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The ABCs of Pre-Construction Planning and Design

Kim Thomas, Dewitt Tilton Commercial Construction
Kim Thomas, Director of Operations

When you’re in the market to begin a new construction project, keep in mind that the pre-planning and design phase can be complicated and tedious. “Our clients can count on us,” says Kim Thomas, Director of Operations with Dewitt Tilton Group. “We are here to guide them through every detail, every step of the way. We use a customized hands-on approach to make sure our projects are finished on-schedule and on-budget every time.” The reputation of Dewitt Tilton Group is second to none, widely known and respected for their high-quality commercial and industrial construction in the Coastal South Carolina and Georgia markets.

Step One: Pre-Construction

The first step in the process is to attain funding to underwrite a large industrial or commercial construction project. While this can be an arduous process, successful financing is critical to what follows. Because of the relationship Dewitt Tilton has had for many years with investors, we can help channel our clients in the right direction to find the ideal financial partner. “Our funders know that we are a solid and well-respected construction company. We have worked with a number of banks in the region and they know we follow-through and will complete our jobs in a timely fashion,” says Thomas.

Once funding is secured, Dewitt Tilton Group gets to work on locating the right property, a methodical component to the success of any building project. “Sometimes people come to us and they already have the land,” says Thomas. "However, if they don’t, we certainly try to help them locate the right piece of property that will work for their project.” Then there is the issue of zoning. If a client doesn’t have a site yet, Thomas says, “we are going to steer them to something that is already zoned to fit their needs. We have a great relationship with each municipality and work with the governing bodies of those communities to make sure the property is appropriate.”

To that end, Dewitt Tilton relies heavily on a Geo-tech analysis report to provide recommendations on the physical properties of the soil for foundation requirements, excavation stability, and drainage. “If the site isn’t right, there can be a lot of costs up front that the client doesn’t understand,” says Thomas. “It is our job is to help our clients make the right decisions.” It is also the role of Dewitt Tilton Group to assist clients in making sure the size and scope of the project fits the projected property site.

Step Two: Design

As the design process begins, Dewitt Tilton Group operates as a one-stop design-build shop, professionally maneuvering through every step and advocating for the client along the way. “We serve as the hub, bringing together the architects, civil, structural and mechanical engineers,” said Thomas. “If we are working in a particular community such as Savannah, Richmond Hill or Pooler, we’ll reach out to the engineers in that area who know us and have worked with us before.” She says there are times when a client walks in with a set of plans and knows exactly what they want and how to get there, and then, “our company picks it up from there and moves the project forward.”

The civil engineering process is extremely intense and takes the most amount of time. The engineers work back and forth with the state and each municipality on every permit, which have different regulations and requirements depending on the type of construction, from retail to a restaurant or flex building. “The civil engineers are responsible for the design work on the ground: the sewer, utilities, the water coming in, the drains, the run off, the meters,” said Thomas. “They determine the driveways, the sidewalks, handicap accessibility, lighting, landscaping, everything that has to do with the site. Sometimes they actually set the footprint for the building for us,” says Thomas.

Dewitt Tilton takes pride in its trusted relationships with the various governmental entities during the challenging permitting process with a lot of paperwork going back and forth. Thomas says that their company is very “hands-on”. She and her engineers attend the county planning commission meetings to explain details of the project, clear up any issues, and answer questions before it goes to county council and the state for approval.

Step Three: Pre-Construction Meeting

“Once all that is done and we have satisfied all of the construction requirements,” says Thomas, “then they line-up the all-important pre-construction meeting. From there, we go in as the general contractor with the client and the civil engineer to further clarify the project. We are there to ensure that we will provide all inspections as necessary during the construction period. When all the questions are answered, we take the plans, they stamp it, and we go to work. It is a process! The hard work has been done.”

Kim Thomas shared several examples of recent projects that were very different in the pre-construction planning and design process. She said we have built several car washes and they are extremely complex because of what has to be designed by the engineers underground. “It’s amazing: there are pipes and electrical everywhere, as well as huge water tanks with trenches all buried in the ground,” she said. On the restaurant side, Dewitt Tilton recently completed an additional Dunkin’ Donuts building and the first Crumbl Cookies storefront in the area. With these types of buildings, there has to be great attention paid to what goes into the walls. Other considerations include special detail with the sinks, drains in the floors, equipment space and if there is a drive-thru. “That adds a whole other level of planning and design,” said Thomas. “Now, if we get a flex space job with a warehouse and an office, we are like, oh good, it’s much more clean-cut and standard,” says Thomas. “Flex space is in high demand right now and we at Dewitt Tilton want to be a client’s go-to for this type of construction project!”

Ribbon Cutting & Grand Opening of CRUMBL COOKIES

If you are considering a commercial or industrial construction project in the Coastal Empire or Lowcountry region, give Dewitt Tilton Group a call! From trees to keys, our team lives and breathes the building and design process with a full understanding of the intricacies of industrial and commercial construction. Call us today at (912) 777-3404 or visit our website at

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