5 Ways To Use A Site Survey To Your Advantage

Updated: Apr 1, 2020

We have heard more times than we can count, "I thought I could keep my existing equipment," or "Why do I have to replace my HVAC?"

Many tenants go into a tenant space, look at the face value of the space, and sign a lease. Then as the design starts to develop, they learn more about their building systems, and oftentimes, blow their budget.

Getting a site survey by an engineering firm early on in the process is a key piece of your due diligence. Here are 5 things the survey will answer that is critical for tenants to know:

1. Will my electrical service need to be upgraded?

  • If the space you are looking at had the same use as your business, chances are the building services will be adequate for your space. But if you want to put a restaurant in a space that was previously an office you are more likely to need service upgrades. (We recommend at least 400 amps for restaurants.)

  • The survey team will assess the existing power coming in from the utility company when able, and coordinate with the utility if the information is not readily accessible. They will look for the available amperage and voltage characteristics. With that information, they will be able to tell you before you sign on the dotted line, if an upgrade will be likely.

2. Can I reuse the existing HVAC system and/or ductwork?

Mechanical Diffusers

  • One of the key questions here is what was the previous use of the building? Different uses require different designs of ventilation, heating, cooling, and exhaust.

  • Adding hoods and kitchen equipment to a building that didn't previously have any is going to trigger a need to upgrade the HVAC.

  • Buildings with many fenestrations (windows, doors, skylights) affect the load calculations, as well as the insulation type.

  • An engineering survey can provide you with initial assumptions on the condition of existing equipment, and likely hood that it can be kept. (Learn more here about comfort and your HVAC budget.)

3. Will my water and gas meters be adequate?

Gas Meter

  • Water meters can be one of the costliest upgrades in the construction process.

  • Director of Operations, Phil Brock has written an in-depth post on the things that go into this decision.

  • Basically, the more fixtures, the larger the load. Again, changing use if a huge driver in the need of an upgrade.

  • Our survey team will also check to see if gas is available on site, and the size of the existing meter if applicable.

4. What equipment needs to be replaced?

Led light bulbs

  • In addition to the large MEP systems, many buildings have existing equipment and lights that you may want to reuse.

  • Water heaters can be assessed by the survey team for capacity and type.

  • Energy consumption is a big driver in keeping existing lights. Many older buildings still have fluorescent in place, and our team is likely to recommend you upgrade to LED to meet energy code requirements.

5. What are my next steps to get permits for my building?

  • Once your survey is complete, our team will provide you with a site report that lets you know all of our assumptions. This will also include a checklist of the next steps.

  • Working with your design team, engineers, architects, general contractors; collaboratively along the way will ensure that your process is more smooth and that you don't have coordination issues.

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