Moving to a new office space is an exhilarating and important step in any growing business.  Whether undertaking a remodel of an existing office space or constructing an office building from the ground up, the process can often prove more expensive than anticipated.  Savvy business owners will stack the odds in their favor by selecting an experienced general contractor for the project who can help keep construction costs under control.  Here are five unexpected costs you to be on the lookout for when remodeling or building a new office space.


All plans look good on paper.  Unfortunately, there is no way to predict with total accuracy how a particular interior layout is going to work when your employees hit the floor.  It may be painfully obvious that some ideas clearly do not work.

Design interior layouts for adaptability using movable modular systems that can be repositioned as your business grows.  This does not mean you have to use drab, gray cubicles.  Modular wall systems like DIRTT (Doing It Right This Time) offer high end finishes, built-in electrical and data lines, and can be used to construct closed offices and conference rooms.

Building Permits and Inspections

Depending on your local jurisdiction, remodeling an office may require a handful of permits for electrical, plumbing, structural changes, and an equal number of onsite inspections.  Time spent waiting for permits or inspections costs you in worker downtime, as well as utility costs and loan overhead being paid for a building that is still under construction.

Nobody expects you to become a building code expert, but delays can be avoided by working with your architect and general contractor to straighten out permit issues before construction begins.

Environmental Concerns

If your building is located on the site of a former industrial area, gas station, or dry cleaner, you have the potential of running into contaminated soil during the construction process..  Check to see if the site has been tested and certified as clean and safe to build on.

If there is no certification, have the soil tested by an approved environmental remediation contractor, such as RW Collins.  The discovery of contaminated soil will require a full remediation of the building site.  Even though the former building owner may be responsible, this will cause a lengthy delay in the building process.

Change Orders

There are few things that general contractors loathe more than change orders to an ongoing project.  Although it will be necessary to make some changes to the building design or remodeling plan, the fewer changes you have the more likely the project will stay within budget.

Change orders often result in additional labor and materials.  If new materials are ordered, there will also be added shipping costs.  Structural elements will need the approval of the project’s engineer or architect; and certain types of changes will need to be reviewed by the local building inspector.

Price Fluctuation of Building Materials

Building materials are prone to market pressures like any other commodity product.  The prices of lumber, steel, and concrete can change significantly during the time that a project is designed and it is actually built, especially if there is a delay in receiving building permits or financing.  Fuel and associated shipping costs are another major variable with heavy products like steel and concrete.

It may be necessary to re-estimate a project prior to construction if a long period of time has passed since the original estimate.  Professional construction estimators are available and can provide accurate installed costs using up-to-date material prices and labor rates.  Finally, pad your construction budget to account for rising material or fuel prices if justified by current trends.

About the author: Chris Schwind is a freelance technical writer and Principal of Schwind Communications, a firm specializing in business-to-business marketing in the construction and tech industries. He regularly writes about green building, architecture and energy efficiency.  He has been published in Eco-Structure, Walls & Ceilings Magazine, Wood Design & Building Magazine, Michigan Builder, Wend Magazine, Modern Materials, and Timber Framing.Connect with Chris on Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.