Adaptive Reuse & Historic Renovation Projects

Adaptive Reuse and Historic Renovation Projects 

“Expect the Unexpected”

Beyond the typical problems that can arise with renovation projects, historic renovation projects add another level of difficulty due to the need to preserve and often restore historic elements throughout the renovation phase. Typically, historic preservation/renovation projects are dealing with buildings that are at least 100-years old and were originally designed and constructed prior to modern building codes and construction techniques. Hidden conditions, damaged elements, and changing opinions of the federal and state historic preservation offices and local code officials can lead to significant change orders in the middle of the project. However, new construction can also be affected by historic preservation requirements. Below are some examples:

Façade Evaluation

Historic FacadeThe facades of an historic building are one of the most significant aspects of preservation. Generally, the appearance of the building exterior is the most heavily regulated portion of an historic renovation project. We have seen significant change orders to façade repairs due to outdated façade inspections and unforeseen conditions. Often destructive testing is warranted to accurately evaluate the condition of the building exterior and the extent of the required repair and/or replacement work needed. Building conditions change over time; therefore relying on outdated inspections and evaluations can result in the creation of an insufficient scope of work.

Tip: Make sure all your 3rd party consultant reports including envelope, acoustical evaluation, geotechnical investigation, accessibility review, etc. are up-to-date, and the contract documents address and incorporate all of their respective recommendations.

Code Upgrades, Customization and Historic District Requirements

Code upgrades often lead to additional costs for all renovation projects. However, these costs can escalate in historic renovation projects due to the need to replicate historic materials such as plaster coated walls and ceilings, and decorative plaster trim.

Aluminum "Jomy" exterior stair system, added to a 27-story historic Chicago-style skyscraper, as part of the code upgrades to satisfy means of egress without exceeding the building's structural load limitations.

Aluminum “Jomy” exterior stair system, added to a 27-story historic Chicago-style skyscraper, as part of the code upgrades to satisfy means of egress without exceeding the building’s structural load limitations.

Accessibility and fire safety upgrades while maintaining the structure’s aesthetics can also be challenging. These often result in additions to accommodate ADA and fire-code requirements. The additions usually include incorporating new systems such as an elevator, a fire-stair system, and accessible ramps and restrooms.

Historic District Requirements apply to new construction projects as well as renovations. During the approval process, it is not uncommon to have the planning or historic agency require changes to exterior cladding within the public views which were not anticipated in the design process.

Tip: Make sure you have all approvals and permits prior to closing. Permit Applications are not sufficient. The permits give the developer the legal authority to construct the project as designed and ensures that the drawings have been through the zoning, city and local plan review.

Interior architectural elements are required to be replicated.

Interior architectural elements are required to be replicated.

Code Inspectors may require that all base, door, and window trim is consistent throughout the units. If the existing trim profile is not available, all trim will have to be custom milled to match the existing profile. For historic renovations, interior architectural elements must be preserved or replicated which may require specialized trades to complete restoration work.

Tip: Make sure all of the finish schedules and selections have been finalized and approved during the pre-construction phase.

Structural Issues

Hidden conditions regarding the structural integrity of the building are frequently encountered. It is not uncommon for significant structural repairs to be required due to previous water infiltration. Until the demolition has commenced, the conditions of the structural systems are usually unknown. Further investigation by licensed structural engineers and designs for remedial structural repairs are sometimes needed, depending on the severity of the structural damage. Our staff has witnessed several significant change orders for structural repairs for projects located in Washington D.C., Whitinsville, MA, and Arlington, VA.

Tip: Allocate resources and allow destructive and exploratory testing to better evaluate the condition of the structural framing during the pre-construction phase.

Hazardous Materials

Hazardous-material abatement can raise renovation costs considerably, so it is critical to identify all such materials early in the planning stage and budget for the abatement properly. Hazardous materials area often concealed by the interior finishes. Again, destructive testing and investigation can allow for concealed hazardous materials to be identified prior to demolition.

Tip:  Make sure all of the hazardous-materials are properly identified, quantified, priced and this scope is clearly defined in the contract documents.

Window Replacement

Window replacement is always a major concern in historic renovation projects and costs are generally accounted for in the initial bidding of the project. However, there have HIstoric Windowbeen cases where the windows previously approved by the federal, state, and local historic preservation officials were no longer available after the renovation had commenced. This results in additional costs to the project, as well as, significant delays in the schedule. The schedule delays were due to the selection and approval processes and the lead time to manufacture the approved windows. 

Tip: Negotiating the ability to secure funding for stored off-site materials allows for items that are custom made or have long lead times to be purchased in bulk at the beginning of the renovation project and then delivered to the site as needed. Also, many historic renovation projects do not have sufficient storage/staging areas to allow for large quantities of windows, for example, to be stored on site. Procuring these items at the beginning of the renovation also minimizes the exposure should these items be discontinued during the renovation process.

Fire pump modular structure and back-up generator added to a rear of a building due to space limitation

Fire pump modular structure and back-up generator added to the rear of a building due to space limitation

Infrastructure Upgrades

Renovation projects often require upgrading utility services. The need for fire pumps, standpipes, fire department connections, double-check valve assemblies, impact fees and space limitations are often neglected during the pre-construction stage. Upgrading the electrical service often requires the construction of an underground vault, work below the adjacent sidewalks, etc. These upgrades require lead times on design and approval, as well as, permits that may take up to six months to obtain.   In addition, it can be difficult to remove the existing equipment as well as to bring in new equipment. Modifications to, or replacement of, the existing ducts, conduit, and piping can have significant impacts to items such as interior architectural elements and other historic features.

Tip: Make sure all required utility service upgrades are properly accounted for at the pre-construction stage and that appropriate steps and assessments, such as conducting flow tests, obtaining service provider’s requirements, impact fees, etc. are conducted and not deferred until the construction phase.

Schedule Impact Considerations

Although conservative hard cost contingencies in excess of 10% are set aside to address the unknown conditions associated with renovations, the time impacts and General Contractor’s costs are often overlooked with regard to change orders in historic renovation projects. Not only do change orders impact the overall project budget, but they can also lead to time extensions. Time extensions result in additional general conditions costs and can affect tax credit deadlines. Many historic renovation projects rely on tax credits as funding sources. These tax credits generally have very strict completion deadlines and are claimed in the taxable year that the rehabilitated building is “placed into service,” which essentially means the date that the rehabilitation work has been completed such that a Certificate of Occupancy has been issued. If these deadlines are not met, the tax credit arrangements can expire resulting in the loss of the tax credit funds.

Tip: Be aware of tax credit compliance deadlines and placed in service dates. Evaluate the construction progress early and often to be sure the tax credits are delivered.

At Blackstone, our professionals have considerable experience with historic renovation projects and can help mitigate such risks. Feel free to contact our staff if you have any questions or need assistance with an historic renovation project. 

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.