The Differences Between Ground Up Construction and Renovation

Whether a homeowner, business owner, or developer, you might have heard about renovation and ground-up construction. While some of the differences between these two types of projects are apparent, each project has unique nuances that during design and construction requires different approaches. 

Suppose you are familiar with remodeling but not ground-up construction or vice versa. Understanding how these two different projects differ in terms of their design flexibility, construction, building functionality, and permitting will help you plan well and prevent costly surprises that may arise while completing your project. 

Design Flexibility

In ground-up projects, the basis of its design depends on the requirements of the building functionality, owner’s version, budget limitations, code standards, and the local laws. The designing team is free to operate to these constraints, and this creative freedom means a substantial degree of design flexibility. 

On the other hand, in renovation projects, the existing configuration of the building structure becomes a critical factor. It needs to plan around the current architectural, structural, and MEP or the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing layouts and impose notable limitations on its project design. Altering existing structural design and elements might add complications to the project and substantial cost. 

Consider a residential kitchen in understanding the importance of an existing building configuration. Suppose you are constructing a building from the ground up. In that scenario, you have the option to locate or position the fixtures and appliances and plan for MEP utility services in an efficient location. When renovating, areas of those appliances and fixtures may entail rerouting pipes, wires, and ducts that serve them, which is quite tricky and more costly to accomplish. Thus, unless the property owner’s budget is not concerned, the remodeling design will be bound to its present location of these structure utility services.  

Permits and Approvals

Renovation projects need a separate permit for construction, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, and demolition activities. If the renovation project exposes previous unpermitted work, it requires retroactive local authorization and potentially elevates the work to current standards. Especially when you need to change the usage of the building, the exterior or interior appearance, incorporating stucco access doors and panels helps to have safe access to some valuable building components and change its structural footprint.

Most ground-up construction projects require permit approval from the local planning department authorities and other statewide regulatory bodies. Obtaining these permits will take more time and endure months due to multiple planning and design revisions before the authorities grant a green light. Depending on the local authorities and the building project, they may also require buried utility service lines and stormwater management.


Unexpected conditions of a construction project can derail remodeling and ground-up projects. Most surprises in new or ground-up construction are due to supply chain issues, poorly understood site conditions, adverse weather, and misinterpretations of design requirements. Having proper project management and thorough planning while completing the project can anticipate these factors and minimize their impact. 

In renovation and remodeling projects, it is relatively more challenging to predict. Without having an invasive investigation, some issues might go unnoticed until the first swing of the hammer. Some examples of those pivotal existing conditions include previous defective works, damage, termite, and rot. In some older building structures, renovation projects may also expose outdated wiring, lead pipes, lead paints, asbestos exposure, including hazardous structural conditions, like lack of bracing or crumbling wall foundations. 

During renovations, the total project budget must contain sizable contingency held aside to address unforeseen issues. Whether renovation or ground-up project, most have contingency; however, renovations sometimes require a significant amount because of their higher level of uncertainty. 

Building Functionality

Every construction project obstructs building functions. In ground-up projects, this concern is not that much as the building structure is still unoccupied until the project completion and performs the final inspection and commissioned all of its systems. 

Most renovation projects take place in occupied buildings. It needs careful planning, controls, and anticipation considerations of the building functionality disruption to have a smooth flow of the tasks. 

The disruption effects in the building depend on the scope of work and the type of the building. For instance, renovating an inpatient wing of the hospital could entail relocating the clinical staff, patients, and clinical equipment and services. Its complex procedure brings an immense financial risk of the contractor doing the tasks than constructing a building from the ground up. 

The building functionality is not the only consideration when comparing renovation projects with ground-up projects. The community function will also play a role during the construction. For example, the ground-up building construction can bring noise, traffic, dust pollution, and cleanliness issues to the community. While a renovation construction project sometimes is much less disruptive to the community and can be nearly unnoticed. 

Ground-up construction requires more dedication, effort, and time for planning and design until project completion. On the other hand, renovation projects are more restrictive construction projects; however, most of the time cheaper and quicker to complete barring any surprises and setbacks. 

We’re excited to see you at your Design Centre appointment on the ____Date_______, at ___Time__!

Our Design Centre is currently located at: 2121 41 Ave NE #6


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Please note that the Reborn Renovations location found on Google maps is the location of our ongoing development and will be the home of our future design centre.

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