Plant Construction: New Vs. Retrofit (Part 5)

Bruce Beggs |

Your company is weighing its options for plant construction. Should you build new or retrofit?American Laundry News recently invited several engineering, construction and consulting firms with laundry services expertise to respond to some questions about this debate, and identify some of the factors in making the decision.What are some project pitfalls to be avoided — service disruption, contractor issues, etc.?Elliot J. Mata, Laundry Division manager, ARCO/Murray National Construction Co., Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.
A construction project is never perfect or error-free. If anyone ever makes that claim, either they’re lying or they were never intimately involved in the project. In particular, this couldn’t be truer than when designing or building a laundry facility, due to the level of coordination and continuously “moving parts.” But whether the project is new or retrofit, a great deal of risk and mistakes can be avoided if you work with a professional experienced in the laundry industry. You benefit from the mistakes they’ve made and the lessons they’ve learned.
Some common issues that can become large problems if not properly planned for are:

  • Permitting costs and duration
  • Utility company coordination and cost
  • Environmental permits and regulations
  • Hazardous-material abatement
  • Local building codes and regulations
  • Unforeseen conditions related to underground obstructions or hazardous materials
  • Local labor market: union vs. nonunion
  • Impact fees and requirements
  • Weather delays
  • City-mandated design and permit drawing requirements
  • Procurement of long-lead item materials or equipment such as structural steel, HVAC equipment, and laundry equipment
  • Contractor coordination between trades and equipment vendors
  • Phasing and start-up of new equipment

Doug Rose, business development manager, Turn-Key Industrial Engineering Services, Charlottesville, Va.
The No. 1 pitfall to avoid is service disruption or degradation to your customers. Planning ahead will ensure that your customers experience no discomfort as you look to improve your business. Here are some other ways to avoid pitfalls:

  • Do your homework and consult with professionals. Make sure you ask questions and that you are comfortable with the responses.

  • Hire a competent, experienced project manager familiar with laundry construction and retrofit projects. They will help to avoid conflict with contractors and other vendors, making sure the project stays on track and within budget.
  • Don’t assume you can work out the details as you go along. You can avoid a lot of wasteful spending by planning up front. It’s far less expensive to change it on paper than it is to change it on-site.
  • Avoid operational disruptions by having a phased transition plan that stipulates who does what and when it’s to be completed.
  • You can also avoid longer, costly projects by hiring professionals who use a design/build approach rather than a traditional plan/spec method.
  • Define the project goals and project scope. Develop a plan. Use your resources. Keep the ball rolling. Delays kill a project.

Matt Alexander, president, Pertl & Alexander, Jamesville, N.Y.
Selecting the right contractor, designer, project managers and equipment suppliers are key to a successful project. It’s critical to have tight specifications for all work and machinery, and to have the entire project team work well together. Time and money spent in project planning and design is time and money best spent.
Scheduling and coordination of the work requires expertise, experience and commitment. Selecting the right partners is fundamental … unproven team members and technology should be avoided.Glen Phillips, president and senior associate, Phillips & Associates, Minneapolis, Minn.
Laundries are unique operations, and having a knowledgeable laundry consultant working on the planning team is imperative for success. The laundry industry has some good laundry consultants and some horrible “so-called” consultants. Check out any professional that will be part of the planning team.
The general contractor that knows and understands the industry is the second most important team member. He can select and advise on subcontractors that also know the business. A qualified construction team can’t be beat. A general contractor that doesn’t understand the special intricacies of building a laundry can make a project a living nightmare. The importance of due diligence in the selection process cannot be underestimated.Gerard O’Neill, president/CEO, American Laundry Systems, Haverhill, Mass.
Using local contractors, especially for the general contracting, is worth its weight in gold. Local inspectors can make or break a project. Some townships and cities will subsidize a project when local contractors are used. They aren’t as friendly to out-of-state contractors. Relying on a combination of both for construction and then the laundry is a good solution.
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for Part 6.Matt Alexander, Pertl & Alexander, can be reached at 888-419-3444, J. Mata, ARCO/Murray National Construction Co., can be reached at 630-599-9100, O’Neill, American Laundry Systems, can be reached at 978-373-1883, Phillips, Phillips & Associates, can be reached at 763-231-9950, Rose, Turn-Key Industrial Engineering Services, can be reached at 434-227-2613,

About the author

Bruce Beggs

American Trade Magazines LLC

Editorial Director, American Trade Magazines LLC

Bruce Beggs is editorial director of American Trade Magazines LLC, including American Coin-Op, American Drycleaner and American Laundry News. He was the editor of American Laundry News from November 1999 to May 2011. Beggs has worked as a newspaper reporter/editor and magazine editor since graduating from Kansas State University in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications. He and his wife, Sandy, have two children.


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