Brokers: I know many of you are well versed on the importance of having an exit and/or expansion strategy plan in place at lease inception, but sometimes it’s difficult to convey the nuances of doing so to your client. And, much like the famous adage about not getting a second chance to make a first impression, making the right entrance into an office space is integral when it comes to saving money, time and stress down the road.
So, here’s a pocket guide to take with you so that you can share some finer points with your client, straight from the architect’s perspective.
Review the view: If your client is leasing a large space—one large enough to sublease a portion of it, should there be a need in the future—the most important thing they should consider is the views they could offer a potential occupant. Say your client is moving into a 35,000-square-foot office. Take a look around and see where 10,000 square feet of it might fit into a sublease plan. Having a plan that includes views makes it an easier “sell” down the line if a company hits an unexpected bump in the road and needs to suddenly share its space.
Consider costs: Here’s an interesting fact to educate your client about: electrical, HVAC and lighting typically account for more than 50 percent of the entire cost of a job. That’s why I urge companies to give extra thought to these portions of the project. A few weeks ago, in this column, I shared some ways that lighting can enhance a space’s appeal and value, but there are even more tricks of the trade. For instance, even though a company may only need 10 offices today, it—or the next occupant—will be able to accommodate 40 workstations if it is configured that way from the start. How can that be accomplished? With redundant electrical, data and telephone outlets in place, easily! Sure, there is an extra cost up front, but that’s nothing compared with the premium you’d have to spend to rehire electrical subcontractors again later. On the HVAC side of the equation, it’s simply a matter of thinking through the ductwork distribution so that the space can be configured differently as needs change. Keeping the idea of “exit or expand” in mind will help your client do so.
Divide and conquer: A simple way to make the most of an office is the use of demountable partitions. Dividing workstations with side partitions can enable your client to rapidly change configurations and add staff as a company grows. They can easily be taken down and stored on or off site, or put back up to create more space. That’s why facilities heads and directors—and architects—love them so much. Brokers, we’ve seen this solution work firsthand! Working on behalf of a public relations firm in Midtown, we designed a unique office with an “invisible expansion/exit strategy.” What does that mean? The space took into account the company’s own needs while considering other possibilities, but not in an obvious way. Demountable partitions were used to break up the space, which featured plenty of perimeter offices, and to help the company put 25 employees where 10 used to be. Best of all, the company still has room to grow!
Details, details: After you’ve handled the bigger items on the checklist, it’s advisable to have your client look at a few other details. These include carpeting type—for instance, tiles are more expensive but easier to switch out down the road than broadloom—and the layout of the sprinkler system. Next, if it’s even a remote option, ask your client to think about how a typical private office space would work with two occupants. Making sure each has its own egress and can comfortably occupy the office are the keys to a successful sublet.
An exit or expansion strategy is simply another piece of the workplace strategy and is just as important as plotting out the number of offices, workstations and huddle areas. While every client is different and will have its own unique needs and considerations, asking important questions about the future should happen before the ink is dry on a contract, not after.
Now, for my final tip: you do not have to sacrifice good design for a good exit or expansion strategy. Planning ahead can allow your client to have a stylish space that works for them in the now … and in the later.