Occupied Rehabs: Strategies and Goals


Housing developers are faced with numerous challenges on their renovations before construction even starts. There is no standard methodology that contractors follow either – every rehabilitation comes with its different set of obstacles. However, the advantages of working with a contractor experienced in occupied rehabs from the very inception of a project should not be underestimated.

Because there are so many moving parts involved with the construction process during an occupied rehab, it is important to consolidate the involved groups as best as possible to avoid complications during construction, and ultimately save on the budget. The following key points are crucial to streamlining the process:

New boilers-1

The chosen contractor and architect need to work together from the project’s inception

If the contractor and architect work together in the pre-construction phase, the contractor can offer value engineering ideas from the get-go that may be overlooked by the developer and architect. It also allows the contractor to bring in mechanical, electrical, and plumbing subcontractors to use their expertise to evaluate the existing condition of the building, which also assists in value engineering. For example, on our current Long Beach occupied renovation, the engineer and architect specified expensive heat pumps and cooling tower. We saved the owner $40,000 by using our mechanical subcontractor’s expertise in choosing a different configuration that kept the same energy efficiency.

9-3-2014-Ice-cream-social---finished-comm-rmThe non-relocation of residents to off-site accommodations

In certain situations, renovations cannot be completed with the facility still in operation, namely if there is a high level of abatement involved, or if walls need to relocated for ADA accessibility. Another reason may include that the building requires structural retrofits that are too dangerous for residents to be around. In circumstances where an occupied rehab is possible, keeping the residents on site is not only cost-effective but less hassle for all parties involved. Bullard has streamlined our process over 10 years, to where we develop and execute the resident coordination plans in-house without having to move the residents off site. Read more about our process here. Pictured above is an example of a common area that was converted into one of our hospitality suites, where residents were free to go during the day and provided with refreshments while our staff worked on their units.

New kitchen cabs, tops, appliances

The contractor must be well versed in resident relations

Renovations are disruptive to the lives of residents, especially in senior housing or assisted living centers, whether they are relocated off-site or not. In our experience, occupied rehabs are generally less disruptive because the residents do not have to be inconvenienced by having to move their possessions to a different location, as well as themselves. It can be difficult for many seniors to be mobile. On the contractor’s side, it takes patience, tact, and the proper staffing to make sure the needs of seniors are met during the construction process.

Many developers and contractors prefer to use relocation consultants who are well versed in the construction schedule and residents needs, and whose sole job is to take care of any and all of the resident’s requirements during their off-site move. In our experience, using them not only significantly adds to the budget, but convolutes the entire process because now there is more coordination and moving parts involved. In the pre-construction phase, now the contractor has to collaborate with the relocation consultants on a resident coordination plan, which creates more channels of communication and an increased probability of misunderstanding during construction. The way we resolve that is our superintendent acts as not only the superintendent but also as a relocation manager to better control the schedule as a sole entity. By using a contractor that handles the resident coordination in house, the schedule becomes much more seamlessly entwined with the needs of the residents and contractor’s staff performing the job, at a lower cost.