What are the risks if I manage a mezzanine build myself?
Will I run into trouble here? Absolutely there are risks but forewarned is forearmed. The first step you need to take is to contact a professional to get building advice. Not engineering advice, from a steel fabricator or a mezzanine company, but rather get a building surveyor or qualified draftsman who knows the building code on board first. You need someone who doesn’t just look at the mezzanine in isolation, instead look at the area as whole and what else is going on at the site. Spending a lot of money on an engineer and then finding you can’t build it isn’t ideal. We come across this time after time, people spend all this money with an architecture firm or an engineer without involving a building surveyor. It is crucial to engage someone first that knows the code. Some clients have spent lots of money and they still don’t have a mezzanine! They have also possibly lost a lot of time, resulting in lost business productivity that they needed from the additional floor space.
The first risk is that you going to waste a lot of time and money, losing a lot of opportunity in your business because you can’t grow as you haven’t got the expansion capacity yet. And you’re still mucking around because you’ve taken it from the wrong end of the pineapple. Don’t worry about calling the engineer; they’re not the first step. They are an integral part of the team, but you won’t need them until further into the process. Don’t call the mezzanine company either, as they’ll only give you some general advice – unless they are commercial registered builders, which most of them are not. They are awesome at building mezzanines, but the compliance part is the crucial piece of the puzzle as you don’t want the risk of prosecution from the council.
You don’t want risk of being in breach of your lease. If you do illegal works without a building permit, it’s in the breach of your lease, as all commercial leases say, ‘any building works must have a building permit’. If the landlord has a loan on the property, they’ve got to make sure that any building works has a building permit to fulfil the conditions of the finance they have. The ramifications of prosecution from the council or building code, resulting in legal action in the courts are not worth it. The financiers can force the landlord to refinance because illegal works compromise their asset.
Another issue that can occur is if you engage engineers, build your mezzanine and a friend you know that does stairs installs these for you, you can be non-compliant in terms of paths of travel. Your mezzanine may be structurally sound, but what about fall protection? Are you compliant with the code? What if one of your workers got hurt? The risks are huge. There are many risks of being in breach of insurance compliance. You also need to make sure that its covered in the event of a fire, for example, if you had a small fire and you can’t produce a building permit, the insurance company is required to pay. If you are storing expensive stock, or maybe even the managing directors’ boat, and this is damaged in a fire, and the insurers can see the mezzanine wasn’t compliant – they don’t have to pay.
There are so many flow-on effects it’s ridiculous. Therefore, there are huge risks associated with building a mezzanine yourself. You need to engage professionals who have got the liability to cover all this, and that can guide you through the steps and make it easy to get you to the finish line.
Save yourself a huge headache. Save lying awake at night thinking ‘what if?’. Go through the steps, mitigate your risk, engage the right people from the start. We design for compliance, for paths of travel, structure, and safety from falls and then for town planning for carpark allowances and building permit for overall occupancy rates. This will ensure you get the final certificates, enabling you to be happy, productive and to get your return on investment.