Thinking Outside the Building: Designing an Outdoor Classroom

Outdoor learning isn’t a new new concept: outdoor classrooms may have become increasingly trendy in recent years, but California has an “environmental education” movement dating back to the 1960s, while Waldkindergärten (“forest kindergartens”) started cropping up in Europe as early as the 1950s.  With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, historians and journalists pointed out that open-air schools helped curtail the transmission of tuberculosis and other contagious diseases in the early 1900s, and may prove useful in the present crisis.

Earlier this year, Manor College enlisted our help in creating a new outdoor classroom for the benefit of their students and faculty.  In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the design considerations that we encountered on this project.

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Scope of Work: What It Is and Why You Need One

When potential clients reach out to us for quotes, one of the first questions we ask them is if they have architectural drawings or a scope of work for their project. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. We always want to educate and explain why these items are not only nice to have, but actually a necessity for the construction bidding process and beyond.

The scope of work is a core component of the construction agreement. It stipulates all construction obligations and duties of all parties involved in a construction project. This includes project managers, contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers. 

Typically, the scope of work is a separate document attached to the construction agreement. But sometimes, it’s featured as a section in the contract. It’s a key document in project management that is used to track the progress of a construction project. It also ensures that every party to the project is always on the same page. 

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Creating Safe and Profitable Outdoor Entertainment Spaces

Inviting spaces for outdoor dining and entertainment aren’t just a fun way to improve your guests’ experience these days: during a pandemic, they may be your primary means of keeping your operation going.  Restaurants and other entertainment businesses with existing outdoor service spaces had a leg-up on the competition, and those who did not quickly pivoted to be able to serve guests in safe, open-air environments.

Whether you have an existing outdoor space you’re remodeling to better comply with social distancing regulations, or are designing an al fresco entertainment area for the first time, here are some tips for ensuring your commercial patio or deck accommodates your guests in a safe, comfortable, and appealing fashion.

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Experts Dish the Top Tips to Know Before Renovating Your Kitchen

It’s safe to say that most homeowners dream of renovating their kitchen. Whether it’s redoing the cabinetry, adding a new backsplash, or transforming the entire layout – a new kitchen will not only make the space more pleasant to be in, but it can also add functionality and increase your home’s value.

As exciting as the renovation process might be, it can also feel daunting. That’s why we reached out to remodeling and renovation experts for their best advice to help you get started. Be sure to check out these 12 tips before you begin renovating your kitchen.

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3 Reasons Why Floor Plans are Essential for a Successful Renovation Project

Kitchen Plan

Thinking about renovating a space can be extremely overwhelming, especially if you are planning to move walls, relocate plumbing, or chang­­e the purpose of a room. You’ve likely saved tons of pictures of what you want your space to look like, but how do you know if everything you want to add will fit or if everything you want to move can be done in the space you have? How do you even know where to start with renovation project? The answer is simple: floor plans.

Floor plans are 2 dimensional drawings of a space from a bird’s eye view. They are done to scale so you know exactly how much room you have to work with and if everything on your list of wants and needs will fit. Not convinced? Here are 3 reasons why floor plans are essential for a smooth and successful renovation project. 

  1. Visualization: It can be extremely overwhelming to stand in your current space and try to visualize what it could look like with a more open floor plan from removing walls or maybe with a new powder room added. How could you possibly have the space for another office? Floor plans allow you to see the space you are working with in its entirety and better visualize how the changes you want to make will look and come together. Once you’re able to see the area you are working with on paper, it will be easier to take all of your ideas and figure out how to incorporate them for the best flow and use of your space.      
  • Planning: Floor plans are a great way to visualize what your space will look like once renovations are complete, but they also allow you to consider different options for your space as well as anticipate any potential challenges before the construction work begins. With renovations the possibilities are just as vast as with new construction. Getting your ideas and options down on paper will help you decide what layout and design you like best without having to make costly design changes during construction. You’ll also need a finalized design to be able to get accurate, comparable quotes from different contractors. 
  • Production: Once the construction work begins, detailed floor plans are a staple on the jobsite. All trades involved in the project will use the floorplans to make sure the project is completed properly and no important details are missed. They’re also important from a code standpoint to make sure everything is built to today’s standards. Floor plans provide clear communication for the work being done so there shouldn’t be any confusion between you and your construction team.

