Tenant Tip – Check for Damaged Windows Before Construction or Pay Later

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windowMy general contractor on a 52,000 sq ft tenant build out received the following post-construction email from the landlord: “Please be informed that we are going to repair the (10) windows that were damaged during construction. All repair costs are going to be passed on to the tenant.

That was certainly a surprise. We discovered the GC hadn’t performed a physical inspection of the 140 windows of this prominent NYC high-rise office building, Though the GC argued the windows were damaged prior to mobilization, the landlord answered back the space was demo’d and turned over with all windows in working order.

Unfortunately for the GC, they didn’t have the proof necessary to argue their case nor did the construction progress photos reveal any visual proof of prior damage.  The 6’w x 8’h double hung/Tilt-wash/Turn/Swing windows are expensive so the repair tab will be pretty steep.

Depending on your lease and/or GC agreement, this could easily be passed on to the tenant. Luckily, my client (tenant) is protected through our contract and the costs will be back charged to the GC.

Lesson learned: Check window operability and report all defects before start of construction or you may get a hefty bill from the landlord when construction ends.

Why Can I Hear People Through My Office Wall?

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plugFollowing months of planning your new office build out and relocation, your long-awaited post-move has occurred. You sit back into your office or cubicle, gaze around at your new surroundings, and take satisfaction in the hard work to get here. You start doing your work…. and your attention is immediately broken by the loud phone calls and conversations coming through the office walls.  Why are you hearing the person next door? Wasn’t the point of having a private office to have privacy?

If you’re a law firm, financial services or any company where privacy is an issue, you’ll find this distracting and unacceptable.  Further, you don’t require a privacy function to be unintentionally distracted by your office neighbors.  But construction is complete and now you’ll have to live with it.

What tenants don’t realize is standard office designs don’t generally include acoustical treatment between interior office walls. A typical wall consists of metal track fastened directly to the floor and ceiling, metal studs, a layer of sheetrock on each side that rise six inches above the hung ceiling and that’s it. While that’s hardly ideal for a quiet office, its pretty standard nonetheless

If you want better sound isolation/absorption/deflection, you have to ask for it and there is a cost associated with that upgrade. It’s not generally included in the tenant improvement work letter, but a good relocation project manager/owner’s rep will point this out.

Sound can travel between offices due to:

  • No batt insulation in the wall cavity
  • Walls terminating just above the ceiling tile and not to the deck
  • Poor sealing at the floor and ceiling
  • Sound traveling through non-insulated or straight-through HVAC ductwork
  • Glass walls
  • No carpet
  • Poor or no door gaskets

Sound in construction is measured as follows:

Noise Criteria (NC) Ratings: Ambient background sound levels due to the buildings’ mechanical, electrical, plumbing, or HVAC systems. Lower NC ratings correspond to quieter conditions.

Sound Transmission Class (STC):  Sound transmission properties of a demising floor/ceiling assembly, partition, door, etc. The higher the STC rating, the greater the sound reduction of that assembly.

Ceiling Attenuation Class (CAC): The efficiency of a ceiling material as a barrier to airborne sound intrusion between two enclosed spaces.

Speech Privacy Potential (SPP): A function of two factors: the background sound level (expressed as Noise Criteria, NC, rating) and the in-field acoustic separation of the total construction between the adjacent spaces (expressed as Noise Isolation Class, NIC, rating).

Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC): Used to identify the sound absorption properties of a material as tested in ideal laboratory conditions. A material with NRC 0.10 will reflect 90% of incident sound back into the space, whereas a material with NRC of 0.90 will only reflect 10% of incident sound back in the space. Therefore, for spaces with speech intelligibility requirements, surfaces with higher NRC ratings are preferred.

Levels of Speech Privacy Potential (SPP)

Rating NIC Description of Privacy
Total Privacy 85 Shouting is only barely audible
Highly Confidential 80 Normal voice levels not audible. Raised voices barely audible, but not inteligible
Excellent 75 Normal voice levels barely audible. Raised voices are audible, but mostly unintelligible
Good 70 Normal voices audible, but mostly unintelligible. Raised voices are partially intelligable.
Fair 65 Normal voices audible and intelligible some of the time. Raised  voices are intelligible
Poor 60 Normal voices audible and intelligible most of the time
None <60 No speech privacy


A typical private office partition may be described as follows:

Wall-Type-A

Construction Drawing above indicates: New Full Height Partition: 2 1/2″ Metal Studs @ 16″ O.C. (on center). Extending from slab to slab w/ 5/8″ Gyb Board on each side extending from slab to 6″ above finish ceiling.

