When I represent a client looking for new office space, we compile a market survey of all of the building options available which meet their needs. Together, we cull this list to the top 4-5 and visit those buildings. Often, we then cut that list to two or three buildings and revisit them, spending a little more time inspecting the various spaces.
At this point in the process, I find it very helpful, especially with full floor or larger requirements, to have my tenant’s project manager or architect along on the tour to identify challenges or opportunities that would go unseen to the untrained person.
Due Diligence Guidance
A good project manager will check whether the floors are level, how far apart columns and window mullions are spaced, and window sill depth and height. They will also look at mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) issues including the electrical capacity in a space, whether the HVAC systems and distribution are current and sufficient to handle the load created by the contemplated use, the existence and placement of sprinkler systems and the ceiling tile type and size.
All of these factors can have a profound effect on design. For instance, I recently toured a two-floor tenant space in a high-rise building where the floors sloped six inches from window to core. This flaw was not discovered until construction had begun and a project manager was brought in. Thankfully, the design and project management team was able to find and use a flooring that would work over an uneven surface. However, you can now roll a ball from the window to the center of the space with ease. This is not ideal.
One of my clients had a project manager inspect its prospective space prior to lease execution and the project manager discovered that the HVAC system in place was both dated and insufficient. With this knowledge, we were able to renegotiate the lease language to have the landlord cover all costs related to upgrade of the HVAC system and related ceiling work.
Even window mullion placement is important because it can determine office size. A lay person might not recognize this issue but an architect or project manager will be able to assess possibilities and limitations quickly. They will also ensure that building standard window coverings meet the tenant’s needs for both light and heat filtering.
A project manager or architect can also evaluate the ease of equipment and HVAC installation in a potential space as dictated by the size and location of elevators and the existence (or nonexistence) of a loading dock.
Most tenants are well-served to have their own architect and/or project manager help them throughout any buildout. If you are considering a move or a new office, engage such a professional before you complete your negotiations on your lease so that the information gathered can be accounted for in those negotiations. You will not regret it.
As a bonus, they can also help you negotiate an ironclad work letter.