Check. And Check Again!
Scott Spector May 4, 2016, 9:15 a.m.
“Diligence is the mother of good luck.”– Benjamin Franklin
When it comes to office construction and design, we could not agree more with Ben. One of our firm’s core values is an adherence to looking first before proceeding with any commercial project. Surveying and performing due diligence on a space and existing conditions is, in our opinion, the foundation of any project and paramount to its success.
When working with an architect to prepare for a project, how do you know you’re on track? First, look at the team you are working with. Expect your architect to assign senior experts to the task, ones who have a long history of examining existing walls, partitions and infrastructure. They should canvas the interior and exterior of a building closely, measuring ceiling heights, assessing the floor for levelness, ensuring the mechanical elements and ductwork are as they should be. All of these pieces of the puzzle make up the three-dimensional zone of a space, and their accuracy is essential to guiding the architect and construction team through a project.
There is often a misconception that if you have a beautiful computer-aided drawing (CAD) from a client, all is well. However, the architect you work with should demand a survey be performed before any work starts. I liken the process to making sure every musician within an orchestra is working off the same sheet music.
Why not just begin with the CAD and call it a day? A recent project we worked on comes to mind. Our client handed us the drawing and told us it was accurate. Within eight minutes of the first site visit we assessed that the demising line between two tenants was one full bay window off, so the “accurate” drawing by the building owner’s in-house professional was anything but.
Whether it is a missing window bay, inaccurate square footage or you name it, being off the mark costs significant time and money. Architects are the coordinators of the work and responsible for making sure all is right. Had we used our client’s template as the basis for meetings with the engineers, a very large change order would have been received down the road.
Sometimes the surveying is more of a process than a one-time project. For instance, in our work with social media-focused digital agency VaynerMedia, we started the design process for its Hudson Yards headquarters when the building was only a quarter of the way built. At that time, there was nothing for us to verify. We had to rely on core and shell drawings from the building owner and then design around that. However, as the construction process progressed, we got up on the hoist and were able to survey continually and then tweak the design process in real time.
The surveying process can also unfold in other ways. We are often asked to look at six different buildings and office spaces, weighing a “short list” of options before our client commits to a lease. In that case, we perform a comparative analysis, confirm square footage, vet the major components and do all due diligence prior to the tenant picking so that they are making a decision based on factors that may include HVAC locations, partitions and more. This gives the tenant an understanding of the cost implications and the amount of changes they’d need to make to deliver the kind of office that suits their needs. The work is not as labor intensive as when a single space is identified but is instead a workable survey that can reap financial rewards. It is not uncommon to find a floor that is not level when comparing one space to another. That very issue can be costly and the tenant, with this information on hand, can request that the landlord assume responsibility or adjust the rental rate accordingly.
By reporting back on an office space’s condition and the potential impact for the tenant and the brokerage team, all parties can go into the process with their eyes wide open. Surveying has an important place in the lease-to-move-in process, before, during and even after the fact. Confirming details along the way makes sure all parties get exactly what they bargained for. Sounds smart to us.