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PDMi is committed to providing pithy information through our E-bits blog and we hope you find these articles useful.


"Hi, I’m from the Government and I am here to help you” along with “The check is in the mail” are two of the bigger miss-truths those of us in business hear. I am no fan of big government; I think it is because much of what government asks (or tells) us to do just doesn’t make any common sense. To me, a successful business will always run on common sense.

We are working with a client that purchased an existing building. They are in the midst of renovating the office area. These are good people that are not looking to “buck” the system of regulations, approvals, and inspections. But their vantage point is,' we bought and paid for the building so why is a regulatory agency telling us what we can do, how we should do it, and when it can be done'. I can’t necessarily disagree with them on many issues, but there is one area where regulations and building codes make a lot of sense to me. That is when they apply to life safety.

The life safety sections of the building code are there to deal with just that: “Safety of the Lives in the building”. They provide the design constraints that protect the lives of the building’s occupants. The Life Safety criterion for a building is determined by two main items: what the building is used for and the materials the building is built with. These factors establish…

  • Compartmentalization: Size of fire areas, location of fire walls, fire resistivity of systems, etc.

  • Means of Egress: Travel distances, types of exit doors, corridor construction/detailing, etc.

  • Fire Detection & Suppression: Sprinkler systems, fire alarms, smoke detectors, etc.

Any regulation that protects a life makes common sense to me. If we can help you find that common sense solution to the regulatory requirements for the life safety on your next building project, give us a call. We truly are here to help…

  • Writer's pictureBrad Bollman

Through the years, we have met many people who wanted to build a new commercial building or add onto/renovate their existing building. Many of them thought that all they needed to do was go down to their local Building Department and get a building permit. They got a rude awakening when they were told they needed to deal with various different agencies and departments before they could get approval to start their project. Most people are not aware that there are local (Zoning & Fire Prevention) ordinances, state (Building, Fire, and Mechanical) codes and sometimes private covenants or licensure requirements that need to be considered and incorporated into their project. Dealing with multiple organizations that require separate submittals with different procedures can be a nightmare.

In a nutshell…

  • Local Zoning ordinances control the use of the land and have different requirements for type of use allowed such as setback distances from property lines, minimum number of parking spaces, required landscaping, flood control and stormwater management. Local Street, Fire, and Utility departments also have their own requirements and standards which are reviewed and approved through the Planning Department’s routing process.

  • State Construction Codes regulate the design and construction of buildings & structures. Most commercial projects will require drawings by a registered design professional to be submitted, reviewed and released by the state prior to obtaining a local building permit. Depending on the type of use and location of the project, submittal to other state agencies such as the Department of Health, FSSA, Department of Natural Resources, State Highway Department or Department of Environmental Management may also be required.

  • If the property is located in an industrial or office park, private covenants attached to the deed may be more restrictive than the local zoning or state requirements. If the building use requires licensure to operate, such as a restaurant, daycare facility, or some medical facilities, compliance with more restrictive standards & codes may be also required.

As you can see, the forest of building regulations has grown dense and requires an experienced guide to help get through it safely and by the most direct route. PDMi would love the opportunity to lead you through this process so you can avoid unexpected surprises along the way.

Give us a call…

I woke up this morning and realized that today is September 1st. Where did the summer go? I had a great summer. I never said it was not a busy summer, but it was great. The family and I did a lot of fun things this summer, like walking many golf courses, enjoying little league softball games, visiting family out of town and spending time at the lake. But, one of my favorite summer highlights was seeing my 12 year old son learn to slalom ski. Even though I experienced all these things and enjoyed them, I had to stop and think, why in the midst of a busy schedule was it a good summer? It is kind of like experiencing a good building; you don’t always know why you like it; you just know you do.

Dan Gagen, our senior designer at PDMi, reminds me often that a well-designed building is experienced from three vantage points and that is what makes it pleasing to a person. Those vantage points are:

  • Street Scale: This is where you are driving down the road at 55 MPH and you see the building. At that point you are experiencing the Massing / Colors / Proportions of the building.

  • Parking Lot Scale: This is where you are still in your car and are entering the parking lot. At that point you are experiencing the Textures / Scale of the building elements / Landscaping & Signage of the building.

  • People Scale: This is where you are walking up to the building. At this point you are experiencing Details of the Building elements / Entry statement / Warmth of the space.

If all three are designed well and fit together correctly you will love the building, but may never know why, and that is an architect’s goal. A sign of a great building is one that you like being in, but does not over power you. Like a good summer - you really enjoy it, for so many reasons!

We would love the opportunity of designing your next building so that you, and the many that will come through its doors, can enjoy it. I look forward to your call…

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