This Is (Not) Only a Test
Scott Spector Sept. 22, 2014, 2:49 p.m.
The test fit process has always been an important guiding factor for architects, engineers, brokers and landlords … and for good reason. A preliminary budget is drawn up and potential layouts are documented during this phase, giving all of the parties involved a clearer picture of whether or not a tenant and space are an ideal fit for one another.
However, in the past few months, there’s been a pronounced shift in the way a typical test fit is done. We’re being asked to deliver them faster than ever before and with an even greater degree of accuracy. The trend ties in with another I wrote about in this very column several months back—the “faster track” fast track project—but this change is not just about tenants wanting to occupy spaces quickly. It’s also about all of the parties using the test fit to make important decisions in a competitive commercial marketplace. These numbers leave very little room for contingency and are used to nurture a deal and move it forward. The test fit is no longer a mere early step; it’s a pivot point that can make or break a deal!
So, how fast is fast? Budgets are being requested within 24 to 48 hours—how’s that for a need for speed? From those numbers, companies such as technology firms and hedge funds are working with their brokers to further negotiate lease terms or to weigh one space against another. In fact, one recent hedge fund client took the test fit so seriously that they went to contractors to obtain hard pricing. Another company we worked with in the past few weeks needed a test fit for a multi-floor space they fell in love with sooner rather than later. The reason for the rush? There were four other tenants eyeing down the same space and, if it fit their needs and budget, they’d have to move on it pronto.
What do these intense, market-driven demands mean for those of us in the industry? Having enough narrative and core details early on may determine who takes what space, putting a greater degree of pressure on all parties to do in days what we used to do in weeks. You could say today’s test fit borders on early schematic design, with the two phases overlapping. The lines have blurred and architects, brokers and contractors are adjusting to keep pace. More than ever before, architects need to focus on working with a pool of professional contractors with proven track records, whether from jobs we’ve been part of or that others in the field can vouch for.
Good space is in demand here in the New York metropolitan area and it seems that it will remain that way for the foreseeable future. For all of our colleagues in the industry this means a rapid-fire response and longer work days. It’s a challenging test, but one I think we’re all up to!
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.