Otherwise known as a million questions your builder will need to ask.

There aren’t just a lot of things your builder needs to know when launching a building project. There are a lot of things you may not even know your builder needs to know. Thankfully, we’re here to help you know what you may not know you need to know …. You know?


To simplify things a bit, we’ve organized the process into five basic phases – or The Five B’s: Beginning, Budgeting, Basic Utility Requirements, Building Site, and Building.

Understanding the basics of each of these categories and the factors that affect them will help you and your builder work together to avoid misunderstandings and achieve a mutually satisfying final product, budget and timeframe.


There are the obvious signs that it’s time to build or expand: business is growing, renting has become financially unfeasible, your location is no longer meeting business needs … or some other factor completely unique to your business. But before you start thinking about square feet and ceiling tiles, consider these six areas and ask yourself if you have:

  • The approval of all interested parties
  • Confirmation that plans can be started and completed without interruption
  • A projected completion date
  • A projected start date to reach the completion date
  • Financing (interim/construction and/or long-term)
  • Resources for assistance in obtaining financing


When you’re talking dollars, make sure you’re talking sense. Thinking realistically about your construction budget is much easier if you understand all of the factors that can affect it. The first thing to know is that construction costs are only one part of the total cost. You will also need to budget for soft costs, which, depending on the scope of your project, can include design fees, insurance, legal/service fees, land surveys, and environmental impact and traffic studies.

In general, construction costs will include not only the land and the building but any permits and fees, necessary land improvements or site demolition, utility development costs, soil tests, site preparation, paving, equipment and furniture costs and more.

Finally, think about your specific needs. Costs vary greatly from state to state and city to city, so make sure you know how many square feet you will need, how much per square foot that budget allows for, and how those estimations compare with the average construction costs in your community.

And now that you’ve done your homework and established a budget, just one final note: make sure it’s flexible. Trust us on this one.

Basic Utility Requirements

Utilities are so … utilitarian. You don’t think about them much until they aren’t there or you encounter problems with them.

But your builder is thinking about them. Thinking about your utilities long before you’re thinking about using your utilities. You can work together with your builder to ensure all of the needs of your building are addressed by thinking through several key areas:

  • Will temporary power be available during construction?
  • What are your building’s daily and peak operation power requirements?
  • Are there existing gas and water mains?
  • Will anti-pollution devices be needed?
  • Are there existing telephone and/or power lines that will need to be relocated?
  • Will your building have exterior signage that needs illumination?
  • Do you need flood, parking lot, or other exterior lighting?
  • What are the specifications of your break rooms, restrooms, janitorial rooms, technology and business equipment areas, and any other areas that require wiring?
  • Is there a need for additional electrical outlets?
  • Will future mechanical needs require additional support from meters, transformers, circuit breakers and sub-panels?
  • Are there additional illumination needs for plant areas, offices, work stations or warehouse areas?
  • Are there any special requirements for heating, ventilation or air conditioning?
  • Will the building include elevators or escalators?
  • Will waste disposal include an incinerator, a dispose-all, trash bins or all of these?
  • Will your business need anti-pollutions devices, fire alarms, security systems, P.A. or internal music systems?

Building Site

You know what you want to build …. and now the only question is where to build. Although you may find a piece of land that looks like the perfect spot, make sure you look beyond curb appeal and check to see if it has:

  • a clear title
  • approved zoning
  • completed surveys
  • required watershed and drainage
  • code restrictions
  • easements
  • insurance requirements
  • enough room for expansion and/or parking
  • easy access after the area develops
  • any setback requirements
  • site prep requirements
  • need for a retaining wall
  • need for fencing/screening
  • room for driveways, pedestrian walkways, traffic signs/signals, handicapped parking and/or customer parking
  • inclusion of paving, striping, traffic signs, and curbs/gutters as part of the contract
  • any need for other on-site development
  • requirements for city planner/site plan review

Building (Finally!)

Now that you’ve done your homework and you and your builder have arrived at the building stage feeling confident and prepared … well, we apologize if you thought we were going to say it’s time to sit back and relax. That day will come, but right now is the time to sweat one last round of details.

Spend some time thinking through these aspects of your design and share them with your builder so he or she can ask the necessary questions. It will save you both time and frustration in the long run!

  • Overall design: is it complex enough to employ an individual engineer for layout?
  • Building codes: what are requirements?
  • Mezzanine: is one required?
  • Materials handling: will bridge cranes, monorails or conveyors be needed?
  • Clearance requirements: what are the minimums on width, length, column spacing, etc.?
  • Specifications: do you have any for specific types of doors, windows, lights?
  • Special hardware: will your operations require panic or electric doors, special locks or alarms?
  • Loading docks: will you need them?
  • Office requirements: will your operations require breakrooms and conference rooms? A mailroom and/or file storage? Cubicles, lockers or refrigerator space?
  • Traffic flow: does your layout allow for efficiency?
  • Inside columns: will they interfere with daily production or traffic?
  • Exterior appearance: are there any requirements for covenants, roof profiles, exterior facades or signs?
  • Drainage: are gutters, downspouts or underground systems needed?
  • Ventilation: will you require louvers, ventilators or fans?
  • Interior finish: what are specifics on floors and ceilings?
  • Exterior walls: what type of materials will best serve your needs?
  • Roof construction: what type of materials will work best? Which gives you the most for your money?
  • R-value: what does your building require? And what types of insulation will meet those requirements?
  • Landscaping: have you planned for trees, shrubs and grass? Are automatic sprinklers a good choice? Is all of this is the general contract or will it need to be provided separately?

There’s no doubt the pre-building and building process can feel overwhelming. But partnering with a reliable builder who has a history of quality products and satisfied customers will go a long way in making sure you get a quality design that doesn’t just look good but works well for you. And when that builder is a Star builder, you can count on getting a sixth B in the process: the best in the business.

Shared with permission from the Star Building Systems Insight Warehouse.