What throws many tenants during design phase are the words “Full Height Partition” and they don’t read further, thus missing the fact the sheetrock is not rising to the underside of the deck above. But that is just one item to look for.

Some methods to achieve a quieter office include:

  • Extend sheetrock from the floor to the underside of the deck above
  • Add several layers of Sound Batt Insulation in the wall cavity
  • For Ceiling Treatments, specify acoustical ceiling tile with a minimum NRC of 0.70 and CAC of 35.
  • Floor Treatment: Specify carpet on 100% of the floor area.
  • Doors: Specify solid-core wood doors or insulated hollow-metal doors with standard butt hinges and full perimeter sound seals including a drop seal for all Private Offices. For framed glass doors incorporate full-perimeter sound seals, including a drop seal, into the door frame, though doors with pivot hinges are not recommended as they are difficult to seal.
  • For doors over carpet, add a threshold to ensure a proper seal.
  • For glass door constructions, specify minimum 3/8-inch thick laminated acoustical glass.

Partition construction details must be consistent with good acoustical design practice. It is important to incorporate the following details:

- No gypsum board layers are to be continuous between two adjacent rooms; interrupt all partition intersections, and close through perimeter fascia to the base building construction.
– Provide continuous acoustical (non-hardening) caulking beads on each side of the bottom and top stud runners at the three-way intersections between the runner, floor/structure above, and gypsum board.
– Specify acoustical (non-hardening) caulking to close gaps between service outlets (e.g., electrical, telephone, and data) and gypsum board.
– Stagger the joints between multiple layers of gypsum board.
– Penetrations that interrupt studs are to be completely framed around with a nominal 1-inch gap around the penetrating element.

Seal all service penetrations in partition constructions as follows:

  • Gap less than or equal to 1/4″: Acoustical sealant or similar non-hardening, ever-resilient caulking compound
  • Gap from 1/4″ up to 1″: Compressed backer rod with acoustical or similar non-hardening, ever-resilient caulking compound
  • Gaps over 1-inch: Filled tightly with batt insulation and heavy-density putty such as Nelson FSP or CLK Sealant; J.M. Clipper ‘Duxseal’; 3M ‘Moldable Putty.’

Each office environment is different and you should consult with an architect or acoustical consultant to achieve the desired rating for your office design.

Richard Neuman is an Owner’s Rep and Move Consultant with NY based Relocation Management Solutions, Inc. www.relocationmanagement.com

Eliminating Desk Side Trash Cans in Your Office

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In a LinkedIn Facilities Management Group discussion, we discussed how companies are cleaning up the individual workspace garbage in exchange for centrally located garbage collection areas. Whoa, you might say. You mean the employee would actually have to tend to disposing of their own garbage? It sounds incredulous, but it also sounds smart, and may save money too.

The theme is if your staff can walk to deposit sensitive documents in centrally located bins, walk to a central printer, or get a cup of coffee, they can certainly empty their own trash.

One method described is to implement a “four channel waste disposal system.” Your staff can have a very small can for immediate waste and empty them as part of their regular walk around the office. Your strategy should be based on the size of the office, number of workstations, and staff density.

Central waste stations are placed in traffic areas for ease of access. This utilizes existing staff traffic to dispose waste and allows sorting of waste at the source of its creation.

  • Blue recycling bins hold “clean” paper
  • Yellow bins are used for “mixed recycling”
  • Green bins are for compost
  • Red bins are for regular trash.

A very small can stay at each employees desk and the employee empties their trash at the end of the day. The custodial crew picks up the trash from central areas nightly or depending upon the frequency you have set.

Savings are achieved by less custodial time having to go to each desk to collect the trash; no new liners per bin per desk, saves money on waste hauling fees and the recycling companies may pick up the recycling for free. In some cases they may even offer a rebate which in turn offsets waste hauling fees and janitorial labor.

One facility manager describes the keys to success as:

  • To have enough bins that they are not far to walk similar to a pantry or print station
  • The bins should blend with the overall office design e.g. enclosed in a cabinet
  • Signage is clear for the various types of waste

Removing individual desk bins is one of the easiest wins in terms of reducing your cleaning and waste management costs. As one FM mentions, it can save 10% of the labor required for daily office cleaning.

