I’m Fluent in REBNY

All brokers speak REBNY, but for me and many of my architect peers, it’s important to be nothing short of fluent. Since the standards were adopted in 1987, REBNY’s guidelines for measuring the square footage of commercial office spaces have become the standard for every single project in New York City and a critical number that Manhattan real estate brokers rely on. REBNY standards ensure we’re all speaking the same language and that nothing gets lost in translation.

Speaking of being interpreters, one of the architect’s chief roles is making sure all measurements are accurate and that all parties come to a mutual understanding of the true square footage. It’s one of the ways we can best assist our friends on the brokerage end of business. Thanks to REBNY, we have a clear definition of how architects, engineers and contractors ought to measure square footage and provide conversions. While these guidelines only apply to the New York metropolitan area – to a real estate broker or architect from Chicago, it might sound like we’re speaking a foreign language – REBNY measurements are the numbers all of us New Yorkers can universally converse in.

So, just how important are those numbers? Very! So much so that some firms exclusively measure, survey or create plan books for a living – all based on these REBNY numbers. The accuracy of commercial measurements influences many aspects of the lease, including how much electrical load a landlord provides to a tenant and the final cost per square foot, once all parties negotiate and come to an agreement (and their architects check and re-check those numbers). Then there are CAD drawings, field measurements and lease exhibits. I could go on! Let’s not forget too that breaking down the difference between rentable, usable or carpet-ready square footage can influence the efficiency of a tenant’s design, planning and layout. It can also help explain why the tenant is paying what they’re paying, clarifying the loss factors of shared spaces such as main lobbies and elevators.

I, for one, am grateful REBNY has given us a benchmark. It makes it much easier to come to an agreement among brokers, attorneys and tenants come negotiation time. It also helps us educate those who are locating to New York from out of state as to what our standards are and why they appear different than the ones they’re accustomed to.

Do you agree? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so feel free to drop me a line via email. And brokers, if you’re interested in hearing the inside scoop on architecture and design, well, take a moment from getting ready for this year’s REBNY banquet and listen up! In this column, over the next five Mondays, I’ll share a personal story from my time out in the field, each of which will include some valuable strategies to help you better assist your clients in 2014.


Scott E. Spector, AIA, is a principal at Spector Group, one of New York’s premier architecture and interior design firms and a leader in corporate tenant and building owner-based design. The award-winning company has affiliate offices nationally and internationally. To date, it has completed more than 1,500 projects.

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