Many successful companies exploring expansion or new building opportunities make decisions that overlook one of the most important basic questions – Can my company operate as it does now on a larger scale or at the new potential location(s)? Many existing company operating variables need to be properly quantified by knowledgeable design professionals to make sure this assumption is correct. After leases are signed or full permit design documents are returned with comments, it is too late to find out that the proposed municipality and current regulatory zoning, or building codes, require significant changes to be made for the operating process to occur at the new location.
How can this be? We have always operated this way. Our old fire department never had any issues with this. Many of these comments unfortunately happen too late in the planning process. Make informed and knowledgeable real estate expansion and relocation decisions taking into account all of the available facts and constraints. It is also important to spend appropriate programming time and money with knowledgeable professionals to understand what will be required at every one of the potential new or the existing expanded location choices.
Many existing companies are surprised to learn that their current operation stores, handles, dispenses, and uses hazardous chemicals in convenient quantities and economical container sizes that exceed current building code and fire department amendments for new construction or expanded operations at the current location.
One of the fastest changing areas of building and fire regulatory codes center around operating use definitions and quantity limitations of various flammable and toxic materials as well as the required fire rated separations and exit distances. The key to good and valuable research starts with early project planning when expansion or relocation is in consideration with a qualified design professional able to fully assess the project scope implications and potential operating changes necessary to operate in a new facility per the various regulations in the possible locations.
Below is a great list of questions and information that will be helpful in researching the right decision for your company:
- Assemble a binder of all of the raw products and cleaning materials including MSDS sheets, stored container sizes, and whether or not dispensing or just closed container handling occurs.
- Have a design professional quantify the area square footages and number of people in each of the areas. The areas need to be defined corresponding to the different uses per the appropriate current regulatory building code identifying both current and growth potential for each area.
- Have a design or real estate professional provide the constraints for any proposed or existing facilities including zoning, any existing smoke exhaust or smoke curtain conditions, building code the property was originally constructed under, current fire protection system sprinkler design density, single or multi-tenant areas’ existing fire wall separations or potential requirements.
- Have the design professional prepare programming for required improvements for occupancy of the locations under consideration and whether or not any currently used materials and quantities will have to be stored, handled, or specially separated from proposed uses and activities with the relocation or expansion of the current operations.