There are many things to think about when managing a greenhouse construction project. Your business relies on factors such as crop deadlines and financing – make sure your project stays on course and you are making the proper considerations. You can always hire expert project managers like GGS if you don’t want to be involved in all the details, but if you decide to be your own General Contractor here are some tips to help you through the process.
1. A greenhouse structure is a capital purchase – treat it as such
Using your operating line of credit to expand your greenhouse is a classic misstep that has gotten more than a few greenhouse growers in hot water with their banks, suppliers, and sometimes their employees. Operating lines are for operating costs, something you will also likely need to increase if adding substantially to your greenhouse business. Adding a new greenhouse is a capital purchase, and should be approached like one if you intend to have the money to pay for your new greenhouse irrigation system, boiler, and environmental controls.
2. Ask your banker for more money than what you have been quoted for your greenhouse equipment
It doesn’t matter how detailed you are in your planning; major construction projects almost always have cost overruns. At GGS we recommend our customers approach their lending institutes and request 10% more than what they budget. This shows people financing your greenhouse that you build in contingencies, which actually makes you look less risky than if you had asked for less. 10% can go a long way to covering unexpected costs, like new building permit fees implemented by the town, or realizing you forgot to get a quote for your greenhouse poly, or changing your mind and wanting to add an extra loading dock at the last minute.
3. Have a kickoff meeting to establish a construction schedule with all suppliers and contractors
Getting everyone on the same page before any project begins is paramount. Without establishing how everyone will work together, there is a high risk for cost overruns during construction, because someone else may have put their systems where the next person expected to be able to start working. As project manager you need to know what everyone is doing and when they’re doing it. Get the team together early with a kickoff meeting. This first meeting can even be done over telephone or a web conference if you can’t get everyone in the same room. It is important to establish goals and milestones with your suppliers and contractors, ensuring that you record them in your calendar for later reference.
4. Coordinate the flow of funds to match bank draws with supplier payment terms
Most suppliers will want some kind of a deposit, and then progress payment draws are standard in any construction related field. Your bank may require you to provide proof of delivery, or percentage completion invoices to justify drawing down on the load. In order to make sure your greenhouse construction goes smoothly the bank and your suppliers have to be on the same page you are on. It is a lot less stressful to make sure all the payment terms are agreed to before construction begins.
5. Give yourself enough time to execute your greenhouse expansion
No matter how good your greenhouse manufacturer is, or how fast your greenhouse construction company is, no one can deliver a turnkey greenhouse yesterday when you are placing your order today. Proper planning takes time, and crop deadlines are important. Discuss this early with your greenhouse manufacturer and they will be able to assist you in putting together a proper timeline so decision on details like, greenhouse structure, heating, irrigation, and the environmental controls can be scheduled to give you the finished greenhouse when you need it.
6. Have regularly scheduled meetings to make sure milestones are met and delays are brought in line quickly
Don’t assume that just because you have accounted for everything, that everything will go according to plan. Stay on top of the milestones you set in your kickoff meeting, and schedule meetings in accordance with them. For example, if there are delays in receiving materials for whatever reason, you need to be aware so you can push back your construction crew’s schedule.
7. Use technology to keep your project organized
Paper calendars and whiteboards can be useful visual aids for simple tasks and schedules. However, they do have their limitations, and you may want to consider utilizing software to set reminders and organize tasks and meetings. This could be as simple as using Outlook to schedule reminders for your milestones, phone calls, and coordinating with your project team. Or you may want to invest in more robust project management software that allows you to set task dependencies that will automatically adjust lead times and notify your team of changes in order to keep your project on track.
If you need a reliable manufacturer for your next expansion, GGS supplies a wide variety of complete commercial greenhouse structures, including turnkey solutions for a range of structure types.