Doing It Yourself
by Edouard A. Szajna

Part 4 - Checking the Building's Systems


photo of a sprinkler headFire Sprinkler System: Fire safety is of paramount importance, especially in commercial buildings. Each municipality varies on the requirements for an automatic fire sprinkler system, so it pays to check with the local Fire Marshall to determine if your use will require one.The requirements are usually based on occupancy, construction materials, means of egress and type of business, etc.

Does all this sprinkler talk sound expensive? Well It is…and another thing to try and negotiate with the Landlord. Usually if it is a requirement of all similar type buildings in the area, the cost typically falls upon the Landlord. However, if it is a specific requirement because of your use, the costs are usually borne by the Tenant. Sprinkler systems can be a huge hit to a construction budget. Make sure you ask.

HVAC: Heating, ventilation and air conditioning. The first thing that you should do is to confirm you have a dedicated HVAC unit to your space. Ideally, the unit should be less than 10 yrs old and have up to date maintenance logs. To remain environmentally friendly and economically sound and trouble free, the unit should have the filters changed and Freon checked annually.

HVAC units are usually located on the roof of the building or, on occasion, are located at ground level, usually behind the building. If it's a self-contained unit (like the type that hangs out of a window), it will have very limited cooling capacity and may not adequately suit your needs. If you are sharing a unit with another tenant, ensure that you are comfortable with the terms of the costs and maintenance.

Air Duct photoThe duct work in your ceiling (this is where your flashlight comes in handy) should run tight without any sags or breaks in the lines. Breaks or gaps in the ducting reduces the unit's efficiency and wastes energy. Duct tape can be a quick fix, but a more permanent one is always best. Check the diffusers (the grills in the ceiling), they should be clean, well fitted to the duct work and never black with dust, mold or grime!

Regardless of whether it’s a shared system or a dedicated one, your space should have its own dedicated programmable thermostat so you can control the comfort level of your space. It is an environmental and financial responsibility to control your HVAC distribution. Unless required for the comfort and well being of your merchandise (a pet shop, for instance) there is usually no need to have the heat or A/C on at normal levels when the business is closed. A constantly on, leaking or inefficient system will cost you money and add pollutants to the environment. Always Think green!

Turn the system on and run through the control panel to ensure the unit is functioning properly. If your equipment is going to create heat during its normal operation (cold air cases, fryers, dryers, etc); you must plan for additional capacity to keep the space at a comfortable temperature. A kitchen will produce much “kitchen resistant heat” from the ovens, stove tops, fryers, refrigerators, ice machines, etc… Ensure your HVAC unit will keep the temperature in your space under control.

To accomplish this correctly, you will need to hire an HVAC professional and have a “Balance Test” performed. The test will indicate the volume of heat and air conditioning in your new space. But for now, your just feeling the air move.

The final utility that you should check is the Gas Service. It can be either LP (liquid propane) or Natural Gas. Since fuel oil prices are constantly on the rise, you should determine the type of fuel your equipment and/or HVAC unit will be using because it could have an
effect on your financial's, although LP and Natural Gas have been a very economical alternative to oil or, worse yet, electric.

With your space measured and the utilities identified it's time to take your information back home and start working on your floor plan.


NEXT in Doing It Yourself

Part 5 -Checking the building's Structure

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