When it comes to office design, you cannot hire an architect to design a space you do not have yet. When your office is larger than 5,000 SF, there is more room for efficiency improvement, space blocking, and preliminary planning with your internal team and broker in advance of engaging the market. This planning will ensure that when you do engage the market, you are doing so from a position of knowledge.
Once you are looking at property, you will inevitably come across opportunities that fit the majority of your needs. Architects are the ones that can help provide creative designs to property’s shortcomings to turn problems into solutions.
Some larger landlords own so much property that they have a cozy relationship with an architecture firm that does a lot of their work, whether it be renovations, repositions, or tenant buildouts. These landlords may allow you to use their architect during the negotiating process to test fit whether the subject property can work for you, and they will pay for it. The thought here is that a company can’t lease a building if it isn’t confident that it can build out in a manner that works for their operations, timeline, and budget. While this landlord provided space planning is not the norm in industrial real estate, it can happen.
The majority of the time that a company leases or buys an industrial building, they do not need an architect as they are having the building painted, carpeted, and only making modest changes. These are more bread and butter types of deals. The more considerable amount of office, the higher the likelihood is that an architect is involved. Having a good relationship with one or having a broker that has a good relationship with one is always a good idea. Most research and development companies, diagnostics laboratories, pharmaceutical companies, medical device companies, food production companies, engineering companies, aerospace, automotive companies, defense contractors have extension office buildouts in addition to their manufacturing and distribution operations and will most certainly need an architect.
Most of the time, it is up to the tenant to do their due diligence to decide whether the property works for their company. This due diligence is at the sole cost and expense of the tenant and with the tenant’s vendors. It can be possible to create a solution, design it, have it bid out, and then ask the landlord to pay for it. Payment might take the form of a credit from future rent, progress payments to the contractor, or reimbursement of payment to the contractor depending on the job and the market.
Liz Hattox of Hattox Design Group explains it well from an interview I had with her:
How do you figure out the right type of test fitting for clients?
“There’s a couple ways that tests can be done. You can do a down and dirty test fit for much less money than a full schematic space plan by literally just doing a block plan. If you know accounting needs to be this big and this many square feet, you can line these little rectangles up on the perimeter or wherever they want their offices to be because they need to be about this big, figure out it’s going to take up this much area here, and then maybe add circulation space. If you do a block layout like that, it’s very fast and very quick to determine if they should even be considering that space in that particular building.
Then there’s a preliminary space plan which has more detail in it than a block plan; enough where you actually are showing the rooms with doors, millwork, work stations. You might still be using the same adjacency as the block plan, but now you’re showing here’s the conference room with the door on it and here’s the break room with the cabinet and a sink and here are the individual work stations laid out. That would be a preliminary space plan.
I think when a tenant is looking at quite a few buildings, they should consider a block plan especially if they have to pay for it themselves because it’s much less money and sometimes it can even be done just sitting down for an hour. I find that owners are willing to pay for space plans. It’s normal, typical and standard to see if the tenant is a fit and they can get a rough order of magnitude on pricing as well. I think a building owner is more apt to pay for a space plan if he doesn’t think a tenant is just shopping; that he’s really more serious about it.”