For new spaces and relocation’s, if the policy is set Day 1, the buy in is almost guaranteed. In an existing space, you may be met initially with “you want me to walk how far for what?”  But if you inform your staff ahead of the change along with educational material describing the reasoning, it should not be difficult to implement.

As mindsets have changed and people have embraced recycling concepts, the question now is often “Why do we not centrally recycle?” If the staff already get up multiple times for coffee, tea, bathroom and cigarettes breaks, taking their trash with them should not be a difficult task to require.

Richard Neuman is an Owner’s Rep and Move Consultant with NY based Relocation Management Solutions, Inc. www.relocationmanagement.com

Cubicle Mockups and Surveys Help Employees Visualize Their Workspace

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Ordering system furniture is an interesting experience for a company, the employee who sits in the cubicle as well as the furniture dealer trying to decipher your taste and budget.

Things to consider include panel heights, framed or frameless, storage solutions, seated or non-seated privacy and glass, fabric choices, work surfaces, desk accessories, electric and data, and that’s just to start.  And just when you think you got it, the dealer provides you with a bid containing pages and pages of unintelligible codes and SKU numbers that make little sense even to the most experienced. While 3D renderings do help in demystifying what you’re getting for your money, it’s challenging to compare drawings amongst competitors and really get a feel for your new system.

Cubicle mockups are an excellent way to test drive the look, feel and usability of the system. It gives you a side-by-side comparison of the products you are considering.

There is a substantial cost to the dealers for providing mockups and this requirement should be clearly written in your RFP. This lets the vendors consider whether or not the project’s budget permits them to spend money on manufacturing, delivering, set-up, knock down and removal from your office or if the cost is to be borne by you.

Most importantly, mockups promote inclusiveness with your employees who can be engaged and  provide feedback on the systems they will be sitting in.  It’s a perfect method of team collaboration and employees feel part of the selection process. So how do you gauge feedback?

Below are sample survey questions I asked at a recent mockup:

Please take a few minutes to tell us about the furniture you recently reviewed.

 Last Name_____________

 Department____________

1. Cubicle style 1 with ‘framed glass” is open enough to see my colleagues yet provides enough privacy:

- I strongly agree
- I agree
- I’m neutral
- I disagree
- I strongly disagree

mockup2 mockup1

2. Cubicle style 2 with “frameless glass” is open enough to see my colleagues working yet provides enough privacy:
- I strongly agree
- I agree
- I’m neutral
I disagree
- I strongly disagree 

mockup4 mockup3

3. There are two work surface corner styles to choose from, an “L” Shaped and a “Curved Corner” shaped. Of the two, which style provides you with the most functionality?

- L-Shaped Corner
- Curved Corner

mockup5 mockup6

4. Please tell us which manufacturer’s overall style workstation you prefer?

- I prefer Name Product Vendor (picture #1)
- I prefer Name Product Vendor (picture #2)

mockup7 mockup8

5. Please tell us why you prefer one product over the other.

6. Please rate the following storage components: 

mockup9 mockup10 mockup11

 Teaming Bench & lateral File Below (locker beside) Storage/Locker Pedestal Drawer
Enhances your space
Neutral
Would not use
Bench Seating
Yes/No Yes/No Yes/No
Lateral File below bench
Yes/No Yes/No Yes/No
Storage/Coat Locker
Yes/No Yes/No Yes/No
Pedestal Drawers below work surface
Yes/No Yes/No Yes/No

7. Please tell us if you would use the following Slat Wall accessories:
Unimportant
Low Importance
Neutral
Important
Very Important
Personal Shelf
Yes/No Yes/No Yes/No Yes/No Yes/No
Letter Tray
Yes/No Yes/No Yes/No Yes/No Yes/No
Marker Board
Yes/No Yes/No Yes/No Yes/No Yes/No
Binder Tray
Yes/No Yes/No Yes/No Yes/No Yes/No
Telephone Shelf
Yes/No Yes/No Yes/No Yes/No Yes/No
Hanging File Holder
Yes/No Yes/No Yes/No Yes/No Yes/No
Pencil/Pad Holder
Yes/No Yes/No Yes/No Yes/No Yes/No
In Box Tray
Yes/No Yes/No Yes/No Yes/No Yes/No


8. Ergonomic Keyboard Trays. Please rate the following trays:

mockup12 mockup13 mockup14
Manufacturer 1 (apply question to each manufacturer
Is comfortable
- Provides enough room for my knees
- Easy to adjust
- Did not like

