Published on December 29, 2014.

Hire an engineer to do a scope-of-work document

Dale Groshong, project manager for Portland-based Basic Fire Protection, Inc., the company that designed and installed the sprinkler system for Marquis Mt. Tabor, said he recommends taking Wells’ approach of hiring an engineer to do a scope-of-work study prior to hiring an installer. “I would highly recommend they don’t just bring in sprinkler contractors and ask for quotes,” he said. “What you’re going to get is four different ways of looking at the same project. The scope-of-work documents include specifications, designs, and criteria for access to the existing sprinkler system (if present) so that installers know exactly what to expect. They reduce the chance of surprises that can delay the project or increase costs.”

Consider hiring a general contractor

Although Kym Wells, Marquis Mt. Tabor’s administrator, was heavily involved in the project from beginning to end, she couldn’t deal with all the day-to-day issues that came up. “I’m running a [patient-care] operation here,” she said. The contractor was able to sit in on proposal discussions, work with the installer on permitting, conduct walkthroughs with the city fire marshal’s office, and other duties.

Know your drop-dead date

Wells’ advice for other facilities is to know your deadline and then work backwards to create a detailed schedule for the work. Wells planned to have the project completed a month in advance, just in case there were unforeseen challenges.

Plan for unforeseen challenges

Build in some wiggle room before your drop-dead date, Wells advises. Flexibility is also important. Wells’ staff had to adapt to a schedule that was changing by the day.

Complete other improvements when you do the sprinklers

Groshong recommends taking on other cosmetic or structural improvements at the same time as the sprinkler project to save money in the long run. In that case, it makes sense to hire a general contractor to oversee the project, he said. The general contractor can then hire a sprinkler installation company as a subcontractor, he said. Marquis Mt. Tabor, however, did not do this due to the tight deadline and the project’s various logistical challenges.

Communicate with all stakeholders—from the beginning

Wells said it’s crucial to know who has to be involved, and when. If you schedule a meeting, make sure all the stakeholders are present, not just some.