maximize the project’s return on investment.

Consider a scenario where you’re renovating a retail space to launch a new product line. With an approved budget in place, you can allocate funds for marketing initiatives, store fixtures, and inventory procurement while maintaining profitability targets. By closely monitoring expenses and adjusting plans as needed, you can ensure that the project stays within budget constraints and delivers the desired outcomes.

Do you have a pre-construction plan or schedule?

Developing a pre-construction plan or schedule provides a roadmap for executing the tenant improvement project efficiently. This includes identifying key milestones, allocating resources, and establishing timelines for each phase of construction, ensuring that the project stays on track and within budget.

Suppose you’re upgrading a commercial kitchen to meet new health and safety standards. A pre-construction plan outlines tasks such as equipment procurement, plumbing upgrades, and installation of ventilation systems, along with corresponding timelines and dependencies. By adhering to the plan and closely monitoring progress, you can minimize disruptions and deliver the project on time.

How long will it take to get products?

Knowing the lead time for procuring necessary products is crucial for project planning and scheduling. Delays in product delivery can significantly impact the overall timeline of the project and cause costly delays down the line. By understanding the lead time upfront, project managers can coordinate with suppliers and ensure timely delivery of materials as well as properly schedule future phasing. Alternatively, suggestions for like materials with shorter order timelines might be suggested.

Suppose you’re renovating a restaurant space and need custom furniture and fixtures to enhance the dining experience. If the lead time for these items is several weeks, it’s essential to factor this into the project schedule to avoid delaying the grand opening. By coordinating with suppliers early on and expediting the procurement process, if necessary, you can ensure that the project stays on track and meets deadlines.

Are there any preferred milestone dates crews should be aware of?

Identifying preferred milestone dates allows project teams to align their efforts and resources effectively to meet key deadlines. This ensures that critical project milestones are achieved on time, minimizing delays and ensuring smooth progress throughout the construction process.

Imagine you’re renovating a hotel lobby to coincide with the start of the tourist season. Identifying milestone dates such as the completion of the reception area or installation of decorative features allows the construction team to prioritize tasks accordingly. By meeting these milestones, you can ensure that the hotel is ready to welcome guests as planned, maximizing revenue opportunities.

Are there any sustainable certifications you want to pursue?

Integrating sustainable design principles and pursuing green building certifications can enhance the environmental performance and long-term value of your commercial space. By identifying sustainability goals early in the project, you can incorporate eco-friendly features and practices that reduce energy consumption, minimize waste, and improve indoor air quality.

Suppose your commercial tenant improvement including renovating an office building and aiming to achieve LEED certification to demonstrate your commitment to sustainability. Incorporating features such as energy-efficient lighting, low-flow plumbing fixtures, and recycled materials can help you meet LEED requirements while reducing operating costs and enhancing occupant comfort. By prioritizing sustainability initiatives, you can create a healthier, more resilient workspace that benefits both the environment and your bottom line.

Are there any scopes the owner will take on themselves?

Clarifying which scopes of work the owner will undertake directly helps to streamline the construction process and avoid misunderstandings or duplicative efforts. By delineating responsibilities upfront, project teams can coordinate more effectively, minimize conflicts, and expedite project delivery.

Suppose you’re renovating a commercial space to accommodate a new tenant’s requirements. If the owner plans to handle interior design and furnishing independently, it’s essential to communicate these intentions clearly to the construction team. This allows contractors to focus on tasks such as structural modifications and MEP installations, while the owner oversees finishing touches and decor selection. By dividing responsibilities strategically, you can optimize efficiency and ensure a successful outcome for all parties involved.

Who is the final decision-maker to communicate with?

Identifying the final decision-maker ensures that critical project approvals and changes are addressed promptly and effectively. By establishing clear lines of communication and decision-making authority, project teams can avoid delays caused by indecision or conflicting directives, ensuring that the project progresses smoothly and stays on track.

Consider a scenario where you’re renovating a corporate office space to accommodate a new layout and technology upgrades. If multiple stakeholders are involved in approving design revisions or selecting finishes, it’s essential to designate a primary decision-maker who can provide timely feedback and sign off on proposed changes. This streamlines the decision-making process and empowers the project team to proceed confidently, minimizing disruptions and ensuring project success.

How do you like to have critical conversations?

Understanding stakeholders’ preferred communication styles during critical project discussions fosters more effective collaboration and problem-solving. By accommodating individual communication preferences, project teams can facilitate open dialogue, address concerns promptly, and make decisions collaboratively, enhancing overall project outcomes.

Suppose you’re coordinating a commercial tenant improvement project with a diverse team of stakeholders, including architects, contractors, and business owners. Some stakeholders may prefer face-to-face meetings for discussing complex issues, while others may prefer email or phone communication for quick updates. By acknowledging and respecting each stakeholder’s communication preferences, project managers can foster a supportive project environment where concerns are addressed promptly, and decisions are made collaboratively, ensuring project success.

Final Thoughts

Renovating a commercial space involves a nuanced process that requires thorough planning, coordination, and compliance with regulations. Commercial projects demand careful consideration of zoning laws, building codes, and permitting procedures. By addressing these questions and acknowledging the unique challenges of commercial renovations, stakeholders can navigate the process more effectively. Prioritizing thorough planning, permitting compliance, and adherence to codes ensures that commercial spaces meet functional, aesthetic, and regulatory objectives for long-term success.

If you’re looking to renovate your space, reach out to our team here. We’re happy to answer questions or connect you with the right team member for your project.