Moving to a new space can translate into a number of opportunities for companies and organizations that are savvy enough to capitalize on them. Especially now, with lease rates close to the bottom of the market, finding office space that is newer, better, and cheaper should be no problem – right? Wait, no so fast. Here are a few of the most commonly overlooked factors from an architect’s point of view:
Focusing solely on the lease rate. While dollars typically end up driving the decision-making process, companies looking for new space often rely solely on the best available lease rate. They tend not to focus on issues that may significantly increase the overall cost of a facility such as the condition of a building’s mechanical and electrical systems, required code upgrades or the efficiency of the building layout.
Neglecting building codes. Meeting all applicable building codes is a particular concern with older sites, most notably in second- or third-generation spaces. Win Roney, President of Reel Grobman, says “just because a building was occupied before does not mean it is fully code-compliant”. Handicap accessibility issues, for example, often go unidentified during the facility selection process because some people simply don’t know what to look for. “The mere existence of a handicap parking space doesn’t make a building handicap accessible,” he says.
Repeating history. Organizations frequently err simply by not asking their own staff how their current facility is functioning and finding out what changes they would like to see in their new space. Lisa Kohler, Design Director and Principal at Reel Grobman, warns that “Companies often haven’t done their homework. By merely being asked, employees can show how things can be done differently and what needs to change,” she says. “The major pitfall here is thinking you’ll need exactly what you have today.”
An office move presents a unique opportunity to reevaluate and change the way a company works.
Thankfully, there are steps organizations can take to make the best decisions at the right time. Roney and Kohler offer this advice:
Getting feedback is key. Kohler suggests assembling a team that will be part of the decision-making process when the company begins evaluating their space needs. This team should include not only the real estate and facilities manager, but should involve key executives in addition to other staff. “The group doesn’t need to be big, but it should provide for a cross-section of the company’s workforce” to provide more input and ideas regarding the company’s space needs and facility design. Kohler says that “an office move presents a unique opportunity to reevaluate and change the way a company works”.
Consider more than the rent. The best deal is not necessarily the best value. Comparing lease costs between prospective buildings is important but you must make sure it will meet the company’s facility requirements, projected headcount, and long-term space needs. Roney advises companies to ensure they have the most accurate data to work from: “Most organizations start looking at available properties when they don’t know how much space they really need. They may think they’re getting a great deal on a 20,000 square foot space, when they really only need 15,000 square feet.”
Do a test-fit. Once you’ve narrowed your site search, prepare a test-fit of the buildings under consideration. A test-fit is a preliminary planning exercise that studies how well the company fits in each prospective space. As Kohler says “this gives us a chance to explore how the space works in terms of workflow, efficiency and future flexibility”. The test-fit also exposes flaws and space planning challenges such as lack of sufficient exits or difficult bay depths. Kohler warns “all too often companies are attracted to buildings with bigger footprints for efficiency reasons but don’t realize this typically means a lack of natural light in the space”. Kohler says the test-fit is only “one step in the process” and needs to be combined with other factors critical to the real estate decision making process such as expansion capabilities, tenant improvement build-out costs and annual operating costs.
Taking these extra steps will help a company position itself to make the most of moving its offices and build a work environment that benefits everyone in the organization.