15, 2006 in the COLORADO REAL
Space Planning: Keep It Simple
by Warren Kieding
SPACE PLANNING IS ONE OF THOSE TERMS THAT pop up in virtually every conversation that has anything to do with commercial office space. And why wouldn't it? It's as important to the leasing process as any other piece of documentation. The space plan is the critical link between a tenant's interest in the space, and the landlord's ability to get the lease signed. That's the big picture, anyway. Most people within the industry probably know what the space plan is. But it's important to understand exactly what it's designed to do, and how specifically to fit it into the leasing process.
The space plan has essentially three specific purposes:
It should provide the "sizzle" that sells the tenant on the desirability and functionality of the proposed lease space. It must be as closely detailed as possible to the working drawings so that construction contractors can accurately estimate the cost of the tenant improvements. Any significant discrepancy between the space plan and working drawings is bound to upset both the landlord and the tenant. In a worse case scenario, it can derail the deal before it really has a chance to get going.
Finally, if successful, the space plan should become a legal attachment to the lease.
The Five Step Plan
From a how-to perspective, the space plan requires five steps for successful implementation.
Step One: Get the "as-builts" right.
The success of a space plan hinges on the accuracy of the documentation which should describe exactly what is in the space, especially if that space has been improved for an earlier tenant.
All tenant improvements are expensive in one way or another. Some can be valuable and reusable assets which can save the landlord significant improvement dollars. Others can be unusable liabilities, which must be demolished and removed from the space. Either way, the impact is felt in the construction pricing budget and the subsequent tenant finish allowance.
Step Two: Consult the building code and local interpretations.
Beginning sometime in 2005, the 2003 edition of the IBC (International Building Code) was widely adopted by local jurisdictions. In most of the metropolitan code jurisdictions, the 2003 IBC replaced the earlier 1997 UBC (Uniform Building Code). These code changes can be profound, especially when designing in older buildings and buildings without fire sprinklers. In extreme cases, the 2003 IBC can render a space plan void until costly revisions are completed.
ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) standards have also changed with the publication of the 2003 ANSI (American National Standards Institute) Accessibility Standards at a time when most code officials are rigorously enforcing accessibility compliance.
In addition, the 2003 International Energy Conservation Code is only now being enforced by local code jurisdictions.
For tenant finish projects, this code significantly affects allowable lighting levels and controls. Currently, interpretation and enforcement of the Energy Conservation Code remains relatively non-uniform among various local code jurisdictions.
Step Three: Understand the tenant's specific requirements.
A tenant's requirements extend well beyond the space itself.
It is critical to understand the function of the tenant's current space and the culture the company will either perpetuate, or alter, throughout its next lease term. This should include familiarity with the tenant's furniture, fixtures and equipment, if applicable.
Knowledge of the tenant's specific requirements drives the space planning layout and can determine or confirm how much square footage may ultimately be necessary.
This is where "add on" square footage requirements can get confusing. Add-ons consist of internal circulation areas like hallways and aisles which are factored in to the square footage sum of required offices, support areas and cubicles. Those add-on factors can range from 25% to 45% or higher depending on the type of space. The more open then environment, the higher the add-on factor.
Step Four: Sketch the plan layout. Relatively few tenants are able to firm up or even visualize an office layout without seeing their requirements in plan form. When it comes to "selling" the prospective space and confirming what options might offer the best fit, there is not substitute for a face-to-face sketch session with the tenant.
Step Five: Fine tune the detail for construction estimating. Simply put, the more detailed the space plan, the tighter the construction estimate. The less a contractor has to guess when it comes to any given detail, the more accurate the pricing will be.