Seven Key Factors for Assessing New Office Space

By: Jeremy Callas, Project Executive

Office demand in the Seattle, Bellevue and Portland markets continues to shift. Evolving work-from-home policies, combined with different market conditions, mean that many companies are reassessing their space requirements. In markets where vacancy rates are up, companies have more choices when it comes to relocating or building out a new space.

With more options available now than we’ve seen over the years, there are many attractive choices for businesses seeking to establish, enhance, or rethink their workplace needs. But navigating the array of offerings requires a discerning eye. To make the most of the options available, here are seven key considerations.

1. Common building amenities

The right amenities, such as fully-equipped conference rooms, gyms, or maker spaces, not only add convenience and enhance employee satisfaction, but also significantly reduce project costs by eliminating the need to replicate these facilities within your own footprint. These features save space and money, contributing to an attractive and efficient work environment.

2. Flexibility and layout of floor plates

Consider how the existing layout and shape of the floor plates will influence or limit the redesign of the office space. Will the layout suit your workflow and your ability to segregate space effectively for your needs? How will natural light hit the building and affect occupant comfort? As most architects will attest, a well-thought-out floor plan can significantly impact employee satisfaction and productivity.

3. A building’s structure

Evaluating a building’s structural system is key to understanding construction flexibility and costs. Most post-tensioned slabs handle heavy loads well, offering larger spans with fewer columns or walls. But if plans call for significant modifications—e.g., building stair cut-outs —these slabs will limit options for slab penetrations and typically make them more costly.

Conversely, building larger rooms or assembly areas will require more structural support, if working within buildings with concrete topping on metal decks. This could lead to hidden costs if you need to access and disassemble another tenant’s space to complete the upgrades.

While these are two of the most common structural systems, there are many other structure types, such as cross-laminated timber, or CLT, which can present other hidden costs if not evaluated correctly.

4. Existing MEP infrastructure

It’s important to understand how a building’s existing or planned infrastructure matches your needs and affects your tenant improvement (TI) budget. While not a comprehensive list, here are a few things to consider:

  • Understand the type of HVAC system you’re inheriting, as costs and timelines vary significantly between systems, like variable-air-volume and chilled beam systems.
  • If you’re looking at a second-generation space, consider the building’s remaining capacity for redundant cooling, the condition and suitability for reuse of existing mechanical equipment, and the cost implications of additional outside air or exhaust for your office programming if more is needed.
  • For electrical scope, verify if there are enough panels or the ability to add them should you need additional capacity, specific metering requirements and modifications needed to meet them, and building rules related to coring or pathway for power or cabling.
  • If you have any other specific requirements such as dedicated fiber, it is best to know upfront not only if they can be accommodated but how to ensure access and security.

5. Location, location, location

The old adage rings true, especially in the world of commercial real estate. A building might lose its appeal if it’s not conveniently located for your employees, clients, and suppliers. Consider proximity to public transportation, accessibility by car, and the surrounding amenities such as restaurants, cafés, and other businesses that could complement your company’s culture and needs. If a company is relocating from an existing location, then considerations are typically made around the commute of their existing employees. This can be especially true when looking at a shift from one city to another, like Seattle to Redmond or Bellevue.

6. Sustainability and green initiatives

Evaluate the building’s sustainability profile, certifications like Living Building Challenge or LEED, and energy-efficient and water conservation features. Aligning your company with a sustainable building not only reduces environmental impact but also reflects positively on your brand.

These requirements do, at times, impact the cost and construction timeline for a project. Highly efficient components are in high demand, and the procurement timeline for these items can sometimes be longer than anticipated.

7. Lease terms and flexibility

Review the lease terms carefully. Understand the rental rates, additional fees, and any flexibility in terms of lease duration or expansion options. Negotiating favorable terms can significantly impact your bottom line and provide room for growth or contraction as your business evolves. Many leases include a TI allowance to assist with the cost of a construction project. It’s important to get reliable and accurate cost information from a reputable general contractor during this process to assist with any negotiations and final decisions.

Jeremy Callas is a project executive in Lewis’ Seattle office. With two decades of experience in the construction industry, Jeremy specializes in delivering TIs for the region’s leading tech and professional services companies.