You’ve found an office space and it looks ideal—at least at first glance. Now it’s time for a more thorough walk-through, also known as a “due diligence site tour.”
So, what do you need to know, from an architectural perspective, before you commit? Here are eight questions to ask:
Can I See the C of O? Take a look at the most up-to-date Certificate of Occupancy, not just for the building itself, but also for the floor(s) you’re considering leasing. What will this document tell you? It will give you metrics on density (in other words, how many people can legally occupy the space)—important for companies that may expand in the future and prefer to do so without a move. It will also spell out the details on usage so you can determine if it’s conducive to the tenant’s business type.
Who Are My Neighbors? Before you sign on the dotted line, you may want to take a moment to get to know who “lives” above and below you. A build-out often involves running cabling and power through the ceiling below you. Knowing if that access will be permitted, and if it will be an easy task, is helpful. Though the technical details vary from lease to lease, it’s nice to have a heads-up if work will need to be performed off-hours and on overtime, as that can affect costs. If there is a safe or a data center located directly beneath you, it can dictate how your floor needs to be laid out. The same goes for the tenant above you. If that floor is empty, you may be able to work more quickly and get your employees into their new offices sooner.
While shaking the hands of your potential neighbors, remember to ask for their input. They are often the best people to ask about the elevators, temperatures within the building, water pressure and even front desk security. Consider this your chance to get the inside scoop!
Are We Free and Clear? Nothing can halt a renovation faster than finding out there’s asbestos, lead or vermiculite to work around. Your architect can find the right specialist to make certain that the floor is free and clear of such substances (or that they are encapsulated) and ask the building ownership for further documentation.
What’s Your Route? Ask the landlord to provide detailed information on the exact routing of power, data and telephony. How does it get to your space—through a floor “cell” system or riser down to the basement? Is there enough capacity in place to meet your tenant’s needs?
Can You Level with Me? Is the floor truly level? If you’re not sure, your architect can order a computer survey to perform a scan. A substantial pitch can impact design options, including whether or not you can successfully use demountable partitions. If the findings are unacceptable, you can then negotiate to have the landlord level the floors at his own expense.
What Condition Are the Windows In? Take a look. Older plate-glass windows, such as the ones in many landmark buildings, may require that you bolster the heating system within the space. If the building is LEED certified and the windows are brand new and energy efficient, it may make it easier for the tenant’s space to become LEED certified—a plus in many cases.
Does This Location Work with Our Workplace Strategy? Location is important to consider when going on a site tour. When the architect is brought in early, not just to design the space, but ingrained with the brokers early on, they can advise on whether a space suits a company’s workplace strategy. Does it mesh with the firm’s culture, both aesthetically and physically? Is it a convenient spot for clients to travel to and for the workforce to commute to? These are all important questions to ask early on.
Can I See the Zoning Documents? This may not apply to every case, but when it does, it can be critical. Understanding setbacks, zoning and code set by the city’s building department is a must if building core and shell work is part of the plan. Confirm any nuances early on and make sure you get all parties involved so that nothing is left to interpretation after the contract is finalized.
After you’ve asked all of these key questions, it’s time to move on to the most important one of all: Does this location feel right? That, my broker and tenant friends, is a question only you can answer!