The commercial construction industry drives the development of nearly everything you see- from the spread of Dunkin Donuts locations to the advancement of healthcare facilities. Large corporations, regardless of the complex level of technology, are of those growing businesses that regularly supply work to general contractors.
Within the sectors, you will find distinctly different working conditions that make each a niche. Some of the most important goals of the clients could be saving money (common with vanilla box structures in the retail sector); seamless project completion within occupied environments (especially sensitive in assisted living, senior care and critical care rehabilitation facilities); short and demanding timelines (common in the education structure); et cetera. One environment in particular poses some of the greatest obstacles of all- wet and dry laboratories.
The construction of a lab, for one, will always feature extremely complex MEPs (mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems), compared to any other type of facility. The work housed in these facilities is ultra-delicate and often complex itself, thus requiring a controlled environment capable of providing intimate conditions that support the accuracy of the research being conducted, the disposal and containment of dangerous waste, and more.
The equipment, even some that you might have worked with before, will almost always be more expensive. The models are specialized to endure more extreme output, and are often built with special-grade materials.
What’s more? Construction, by nature, is extremely dirty work. Work conducted in laboratories is, by nature, pristine. These two immensely opposite worlds are joining forces for projects like these, thusly requires a more radical level of care to meet the expectations of the client.
“Think about it,” says David Lima, a site Supervisor who has led renovation work at high profile laboratories, “the cleanest trade out there is collaborating with a trade that handles some of the most dirty forms of work. Lab personnel may not be uptight over all the details, and construction workers, especially on the South Coast Improvement team, may have a proven record of tidiness, sanitation and discretion, but the differences of the worlds they come from remain, and that carries its own challenges.”
David, and colleagues Misael Sanchez and Jonathan Regis, have provided some tips for success during laboratory renovations.
- Maintain Constant Dialogue, Communication, and Documentation
- Email exchange daily, phone calls, photo updates- it keeps the client’s questions answered sometimes even before they know they have a question, and in the end, instills confidence. It also keeps all concerned parties in the loop as the project progresses, which can be difficult otherwise when there is a large group of decision-makers involved.
- Provide Several Options
- When planning a shutdown, installation, or anything related to scheduling, present the client with several options in case your first choice of when and where does not work for them.
- Be Investigative and Knowledgeable
- Research specialty equipment to gain understanding for install conditions, lead times, etc. Proactively immerse yourself in the facility schedule to be able to specifically address happenings that will be affected during shutdowns or beyond.
- Be prepared in meetings
- Be the expert- have your answers ready for any questions they may have, and have all of your questions ready. Meetings are a time that all client contacts and project partners such as the architect and subcontractors, tend to be in the same place at the same time. It is the best place and time to get approval or consensus on items that concern many involved personnel.
- Provide as much information as possible, Put yourself in their shoes
- Provide any information for shutdowns, system checks, and otherwise to all client parties. They will benefit from knowing as much as possible- when checking a breaker, let them know exactly which one is being turned off and on, for example. Don’t assume that they know what to expect during the work. When drilling in millwork, a scent similar to smoke can be detected. This could alarm people in the building who do not know this is common and accounted for by a non-threatening source.
- Be transparent
- Always be upfront about potential impact, even if minimal, that your work may have on surrounding areas of the facility.
When the job is done, and how the job is done is just as important as the quality final product that the client is left with. Every day spent constructing is a day spent creating a good or bad experience for the facility occupants. Tend to the details and the end result will take care of itself. In commercial construction, this is the key to success.