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Building Up VS. Building Out


Every building, with its inherently unique design, presents distinct challenges when considering an expansion. The first step in determining how to grow your facility is to determine if you want to expand horizontally or vertically.

Horizontal expansion (building out) generally involves increasing the building’s overall footprint at the ground level. Vertical expansion (building up), adds levels to a finished building, taking advantage of the design and strength of the existing structure. When evaluating which option works best for your facility, owners should consider the pros and cons of each scenario.

Evaluation of Existing Facility

When considering an expansion, the contractor and design team must meticulously evaluate the facility in its current state. A strong focus on the existing structure and utilities helps to uncover potential issues and gives the project team a general understanding of what is needed to mobilize. Some aspects of evaluation include:

Obici Hospital Bed Tower | Hourigan

Virtual Design and Construction Coordination

Sentara BelleHarbour Ambulatory Campus | Hourigan

Integrating Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) techniques early in the design process provides critical information upfront that can save time and money. Outputs such as 3D models and virtual reality mock-ups inform the planning, design, and construction of the expansion. They also provide context for what a space will look and feel like, which aids in consensus-building when multiple stakeholders are involved.

Some VDC technologies owners should consider:

Operational Continuity

Sentara BelleHarbour Ambulatory Campus | Hourigan

Many facilities do not have the option of shutting down operations to complete an expansion. With expert planning and consideration of a few critical points, facilities can remain fully operational during all phases of the project. During a large-scale renovation, it’s important to go beyond the building and structures to consider how occupants are affected. For example, in a hospital setting, noise and vibrations can disturb vulnerable patients as well as staff. Vibrations from construction can also impact sensitive equipment such as CT scanners and MRIs. It’s critical to develop a detailed logistics plan to minimize these impacts. If a portion of the project will create a high level of noise, coordination with facility managers should take place beforehand to ensure it’s done at the least intrusive time.

In vertical expansions, the existing roof becomes the 1st floor of your new addition.  Extending the structure and MEP vertically, penetrations must be made in the existing roof and thus disrupting the water-tightness of the roof. This condition will remain until the new vertical expansion becomes dried-in itself and the existing roof can be permanently removed. Close communication between the construction team and client stakeholders is imperative to ensure disruption to the facility is minimized via water leaks and/or above ceiling MEP tie-ins.

Scheduling Flexibility

Expansion is a complicated process, so expect the unexpected and add flexibility to the schedule early on. Additional measures free up space or allow building functions to resume away from high-traffic construction zones. Some best practices include:

Transitional Costs or Intervening Costs

As opposed to ground-up construction, vertical expansions require an unusual amount of transitional cost.  These costs aren’t soft, like insurance, or hard, like structural steel, they can include things like temporary roofing, whole-building scaffolding, increased material handling, and increased labor cost due to loss of productivity.  With proper planning and design considerations, many of these costs can be lessened but not eliminated.  When evaluating budgets for projects, teams should expect higher than average site logistics, general conditions, allowances, and uncommitted material budgets.

Finding the Right Partner

The key to a successful expansion is to plan ahead. Fully vetting existing structures and taking user outcomes and potential scheduling setbacks into consideration allows for facilities to maintain operations with minimal disturbance. With the planning and management of an experienced team, the sky’s the limit for facilities looking to expand. Finding a construction partner with experience in your type of expansion and one that will advocate for your success will benefit your overall project and your bottom line.

Experience Building Up:

Experience Building Out:

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