Q: We would really like to modernize and reconfigure our office space, but there is no practical way to shut down the office for construction. Any suggestions?
A: It is difficult to give you a comprehensive answer without knowing your complete circumstances. Yes, it is certainly more desirable, if possible, to relocate your present operations temporarily while construction takes place. But with careful scheduling (and a lot of understanding) construction can take place around your operations.
We recently renovated the administrative offices, lobby, waiting area, lavatories and locker rooms for an indoor tennis facility. By careful planning, scheduling critical items during off-peak or closed hours, and cooperation from staff and patrons, there was never a time that a customer could not come into the facility. How this was accomplished might be a good model for your own renovations.
First, in cooperation with our client, we chose the absolute quietest part of the year to begin our work. While the administrative offices had to be open to handle calls and paperwork, the courts were closed for one week to allow resurfacing and new lighting. This was the perfect time to get real “dirty” work done, in this case, demolition and removing an antiquated boiler, piece by piece. The staff was temporarily relocated to the lobby/waiting area, the administrative area was isolated with heavy plastic, and the demolition began. Indoor tennis is usually run 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, so finding time when the building was completely vacant was difficult. For your own construction, however, the scheduling process should limit particularly noisy operations, such as cutting metal or chopping concrete, to evenings or weekends when no one is in the building.
In order to renovate the lavatories and locker rooms, we shut them down one at a time. Luckily, there was a third lavatory available that was not to be renovated, so we were almost always able to maintain “his and hers” lavatories. When the administrative area was complete, the staff was moved from their temporary location to the renovated office space. The lobby and waiting area were then renovated in sections, always maintaining a heavy plastic barrier between the actual construction and public areas.
The downside of construction during operations is that it will cost more, and take longer, than the same job that would allow complete and total access to a contractor. And of course, no matter how hard you try to completely isolate the noise and dust from construction, there will still be distraction and discomfort for your employees or customers. But for our indoor tennis client, unobstructed access to the space would have put him out of business for three to four weeks, an alternative that would have been a lot more expensive than our scheduling and construction solution.
To answer your question, there is no “right” answer. You will have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of completely shutting down the office for construction, or planning carefully to allow construction during office operations. It is usually a comparison of the additional time and cost of piecemeal construction versus the cost of relocating or taking your operation offline during construction.