In order to know where to go, you must first have your map. Once you have your map (your complete package of design, space planning, architectural drawings, material selection, and finish schedule) then you know which contractor will take you to the end result. Once you have your map, the contractor is ready to bid. When you have a list of contractor bids, all that is initially seen is the number. However, there is so much more that goes into choosing the right builder for your project. Just as you choose a designer, you must first establish trust and evaluate their capacity to deliver the work required to complete your new medical space. Focusing on professionals who specialize in medical practices ensures that you will be working with experts who have previous experience in building medical spaces and fully understand your vision. Whether your specialty lies in surgery centers, imaging centers, or dental, choose a contractor who has familiarity with your industry.
After finalizing a design with your interior designer or architect, it’s time to see how these plans will come to life. Engage a trustworthy contractor, capable of crystal clear communication and accurate delivery of the work. The wrong choice of contractor can lead to poor workmanship and more headaches on your journey of implementation. The least expensive contractor may sometimes translate to paying more later in time or quality. To avoid pitfalls, this guide on how to select your contractor prepares you for what to expect and how to cover all your bases for hassle-free construction.
Contractors come in all forms and many different specializations. Choosing the best fit will depend on how much information you have on your potential contractors. During the selection process, evaluate results of past work through portfolio and reviews of the process to make informed decisions.
Narrow the selection to scrutinize each candidate well. Ask for referrals from fellow doctors, recommendations from practices whose space you admire. If you already have a designer or architect, ask for their recommendation because when you select a recommendation with prior work flow, the project yields a much smoother journey. Research by gathering reviews and visiting their completed projects. Reverse engineering the result is the perfect start to validating and choosing a credible and experienced contractor for your space.
Ask for written cost estimates from several firms and evaluate thoroughly. The lowest bid is not and should not be the sole reason for selecting a contractor. Verify each potential contractor for their license and insurance so they can provide you with a full construction warranty. Ask to see proof of general contractor liability insurance, checking whether the coverage applies to all necessities and possibilities of your space and circumstance. Clarify unclear entries and do not be afraid to seek out answers for inclusions and exclusions. This interaction will test their professionalism, promptness with answers, and commitment to your satisfaction.
Getting clarity means knowing the scope of work expected from your contractor at the very beginning. Be thorough in your scope of work; include technicalities of the actual build and behind-the-scenes procedures such as purchasing and disposal — crucial details necessary for the progress of the project. By designating disposal duty to the contractor, you ensure that the job site works as efficiently as possible. Building and finishing materials will be specified by the designer; clearly define purchasing responsibilities, whether it will be you or the designer. Lastly, ensure that the contractor has a superintendent at the job site to know the status of each subcontractor. If you could arrange a project manager with a contractor and hold one person accountable for follow-ups and for everything to run smoothly, you will be able to focus on your practice.
Walk along the electrical and data requirements with your contractor as well as an IT or low-voltage person. Medical spaces have very sensitive equipment and specific electrical requirements. Assign your contractor to conduct a walk-through of the electrical layout of the project to make sure the correct amount and type of outlets are in place. Integrating as much technology into your operating system means spelling out systems that will rely on a well-laid auxiliary system. Server requirements, file storage, security system, audio-visual requirements and Wi-Fi should be discussed in detail so the contractor can plan out all the specifications required to keep these systems functioning.
Despite the best planning practices, unexpected costs can still appear on your journey. When evaluating the cost estimates of your contractor, give yourself breathing room of 10-20% to account for unforeseen costs. Save yourself the shock and put aside that buffer. Think of it as reserves which you may or may not end up using.
This principle not only applies to money, but also time. When you have a timeline and a grand opening date, allow a cushion of 20% for unforeseeable delays or bottlenecks.
Everything in Writing
Keep a record of everything in writing. Ask the contractor for a change of order in writing so everything is clear for you as well as your design team. It’s a reference and mechanism to protect you against any undue expenses, poor workmanship, and nonperformance of any obligation you have indicated in your contract.
Leaving a paper trail or online channels of agreements and conversations regarding the details of the project will help your future selves backtrack the project history and the way decisions were made. Signing off on all agreements and changes reinforces the validity of these orders for implementation.
A good contract is one that will include this standard information:
- Estimated start and completion date
- Payment schedule
- Contractor’s obligation to get all permits
- How to handle change orders midway
A complete and detailed list of materials used must include specification of size, thickness, color, brand, model and size. The more details listed, the better. If any materials are to be decided at a later date, the contract should state who will make the decision and how much time will be allotted for that decision. Warranties for specialty work or equipment should list the contractor, distributor, or manufacturer and further stipulate who will honor the warranty, how the repair is undertaken, the warranty period length as well as the limitations.
Engaging a contractor is an exercise on being clear, thorough, and firm. Everything needs to be spelled out; leave nothing to chance later on. There will be cost implications for every work item you decide to include so make sure to keep a thorough record and buffer of the project.
Engaging a contractor is an exercise of choices and agreements to be followed through until completion. Follow these four tips and you will be more confident in building your medical space that truly heals.