Architects and Brokers—A Tag Team (Part I)

The other day, I was doing some thinking about how much time brokers and architects spend together, and, let me tell you, it’s quite a bit! That’s when I came up with the idea of exploring, this week and next week in this very same column, what brokers need from us, as architects, and what we, in turn, need from them. Let’s start with how architects assist brokers, and next week I’ll tackle the flip side of this equation.

In real estate and construction, accuracy and precision are everything, which is why one of the top requests we get from brokers (and we get it on a daily basis) is for Real Estate Board of New York-accepted measurements to confirm the rentable, usable square footage of a space. The REBNY-defined value is no small matter, whether for the landlord or the tenant. The number, which is often needed on a fast turnaround for benchmarking, comparisons and negotiations, helps all parties make sure they are getting what they’re paying for or, in the case of the landlord, that they maximize their rental return. Sometimes, after each party’s architect presents their numbers, a negotiation takes place over the details, with the landlord and tenant discussing what is, and isn’t, considered part of the rentable square footage. We pride ourselves in being accurate and in following the letter of the law to protect our client, no matter what side of the negotiating table we’re on, and our clients appreciate that level of meticulousness.

Architects also assist in preparing the workplace strategy, which is the art of aligning an organization’s work patterns with its work environment to increase performance and reduce costs. We’re often asked to work through the programming of needs—neighborhood, type of space, commuting paths of workers and budget—to support a broker in the search for the right location for a tenant.

Once the broker and client have zeroed in on the spaces that suit the tenant’s needs, our next support role is to do a test fit. This due diligence needs to happen rapidly and with, as I emphasized previously, accuracy. The broker relies on the architect to coordinate the information gathered by others on the project team, such as a mechanical engineer and a general contractor, chiming in, reviewing documents and making sure all coordinates with the existing space conditions. We essentially become the conduit that moves information along to the broker to aid them in decision making and possibly even negotiations on needed upgrades with the landlord. This support is essential since no one space or negotiation is standard —each is unique.

After the tenant has selected a space that they are happy with, we review the term sheet and lease to ensure the tenant is getting the most value for their investment, backing them up in lease and negotiations support.

Then the real action begins! With everything in place and a prepared menu of needs, we get to follow through on the plans with good design and project management, from the first drawing all the way through the punch list and close-out phase. What we do here reinforces the trust within the broker-architect relationship and lets our broker counterpart know that they can turn to us to take care of business again next time—and then again after that.

And remember, be sure to check this column next week, when I’ll explore the top traits I look for when working with a broker or recommending him or her to an associate, client or friend.

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