When inspecting properties, I think outside to inside, top to bottom, and front to back.
On the outside, you must be able to get through the highways, streets, and driveways to find the building. Then you need to be able to get to the parking lot and through the access ways to the entrance safely. The building image needs to match or have the ability to match the company’s culture. It is good to take an inventory of the surrounding neighbors both from an image perspective and from a use perspective. You will not be able to change your neighboring business’s image. Still, you can use it to understand the local property zoning and any business park CC&R’s that might restrict specific uses from the project. The zoning and CC&R’s, or lack of CC&R’s, could mean the difference between an unsightly tow yard moving in next to you, mid-lease, or a nice clean corporate neighbor. It is also good to know who your neighbors are to understand if they have any environmentally hazardous processes that might cause odor, air hazards, soil, or groundwater hazards that can migrate off of their property.
On the inside, we usually start with the office and make sure we have enough space for each department and each key personnel. We think about the “bones” of the offices. Office construction methods vary quite a bit based on the time of construction. Be acutely aware of office ceiling heights, ceiling grid penetrations, lighting methods, layout efficiency, the orientation of restrooms, path of travel, and American’s with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) considerations. We usually don’t take too much stock of the existing carpet, vinyl tile or luxury vinyl tile if it is going to be replaced for a new office build out.
As we pass through the office into the warehouse, we start with ceiling heights. Ceiling height advertisements aren’t always verified and vary, so it is worth bringing a laser measurer to check the ceiling heights where the roof meets the walls and in the middle of the warehouse. Industrial building roofs that have laminated wood beams will bow, and have different heights, in different areas of the warehouse.
Fire sprinkler pipes and sprinkler heads will be lower than the roof support beams. The sprinkler system and its height are essential as it will dictate how high you can rack and can make a difference at the margin. Skylights and insulation are the next roof-related thing that we see within the warehouse. Both are a source of clues as to the roof condition, as both will show signs of active and prior water intrusions. Most people don’t think about skylights, but businesses and property developers have figured out that there is an optimum quantity of skylights that leads to electricity savings by increasing natural light in the warehouse. You can’t always change how many skylights a building has, but you can be aware of how natural light might affect your warehouse operations. Skylights are also the weakest part of the roof structure. It is helpful to know when the roof and skylights were replaced last to know what kind of risk you are taking on and who is responsible if they leak.
It’s helpful to look at the condition of the warehouse floor. This concrete slab will tell you a story. You will be able to notice where machines used to be located, past water leaks, racking bolt divots, cracking, unsettled panels, signs of environmental testing and more. It is good to take a look at the floor like an episode of MacGyver where you can see into the past just by looking at the present condition. This will help you understand what works the slab my need to be prepared for your use.
The main idea here is that you use the items within the Programming section and walk through them one by one as you walk through the building. This is a chance to see how each item on your list relates to the physical environment and condition of the present building. This will form the basis for your future inspections, contractor bids, and landlord negotiations.