General Contracting

An epiphany struck you for a new business in an untapped niche. It’s too good to ignore and you set up a meeting with your local design-build firm, hoping to strike while the iron is hot. Settling into the comfortable chair in their office, you ask the first question on your mind: “How quickly can you start building?”

You want a project that started yesterday, and you’ve researched the fastest construction methods. Pre-engineered metal buildings offer an attractively quick build time, and you chose a design-build contractor to make it even faster and more cost-effective. While delayed gratification often results in a better outcome, it’s an elusive skill, and you’re not here for that.

So, with your funding secured and your rough sketch on the back of a napkin, you smile across at the builder. He smiles back and says, “I get asked that question often, and these are the top…”



How long will it take? When do I get to hold the shovel and take a photo? Excitement is natural, and expected, at the onset of a large project. These considerations are essential to a realistic perspective of the current construction environment, but this is not a complete list:

  1. Design time
  2. Permitting time
  3. Time of year/weather constraints
  4. Long lead time material/equipment deliveries
  5. Subcontractors’ availability

Design Time

Automation improves many aspects of life, but building design is not necessarily one of them, and choosing a pre-engineered metal building still requires a design professional. Luckily, this is another area a design-build contractor speeds up the process. In the traditional method, an owner employs a design professional for the plans, then needs to secure a separate contractor. Imagine how much extra work is involved when a plan, inevitably, doesn’t go as originally designed. The change orders quickly add up and can slow a project to a debilitating halt.

In contrast, a will help you decide on a layout within the constraints of your budget, timeframe, and site needs. This is when your dreams and ideas start to take form. Whether you envision a sparkling, window wall and lush, pothos-filled lobby or an insulated metal-paneled cold storage food processing facility, the design team actively plans the project with you.

A design-build firm harnesses the wide berth of skills offered by experienced construction professionals, while keeping it all “under one roof.” Instead of going back and forth between businesses, communicating on several different schedules, your design-build contractor will be with you the whole way, seamlessly communicating with their established team.

Once the layout of your next project is decided, your build team acquires a set of plans to accommodate that layout. All plans are prepared by licensed design professionals and are meticulously reviewed and approved by your team before any work is started. Finally, with these plans in hand and a solid crew behind you, you can trudge through the quagmire of permits.

Or, if you’re not using a design-build contractor, are you still trying to find a construction manager?


Permitting Time

Permits vary widely from one state to another, and through various localities within each state. A seasoned builder can confidently guide you through these processes. Wielding knowledge and connections to know (or find out) what is needed at every turn, they provide an edge in what can be an exceptionally long game. To add to the terror, an inexperienced contractor can lead to missing permits or incorrectly filed paperwork that completely stops forward progress.

What types of permits are usually needed? Zoning permits and their requirements, like these examples from Philadelphia and Ferguson, PA, are what first pops to mind. In truth, there are so, so many types, like:

  1. Special exceptions
  2. Stormwater management
  3. Department of Environmental Protection permits
  4. Foundation permits
  5. Structural component permits
  6. Energy code permits
  7. Americans with Disability Act Accessibility permits
  8. Separate plumbing, HVAC, Electrical, permits

And this is not an all-inclusive list. As you can imagine, it’s also best if an experienced hand is coordinating all these permits with construction schedules. One failure here, like a game of Jenga, causes a domino effect of lost time.


Seasonal weather constraints

For conventional or pre-engineered construction, you cannot build in a lightning storm, a blizzard, or a hurricane. This makes construction during certain seasons particularly challenging in much of the world. So, what can you do to minimize weather constraints on your next project?

As Metal Construction News notes, “metal buildings… have shorter construction durations because of their ability to be erected in less-than-ideal weather conditions.” Pre-engineered metal building components arrive ready to assemble, rather than being fabricated on-site like with conventional steel construction. Pre-punched assembly holes and components tested and designed to fit together assure speedy building erection, but the weather can still slow movement.

Though pre-engineered metal buildings can offer quicker build times in some scenarios, the next consideration can quickly remove any gains in your timeline. How can you start if you don’t have your supplies?


Long lead time, material/equipment deliveries

Two waves are about to crash in the sea of building construction. One wave carries the high demand for steel and its slowly increasing supply going into 2022, and the other wave bears a backlog of projects and newly energized future owners waiting to begin.

Deliveries of everything from toilet paper to construction equipment and machinery are slower than normally expected. Much like that package you’ve been waiting for, expected delivery dates are also sometimes changed. Prudently preparing for these possibilities can affect the entire timeline of a project in today’s environment.


Subcontractors’ availability

Masters of masonry, concrete and cement craftsmen, and woodworking virtuosos often work as independent subcontractors — the finest skilled at their craft also have full schedules. Long standing contractors build relationships with these artisans, though this does not always assure availability.

While the demand for skilled tradesmen has been high for some time, a lack of people entering these fields has further stressed the issue. Planning around the availability of subcontractors and optimizing these schedules to coincide with your start date needs to be integrated into the larger project plan.



Deciding your start date requires consideration of several crucial factors. Preparing yourself for a reasonable outcome, rather than expecting to jump right in, can properly align your expectations. Regardless of the context, correctly aligned expectations lead to an easier build for you.

If you are interested in a consultation for an upcoming project, please give us a call at 717-776-6337. We would love to help.