from the notebook

Eyes Optometry Office


Winner of the Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce Revitalization Award.



Renovating an existing building can be a cost-effective way to procure a new facility, but there are factors that need to be considered. Due diligence regarding the suitability of a specific building should include an assessment of structural, envelope, foundation and site factors.  Major upgrades to these systems will add to the cost of a renovation project.

For this optometry office renovation project, we worked with the owners to confirm that the existing building would meet the space requirements of their three-doctor practice. Confirming a building will be suitable for a new use is critically important, and should be done prior to closing on the property. The same can be said for buying land: make sure the land can support a particular use. It is cheaper and easier to walk away from an existing building before you own it.

In round numbers, buying an existing building that needs gutting is the equivalent to buying a shell of a building: the structure and the enclosure. Those two items are about one third the cost of a new building. Mechanical, electrical, and plumbing services will cost about another one third, and the architecture- walls, finishes, casework and specialties- will cost the last third. So buying an existing building that will be gutted makes sense if you can purchase the building for about one third the cost of new construction.

The above 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 rule of thumb will be different for each project, but in general, one can think of costs this way.

How much will it cost to have an architect provide a test-fit for an existing building? In Downeast Maine, assuming the building is less than 5,000 square feet, it may cost $1 to $2 per square foot, rule of thumb.

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