9. Do you work with or without a keyboard tray?

- I currently have a keyboard tray and wish to continue using one
- I currently have a keyboard tray but would NOT use one in the future
- I currently do NOT have a keyboard tray and would NOT use one in the future
- I currently do NOT have a keyboard tray, but would use one of the options listed

10. Seating: Please rate the following seating options:

mockup16mockup17

Manufacturer 1 (apply question to each manufacturer)

- Is comfortable
- Is easy to adjust
- Is not comfortable

11. Additional comments. Please provide us with any feedback to help us in our decision making.

Download the Sample Survey
Mockup Systems Furniture Survey

Richard Neuman is an Owner’s Rep and Move Consultant with NY based Relocation Management Solutions, Inc. www.relocationmanagement.com, Thank you to Trisha Milner, Independent Senior Project Manager Consultant for her contribution to this article.

When Tenant Construction Worlds Collide, Collaboration Is Key

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batsClients entrust their project managers to make smart decisions and keep the project moving.  We are part collaborator, enforcer and peacemaker, psychologist and psychiatrist and a host of other competing analogies.  One important lesson learned is when bizarre and unpredictable issues crop up, how you handle it sets the tone for its resolution and future relations with your project team. While that in of itself is not unique, it is a daily and common occurrence for an Owner’s Rep working on multiple projects that a tenant often does not experience.

I am representing a tenant who is moving into an early 20th century landmark tower and constructing a gym as part of their office space.  Knowing there would be floor load and sound concerns generated by the gym equipment that would likely disturb surrounding tenants, we proactively engaged acoustical and structural engineers to evaluate conditions and design the appropriate structural and noise abatement solutions.

The evaluation process requires access to occupied floors above and below to perform probing, weight drop and other sound, vibration and load tests. Coincidentally, of all the buildings in NYC, the tenant below the target floor happens to be a previous client of mine too.

So far so good. We’ve addressed the concerns of everyone’s needs, the plans were approved and the landlord and tenant below have been very cooperative and appreciative of our due diligence.

So imagine my surprise when I find through third parties that a new tenant is moving in above us and planning on building a model shop directly above some of our private offices with spraying and cutting equipment that will be “extremely noisy”. We now find ourselves in the same boat as the tenant below; somewhat helpless and concerned about future disruptions by the new neighbors. It’s like your quiet house neighbor that moved out and replaced by a new family with a non-stop barking dog. It upsets your world and those confrontations often never end well.

We could have handled this several ways. One is the scorched earth approach with legal nasty-grams to the landlord demanding our world not be upset, or a more collaborative approach.  We took the latter approach by informing the landlord of our knowledge, inquired if the tenant above performed the same due diligence as us to mitigate noise that might disturb and interfere with our client’s normal operation and asked for an open dialogue.

Besides noise abatement from their equipment, another concern was our construction would likely end before theirs commenced.  To avoid post-construction access to the ceilings that would likely be needed, we found ourselves in a unique position.  We asked for the plenum area to be thoroughly coordinated to minimize future disruption and we would include some of their plenum work in our scope of work.  This way most of their prep work can be addressed during our construction (at their cost of course). The landlord responded positively and all parties are working together to minimize disruption.

Construction problems and resolutions can often get testy and our issue could have quickly escalated into a legal battle and ended much differently. But with solid reasoning, inclusiveness and collaboration with all parties, it achieved everyone’s goals of minimal disruption as possible and design teams working together.

Let’s now hope their spraying and cutting equipment is not the barking dog .

Resiliency in Health Care Facilities – “In the Year of the Flood”

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jwb-1By Michael Sciara, Guest Columnist

Superstorm Sandy exposed critical weaknesses in the Resiliency of health care systems throughout the North East.

This was especially true for coastal areas and other areas prone to river flooding and flash flooding in New York City, Long Island and New Jersey.

NYC fared fairly well during Sandy, although there were Hospital, Long Term Care and Adult Care Facility closures.  This was the case because the Health Care system had excess surge capacity and unaffected neighboring facilities had the ability to “Pick up the Slack”.

The nightmare scenario involves a series of catastrophic events occurring simultaneously during a severe weather event which would significantly reduce an impacted health system’s excess capacity.  This becomes more likely as the nexus of health services shifts to community based/ambulatory facilities, reducing the reliance on hospitals.  There are many community health centers that took months to reopen after Sandy.  Some never reopened.

In the aftermath of Sandy, NYC led the charge in taking a hard look at the planning of new health facilities and improving the resiliency of existing facilities. This effort, known as the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency or (SIRR), had input from FEMA, the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the US Green Building Council (USGBC), the NYC Building Department and many other experts in disaster preparedness and recovery.

