For lack of a better metric, the commercial real estate industry is largely driven by space measurements. Whether you are talking about office, retail or industrial applications, the square footage of a space will ultimately drive the rent you pay as a tenant and the size of the commission earned by the broker(s). As a result, we find our clients are often hung up on square footage statistics when they first engage us for an interior design assignment. This is understandable. They want to make sure they are not paying for one foot more than they are actually occupying as a tenant.
The reality, however, is that square footage can be an arbitrary number. Depending on who did the measuring, the size of your space could be based on the exterior drip line of the building, not the actual interior space you occupy. Pillars and other obstructions may or may not be treated the same way. Wall thickness may or may not be factored in. There are as many ways to measure square footage as there are buildings.
There are as many ways to measure square footage as there are buildings.
Weld Ransom, Managing Partner, PlanForce Group
Some tenants try to level the playing field and demand that owner reps provide measurements that comply with BOMA standards, but this is rarely helpful. It is difficult to apply BOMA standards to tenant improvement projects for pre-existing buildings, and even if you could, it wouldn’t affect what you pay for rent. Building owners always know how much rental revenue they need to earn on a given space to make a profit, and they will rightly adjust the per-foot rental rate to deliver the required ROI.
As commercial interior architects and designers, we advise clients to view square footage as a conversation starter and nothing more. At the end of the day, the number of feet is irrelevant. Instead, you should ask yourself questions that are much more important to your business. Price per foot aside, is the monthly rent within your budget? Is the shape and configuration of the space functional for your business? Does the building have the amenities you want? Will your employees like it? Will your clients like it? Is the location right for what you do?
If you’re leasing office space, don’t get hung up on a number. To commercial interior designers like PlanForce, a square footage measurement is a starting point and nothing more. Instead, focus on how well the space works for your business and go from there. (All of that said, if you need help figuring out how much space your organization needs, check out our handy interactive office space calculator. Just remember that the results are a starting point for your office design.)