Building A Distillery: What is the Process?

The process of building a distillery can be a nebulous concept to wrap one’s mind around. Each licensed design professional (architect/ engineer) has their own process and phases and names for each step. Each project has one-of-a-kind building conditions, site conditions, building and fire regulatory environments. Rather than thinking of this in terms of “Steps 1-5,” it is helpful to think of the project more as a gradient, one step bleeds into the next and into the one after that. This is the first of a 3 part series.

The Pre-Design & Site Analysis phase includes architectural due diligence, initial site analysis, programming, high-level construction cost analysis, value engineering and project data coordination.

Site Analysis Gather together and obtain all available data, documents and drawings pertinent to the project including prior studies, tests, maintenance records, site surveys, etc. Establish preliminary building and fire code requirements for a tenant distillery in this project.

Programming defines the project needs of the user. Programming includes cataloging the spaces and equipment needed, and functional relationships.

Programming defines the needs of the user. That includes defining a project’s functional needs interior and exterior functional requirements including space sizes, contents, activities and spatial relationships. A project program serves as a basis for design and a source of information about a project. The final product of programming is the project program, sometimes referred to as the Detailed Project Program (DPP).

The programming process concludes with a clear and orderly statement of the problem. Detailed program information is usually separated from the more general functional data. Project programs establish quality and scope. Quality is often defined abstractly in the project goals and more specifically in the project program. Scope is clearly defined and incorporates the following factors:

The definition of the users and the purpose of the users
The functions of the space and programs of the users
The assigned square feet of the proposed facility
The equipment needed to facilitate the owner’s production plan
Special factors

The Construction Cost Analysis provides a construction budget amount for the capital improvement budget (CIB) and a cost plan to assist in explaining the budget and in guiding project management. This section describes approaches used to establish construction costs for project budgets.


Estimating construction costs typically involves using costs from similar prior projects and applying those costs to the present project, allowing for adjustments in location, scope, construction time period, and other factors.

The following methods are used to estimate construction costs (in order of increasing detail):

Cost per gross square foot. This method uses data about the costs for various building types published by cost information services, or compiled in databases.

Cost by building systems/components. Reference books are available that provide costs on components by building square foot and by square foot of building component.

Cost by building trade or Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) division. This level of estimate is useful at the Construction Documents Phase when enough detail is available on the project to break the various systems into component parts and do an accurate quantity survey similar to that done by contractors who are bidding a project.

Costs based on historical data from Dalkita’s past projects in this and other markets in the U.S.

Contingencies are normally used with all of the methods of estimating to allow for unknowns. Avoid adding explicit (clearly understood) contingencies on top of implicit (implied) contingencies. The design contingency allows for the fact that projects often contain more elements when they are fully designed than could have been anticipated earlier in the design process. The project contingency is for unknowns during construction. The project contingency allows for unknown factors that could increase construction and related costs beyond the estimate. Project contingency is not the same as the escalation factor – which is the anticipated annual change in percentage for price levels of goods and services.


Estimating the design cost is done from a written description of what is included in the proposed design. Representative projects can be used as examples. Recommended comparisons are similar projects. By using the list of factors that influence costs and making assumptions about the factors relevant to the proposed project, these factors can be compared to those identified in the examples. A cost for each building component (factor) can be established by adjusting the related cost (e.g., weight of structure and loading) from the representative project to what are the assumed conditions of the proposed project.

Projecting historical cost data forward is accomplished by using the index published by Engineering News Record (ENR).

Value Engineering in the pre-design and site analysis phase scrutinizes the program, site selection, and project budget.

Site/ Project Data/ Coordination in this phase provides a framework for gathering the needed distillery information and compiling it for use in later phases. This could include a Short Interval Production Schedule, a Distiller’s Process Description, cut sheets on equipment and furnishings, electrical/ plumbing/ hvac needs etc., compilation of CAD files from outside sources.

Geotechnical Engineering uses principles of soil mechanics and rock mechanics to investigate subsurface conditions and materials; determine the relevant physical/mechanical and chemical properties of these materials; evaluate stability of natural slopes and man-made soil deposits; assess risks posed by site conditions; design earthworks and structure foundations; and monitor site conditions, earthwork and foundation construction.

Land Surveys/ Survey Updates If needed, we will assist in obtaining site boundary, existing physical features (i.e. structures, utilities, rock outcroppings, water courses, trees) and topographical survey, utilities, right-of-ways, property lines, easements, and other tests as required.

Investigation/Confirmation of Existing Site Conditions will be based upon on-site observations and data/information obtained from existing topographical surveys and other available documents. Site parameters deemed noteworthy include boundaries, access and egress routes, traffic/circulation considerations, pedestrian and vehicular conflicts, archeological findings, solar/wind/ geothermal characteristics, utilities, known environmental hazards, setbacks, zoning restrictions and features of site that would impact development costs.

Deliverables from the Pre-Design & Site Analysis phase may include:

  • Organize/restructure CAD files from previous projects to prepare for new project
  • Digital compilation of all relevant survey and historical data for the property relevant to the proposed scope of work
  • Preliminary Code Analysis Document for Tenant Distillery in this building and revisions to Building’s Code Analysis
  • Comprehensive list of technical data/reports that should be conducted or updated
  • Recommendations, negotiation of technical consultants new work or updates
  • Draft of Project Program establishing quality and scope of project
  • Draft of Equipment and Use Requirements
  • Draft of Distiller’s Process Description
  • High-level Construction Cost Analysis
  • Options for potential cost savings on overall project

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