Contractors and Architects: The Foundation of Success

Starting a new project? Do you have a building committee? Do you have land? Do you know what you want to build? Do you have money? What do I do next?

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All the above are questions you will get asked as you start a new chapter within your fire station. Whether your station is 45 years old and in need of a bulldozer makeover or you are looking at completing Phase 2 of a five-year plan that was laid out by the prior administration, these questions still loom over your project. But, those are not the only questions you’re going to tackle. The question of the proper method of construction is currently a hot topic in today’s construction industry. Without debate, the general contractor and the design architect are a needed foundation for your team. Regardless of whether or not you are building in a traditional manner, apply the Design-Build method, or building with CM at Risk, having a quality general contractor that has built fire stations within your region is a successful recipe for your fire station and your community. Having a knowledgeable and steady design architect that can facilitate your project with the best all-around attributes for your needs is also necessary for a winning combination. 

A general contractor with a resume of success is needed to help budget, value engineer, design, permit, build with schedule and stand behind your building for a 50-year structure. The general contractor needs to be able to show you the finished product, before it gets done, with past projects completed of similar size, scope and stature. The general contractor needs to assure you a successful project is what matters most to them, and your happiness and valued opinion is what drives their willingness to continue. A general contractor needs to be able to lay out a detailed budget of your wish list items and facilitate an action plan to reign in budget costs when the “want” is greater than the “wallet size.” The general contractor needs to be able to pursue a look that makes the building stand out among the rest with the use of materials that enhance your property and are sustainable to the surrounding environment. The general contractor needs to provide a schedule for the building process to run smoothly and without delay due to uncertainty so that you know where you stand in your billing invoices and you can answer the questions accurately to your fire board at the next appointed meeting. Finally, your general contractor needs to have the success rate and the stability to give you the comfort that you are constructing a 50-year building that will withstand the test of time, as well as the changes that are to come within our society.

The design architect must have the ability to take the wish list of its owner and put it on paper in a manner that not only is affordable but is also capable of enduring the pressure induced by the fireman that will use it. The design architect must utilize the latest technology that has proven success within the industry and use it wherever necessary to ensure the project, when completed, is ready to develop the work of the firemen within the department. The design architect must know how to enhance the construction done to certify the project being built is unique and without copy.  For a clean and smear less county and city inspection process the design architect must be knowledgeable with the code book to warrant the minute details don’t go uncovered nor go undiscussed.

While the design architect’s list is shorter than the general contractor’s, their responsibility is not. A true team effort from both the general contractor and the design architect is needed to fully pledge a successful project will result. So, “What do I do next?” Call your trusted general contractor and ask them about their experience within the fire industry. Ask them for their references to ensure your fire station project goes as smoothly as it can. Ask them about their design team and the résumés that make up their team. Ask them to facilitate a visit to their recent builds to have an informative insight into your upcoming project’s final appearance.

As your station grows and your needs expand, the one thing that will remain true is construction of a new station is evitable.  Knowing where to turn and how to approach that change will be very important in the success of your building process.  

Goosie Kennedy is a Project Manager for D. R. Reynolds Company, Inc., a Design-Build General Contractor.
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