Who Provides What?

Overlooking a single item during the design phase of a construction project may not sound like an ordeal. You can, after all, still order and install items after the planning phase is complete. But in reality, missing even one key object or piece of equipment during planning can later cost an owner many times that item's original price.

For instance, if a buffet for a hotel restaurant is overlooked in the original design plans, adding it later requires not one but many changes. Along with the buffet itself, you would need to adjust for new lighting, plumbing, millwork, electricity, and counter cutouts — all of which affect several subcontractors and incur much higher costs than if addressed before project drawings are submitted.

Such oversights are bound to occur if the owner and contractor don't know, at the outset, who is responsible for each required item. Every construction project includes items provided by the contractor and items that fall to the owner, and that is why it's advisable to work from a checklist that indicates exactly which items each is responsible for.

This is especially true in hotel construction, where unique industry standards and requirements make it less obvious, even to the experienced developer, who should provide what. The best way to fill gaps, pare duplications and prevent unnecessary change orders is to have a solid understanding of what should be on your hotel operator's checklist and to compare that checklist with your contractor's in the early planning stages.

It's helpful to think of the hotel checklist as a work in progress. You will want to add to, adjust and refine your list throughout a project — making sure to communicate promptly any changes to the architect and contractor.

WHAT TO EXPECT: SOME GENERAL RULES

As a rule of thumb for most construction projects, the contractor usually covers items permanently installed in the building, such as through-wall heating and cooling units, counters and front desks, as well as conduit for wiring telephones, computers and security. (However, the owner would be responsible for having the wiring installed for those systems.) The owner, on the other hand, is responsible for items you could take along if you moved out of the building, such as furniture, telephones, computers and small appliances.

But other particulars might not be as apparent. Although the contractor installs carpets and wall coverings, for example, the hotel operator often provides them. The same usually is true for washers and dryers, kitchen appliances and signage.

COMPARE AND MODIFY

The items you'll have to arrange for are, of course, project- and brand-specific, which is why you should check early with the builder and the franchisor to be sure that everything is covered and nothing is duplicated. Request a hotelier's checklist from the contractor and, if you have hotel experience, bring your own checklist to the conceptual meeting, before plans are submitted or bid requests go out to subcontractors. Once you've chosen a hotel brand, you'll likely receive an extensive items checklist from your franchisor. All major hotel chains provide them, along with their brand-specific prototypes and standards.

Hilton Hotels Corporation, for example, gives each of its franchise owners a 22-page “pre-opening checklist” at the preconstruction phase that covers exactly what is needed, room by room. For the novice hotel operator, some franchise directors will walk the owner through the process and answer questions throughout the project.

ENVISION YOUR HOTEL

Developing a useful checklist, and in turn helping to keep costs in check, require knowing how to read drawings and understanding what will be constructed — as early in the process as possible. For many aspects of the building, architects rely on prototypical plans provided by the franchisor, which then are customized for the owner based on such factors as local market, size of hotel, local building codes and site requirements.

The hotelier's personal preferences also come into play. By selecting specific brands and types of equipment early, the architect can include exact specifications in the project drawings three to four weeks into the planning process. Being specific during this early stage of planning facilitates placement of all utilities (water, drains, electrical) in their optimum locations. Input from operations professionals will also help determine the best locations for hotel equipment. Moving items later in the process requires design changes, which can be costly.

Additionally, the owner brings to the design process his knowledge of how the hotel will operate. Envisioning how the finished hotel will run helps the owner collaborate with the architect to develop the final drawings. Early changes to the drawings mean minimal, if any, cost increases. The further into the project, the costlier the change.

When the construction drawings are completed, the owner can fine-tune his checklist again.

WHAT EXACTLY, GOES ON THE CHECKLIST

From artwork and flagpoles to cutting boards and satellite dishes, the hotel checklist will cover all areas of the hotel, inside and out: the lobby, meeting rooms, business centers, administrative offices, employee lounge, commercial laundry, guest laundry, fitness room, kitchen, guestrooms, outdoor areas, and any other hotel spaces. The checklist also may include the handling of permits and fees to build the hotel.

A lengthy and important component of the hotel checklist involves the guestrooms, because of the huge opportunity for compounding any errors. After all, if you forget an item in one guestroom, you likely duplicate the mistake in every guestroom.

However, keep in mind that developing only one checklist for all guestrooms may not be adequate. In any hotel, there are a variety of room types, such as kings, queen/queens, suites and handicap-accessible rooms. Although all have, for example, electrical outlets, each type of room may require different locations for the outlets or a different number of outlets.

Each item on the checklist should be expanded to include the following information associated with that item: vendor name, who will purchase the item, who will install the item, the purchase order number and amount, and a budgeted amount for the item.

You likely will want to budget for furniture, fixtures, and equipment (ff&e) costs during the early planning stage by estimating how much you should budget per room. This figure averages around $7,500 to $8,000, but can amount to more or less, depending on the hotel brand you're building and the number of modifications you make to the prototype. You'll be able work up the budget column of your checklist more precisely as project plans progress.

SOME FINAL SUGGESTIONS

Walk through the rough layout: When the hotel has progressed to the point that the floors are in place and the wall studs are erected, work with the contractor's superintendent to walk you through the layout for each type of room. You may even want to draw lines on the floor to show major pieces of furniture. Surrounded by your full-scale model, begin to picture where each of the items will go in the room. Walk through the sketched-out space and study it from the point of view of a hotel guest. Have you accounted for everything that will be needed in each room?

Learn from industry experience: While an experienced contractor and franchisor are the primary sources for completing the owner's checklist, you also can learn from the experience of other hotel operators. Many franchisors will introduce you to hoteliers who have recently constructed the hotel brand you're building. Before you finalize your items checklist, ask the franchise owner, as well as the project designer and contractor, what they would do differently if they were to build again. And keep in mind that hotel companies often improve their prototypes from year to year, so that “new generations” of particular hotel brands could require standards that are different from the same brands built in past years.

Also, consider hiring an experienced hotel operator as a consultant during the planning process. The benefits you gain from the consultant's hotel-planning experience will be well worth the fee, which is a very small percentage of the cost savings you'll realize due to efficiencies once construction begins.


Michel Gibeault, AIA, is vice president of business development for High Construction Company (www.HighConstruction.com), a construction firm serving Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey. You can reach Gibeault at (717) 390-4601 or mgibeault@high.net.

Visit www.LHonline.com for more information and related articles.

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