Leasing Obstacles

By: Stephen Lease and Brian Hale

The design and construction of your practice will undoubtedly be met with obstacles. Whether your facility is a tenant finish out or a new building, making the right initial decisions can help keep small issues from becoming large headaches. The severity of these hurdles can be mitigated by taking the right steps in the right order. Leasable area, Site selection and lease negotiations are often completed before a contractor has been brought in to your team of professionals. One common obstacle we see when our interior design staff is brought on board to help create or complete the project plans is that the leasable square footage is based on incorrect assumptions.

Leasable area is measured from the center line of shared partitions to the outside face of a wall. In most scenarios, a property manager keeps a floor plan showing the building as it was constructed. As tenants fill up the building, the shared “demising” partitions are added to the floor plan to keep track of how much area is left to be rented. This floor plan is usually transmitted to a tenant in a drafting format for their space planner to work off of. The problem occurs when the existing “demising” partitions in the building are not in the same location as the existing “demising” partitions on the plan. One important role of the space planner is to verify the actual dimensions available to construct. A small error in leasable area can have big impacts on the recurring cost of the space.

Another common obstacle that we see with lease space selection involves the layout of the space plan without taking into account the foundation design, or in multi-story buildings, the structure location below. Many times with older buildings, the structural plans are not available. With a newer building this information is readily available. The positioning of plumbing fixtures above foundation beams or the building supports is typically not feasible to construct and the extra costs should be avoided.

Site development
There are many things to consider when selecting a site for a new building, but often times the focus is on land price, surrounding aesthetics and demographics.

One of the largest hurdles faced by potential building owners is the realization that site utilities are not available for the lot they have already purchased. This is most common in a property that is not part of a master planned development, but even on a “pad site”, the building owner can be responsible for completing the utility development for their lot.

The major utility costs to be on the lookout for are Sanitary Sewer, Water, Storm Drainage and Onsite Runoff Detention, Electric Delivery and Natural Gas Delivery. Another note is that site development costs will be almost the same for a 3,000 square foot building as they would be for a 5,000 square foot building. There is no price per square foot correlation. A general contractor or civil engineer can help you walk through your site selection process to minimize the potential for unforeseen costs.

Your professional space planner will be scrutinizing handicapped accessibility whether you are building your facility from the ground up or as a tenant finish out. Common accessibility problems include the following:

1) Rooms. Closed rooms that will be used by more than one person but not for a specific work function will need to have at least a five-foot circle available for wheelchair turn around. This includes all restrooms, offices, walk-in closets, and waiting and reception areas.

2) Doors. All latching doors need to be 36 in. wide in these areas. On the side of the door you pull from, accessibility standards require at least 18 inches from the edge of the doorknob to the nearest wall.

3) Counters. At your reception counter for both check-in and check-out, a 36-inch maximum height countertop should be installed 36 inches in width for accessible access. This can replace or be adjacent to a higher countertop.

4) Protrusions. Any object protruding from a wall in an egress area below 80 inches in height cannot protrude further than 4 inches except under rare circumstances. This includes countertops, wall sconces, televisions and any other fixed items.

5) Compliance. Any project over $50,000 in total construction cost is required to be registered and inspected for accessibility compliance, but all new work that is completed in a commercial setting is required to comply whether inspected or not. These are just a few obstacles commonly encountered while designing and constructing your new practice. Diligence by you, your real estate professional, and your design and construction team will keep these obstacles from becoming problems and ensure a successful project for all.

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