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Is the contractor specifically experienced with seismic retrofitting?

General contractors are typically not experienced in seismic retrofitting. If a patient requires heart surgery, it is unlikely that a family doctor will possess the knowledge and experience necessary to perform the best possible triple bypass surgery. For this reason, a building owner should not use a general contractor for commercial seismic projects that does not specialize in this type of work.

Does the contractor know ways to make a project less expensive?

A firm that specializes in seismic and structural work can save its clients money. For example, a specialized contractor can suggest alternate engineering designs or hardware when it is evident that work under consideration might be very expensive. Specialized contractors not only know alternate designs or materials, but are experienced with appropriate and efficient construction techniques.

How many years of essential experience does the contractor have?

Ask the contractor under consideration how many commercial seismic retrofits he or she has performed over the last year. If the answer is more than 30 per year over the last 4 to 5 years, the contractor is experienced in seismic retrofitting.

Is the contractor using his or her own crew to complete the seismic work?

Many firms subcontract projects to other contractors. If a company is experienced in seismic retrofit, but their work is subcontracted, a building owner cannot be assured quality due to the possible lack of experience of the subcontractors.

What experience does the crew possess and what is the average length of employment for company workers?

A company's experience in seismic retrofitting is only as pertinent as the consistency of its crew members. Reputable companies typically hire high-quality individuals who invest expertise and energy into the growth of the company over several years. Experience of this type is not common in all companies, so if a contractor under consideration employs crew members whose average experience is less than 3-5 years, consider other firms unless you feel confident in the less experienced employees' abilities.

How does the contractor monitor the quality of craftsmanship performed by their employees?

A deputy inspector will check certain aspects of commercial seismic work, but professional companies will internally ascertain the quality of work performed by their employees. Some companies include quality assurance as part of their duties by requiring the foreman to check all employee work at the end of every shift. If each employee checks his own work, the quality of the company's overall performance is questionable.

Does the contractor compensate foremen for maintaining tenant relations and following safety procedures?

Often the most critical concern for building owners performing a seismic retrofit is the tenant relationships. Building owners or managers cannot risk losing tenants and income from intrusive contractors. Some companies offer foremen a bonus for outstanding tenant relations. Investigate any incentive programs used by a contractor under consideration and discover if it makes sense in relation to your project.

How does the contractor schedule and perform work without disruption to the tenant’s operations?

Because experienced seismic retrofit contractors know the quickest and most effective method for completing a retrofit when they consider work to be done on a building, they know the best place to start and finish the project. Unfortunately, some contractors plan and set a timeline in place before discussing options with the tenants. A contractor with strong communication will coordinate work with tenant operations well in advance, thus reducing tenant workflow interruptions.

Does the contractor provide a detailed line-item proposal, displaying specific costs for seismic details?

Most seismic construction proposals are simple and include only the final price. Few companies break down the cost per detailed item so that in the event of a plan change, the building owner can determine the true final cost. For example, if a contractor has almost completed a project and the engineer adds 10 new details that are in no way accounted for in the initial plans, the building owner cannot determine the actual price of the new details. This could allow the contractor to exorbitantly overcharge at the last moment. A reputable seismic contractor will provide an exhaustively detailed bid that anticipates all expected price details of the project.

Does company have an RFI system starting from the bidding process and continuing through project completion?

Questions always arise throughout the duration of a project. The contractor inevitably generates many Requests for Information (RFIs) for the engineer when discrepancies exist between the retrofit plans and existing conditions. The engineer may be required to visit the jobsite, creating additional costs that are passed down to the building owner or manager. If a company under consideration indicates that an engineer must visit the jobsite more than twice during construction to deal with field discrepancies, this is excessive. Search for a firm that places a high value on your money and maintains cost-efficient communication methods.

Does the contractor have a proven track record of value engineering and/or cost saving alternates?

Some contractors will attempt to work on over-designed plans at the client's expense in order to maintain high profits, or worse, they may not know a variety of ways to rework the plans to reduce the total cost of the project. A highly qualified contractor should be able to share three stories about instances in which he or she received plans from an engineer, only to return them for rework, reducing the overall cost of the project and thereby decreasing profit to the contractor.

Does the contractor have referral letters from recent clients, including owners and engineers?

If performing 30 or more projects per year, the firm should possess numerous testimonials written in the last 3 to 4 months. Make sure the praise given in the testimonials involves a current workforce. Much can change in a year or two: a contractor can lose his or her best foreman, the company may be under new ownership, or it can be stretched too thin between projects.

Seismic Retrofit

Strengthening buildings for improved earthquake resistance

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Roof Condensation

Thorough inspection and repair of moisture damaged hardware

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Structural Repairs

Fixing structural problems without disrupting your business

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