Now that you know the benefits of floor plans and how they can help you, your next question might be, “how do I draw a floor plan? Or, where do I get a floor plan made for me?” Again, the answer is simple; leave it to us! As a design build contractor, floor plans and renderings are part of our one-stop-shopping process. We will come to your site and take measurements of the space you are looking to renovate, then bring it back to our office and get everything down on paper. We are always happy and excited to help our clients with new ideas to come up with the best design possible.

Floor plans are beneficial to conceptualizing your ideas, planning how you want your space to look and how to make it happen. More than that, they are essential for providing details for the building process making it easy for workers on site to follow. If you are in the planning stages of a future renovation and looking for a commercial contractor in Montgomery County who can help get you started with drawing up some floor plans, give us a call! We would love to hear about your project and help you create floor plans and drawings to get you started in the right direction.

Souder Brothers Construction 2020 Year in Review

What a year it has been!  Last year was not the one we were expecting, but it was a year we will remember forever.  Although many industries began, and continue, to struggle, we also got to witness business owners digging deep to find new and creative ways to keep their business afloat under unprecedented circumstances.  From outdoor dining and zoom meetings to renovating offices for employee safety, 2020 was not short on creativity. 

We at Souder Brothers kept busy this year by improving the health and safety of our client’s businesses with general upgrades and renovations for their employees to come back to.  We would like to extend an enormous thank you to all of our clients who trusted us with this crucial task. We feel so fortunate that we are able to help businesses adjust to a new normal and bring their creative ideas to life. 

Two of our highlights from last year were our projects at Manor College and Fred BeansCARSTAR:

Manor College

Read more about the renovation journey for the Manor College dorms and see more transformation photos on our project page.  We discuss the challenges that we faced, how we overcame them, our client’s reaction, and more!

Constructed in the 1960s, the Manor College dorm was outdated. Boasting original design and finishes, the dorm did not align with the institution’s 21st-century programs and curriculum. Manor charged us with designing and renovating the dorm to elevate the college’s residence life and appeal. The essential priorities included upgrading to ADA-compliant bathrooms, updating kitchenettes, and modernizing dorm room aesthetics, complete with Blue Jay-inspired finishes and décor.

Fred Beans Newtown CARSTAR

Read more about the renovation journey for CARSTAR and see more transformation photos on our project page.  We discuss the challenges that we faced, how we overcame them, the final results, and more!

As a growing company, Fred Beans Newtown CARSTAR was quickly running out of adequate space for office teams, service staff, customers, and vehicles. They didn’t have enough workspace, customer waiting, or service bay areas to deliver their desired service level. To alleviate cramped workspaces for office and service staff and create ample accommodations to repair more vehicles, CARSTAR required commercial additions and construction to expand and reconfigure its interior and exterior operations.

Both of these projects were completed in 2020 and presented us with virus-related challenges we had never faced before.  Some of those challenges included new health and safety protocols as well as extended lead times for sourcing materials.   Their completion represents our dedication to doing whatever it takes to deliver the highest quality work for our clients and we are very proud of the results.   

We are so grateful to all of our clients who made 2020 an incredible year despite the many challenges thrown our way.  We plan to continue this momentum throughout 2021 and look forward to helping more businesses prepare for a new way of life and seeing them thrive as customers, employees, and residents return.    

Time is Money: 4 Tips for Completing Construction Projects on Time

Completing Construction Projects on Time

When embarking on a construction project, each day that passes on an unfinished site is a day that the space could be open for business and potential revenue is being lost.  We understand that time is money and do our best to work efficiently with our clients to meet their deadlines.  Here are 4 tips for helping your general contractor stay on schedule and to ensure you’re completing construction projects on time.

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Commercial Renovations in the ‘New Normal’

Commercial Renovations

We are all adjusting to the ‘new normal’ way of life amid this unprecedented pandemic. It may seem odd to some that construction is booming after the COVID-19 shutdowns. Let us tell you why this is actually the perfect time to begin renovations on your commercial space!

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3 Questions to Ask During the Pre-Construction Phase on Commercial Projects

Pre-Construction on Commercial Projects

Often times commercial renovation projects can be much more complex than new construction. With so many variables it’s important to ask the right questions and put a solid plan together from the very beginning of the construction process. We’ve covered some helpful ideas in another pre-construction on commercial projects blog, and we are here today to offer you a few more helpful tips.

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4 Reasons You Should Start a Career in Construction

Career in Construction Souder Brothers Construction

If you’re in high school, starting college, or even just looking to make a career change, have you considered getting involved with a career in construction? While it’s not a highly-glamourized industry, construction is a constant. With so many different types of positions available, you just might find something that interests you! Here are a few things to consider if you’re thinking about entering the world of construction:

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