In August of 2013, the New York State Department of Health issued Draft Construction Resiliency Standards which embraced and in some cases exceed those of NYC’s SIRR.

jwb-2FEMA (The Federal Emergency Management Agency) publishes Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) for the United States.  These maps establish and delineate historical floodplain boundaries and peak flood elevations (relative to mean sea level).  Essentially these maps establish the relative likelihood of a given area to flood.  For example, if a property is located in a “100-year Flood Zone” (a Special Flood Hazard Area), that property has a 1% chance of experiencing a flood in a given year.  A parcel in a 500-year Flood Zone has a 0.2% chance of flooding in a given year.  The FIRM maps for New York City are in the process of being modified.  The current iteration (available on-line) are called “Work Maps”, but these are subject to change.  Special Flood Hazard Areas have a designation of “A” or “V” on the FIRM maps.

jwb-3Building Codes have required flood mitigation measures to the 100-year floodplain level for many years.  It is the opinion of many experts that global warming and other climatic factors will continue to increase the likelihood of severe weather events.  Many feel that the bar should be set at the 500-year floodplain.  Taking a “Best Practices” approach, several recently constructed major health facilities in New York State have voluntarily been designed to the “500-year Standard”.

NYC is not willing to wait for a “Best Practices” approach to flood mitigation to take hold.  As such, the NYC Construction Codes will be amended to require new and existing Health Care facilities to take action to ensure that critical building systems are physically protected from extreme weather impact.

New Hospitals (and substantial improvements to existing facilities) in special flood hazard areas must be designed to the 500-year Standard.  Existing hospitals must be retrofitted so that critical equipment is raised above the 500-year floodplain or that spaces containing such equipment be dry flood proofed. Emergency generators must have pre-connections for temporary external generators.

New Nursing Homes (and substantial improvements to existing facilities) in special flood hazard areas must also be constructed with additional resiliency measures for their emergency power systems including a pre-connection for an external generator. The DOH Draft Resiliency Standards recommend that new nursing homes be designed to meet the 500-year floodplain standard.  This exceeds NYC’s 100-year requirement.  NYC will also require that a minimum, new adult homes install a pre-connection to an external stand-by generator (and maintain a current contract with a generator provider).

Existing Nursing Homes in NYC Flood Hazard Areas must be retrofitted to the 100-year standard by 2030 and must file an interim report by 2020 certifying compliance or submit an Affidavit describing a plan of compliance by 2030.  Requirements include protection of electrical equipment, emergency power systems and domestic water pumps.  NYC may make funding available to offset some retrofit costs.

Existing NYC Adult Homes in Flood Hazard Areas must also become more resilient by 2030.  Electrical equipment must be elevated or protected and an emergency generator pre-connection must be installed.  Interim progress reports are due by 2020.

jwb-4NYC will encourage and support several best practices through mitigation grants, loans and tax incentives.  These include; increasing air conditioning capacity of Nursing Homes and Adult Homes (increased emergency power capacity), harden the resiliency of Primary Care and Mental Health Clinics, encourage telecommunications and medical records resiliency.  The support of these best practices is mirrored by the DOH Draft Resiliency Construction Standards.  DOH is likely to require that CON applicants for Community Based Health Care Centers demonstrate resiliency as a condition of approval.

It is generally acknowledged that the retrofitting of existing health facilities is at best very expensive and at worst, logistically impossible. Recognizing this, the AIA recommended that the NYC Code revisions include some mechanism for non-compliance such as an alternate strategy of evacuation to a protected alternate facility with excess capacity.  It is not certain whether the final NYC text will include such exceptions.

The DOH Draft Resiliency Construction Standards are not mandating the retrofit of facilities outside of Special Flood Hazard Areas.  However, they do recommend that all facilities undertake  resiliency assessment be completed and presented to the Board of Trustees for consideration as they approve Long Term Capital plans. The AIA, in its report to NYC, also recommends that a vulnerability assessment be the first step in resiliency planning and that the City Council should enact a law requiring these assessments.

Another key recommendation of the AIA is that building wind design requirements should be upgraded to ASCE/SEI 7-10. This professional reference standard requires that critical buildings such as Hospitals be constructed to resist higher wind velocities than the current standard.  It is unclear at this time whether NYC will adopt this recommendation.

“Resiliency” will be one of the most used words in the Facilities, Construction and Health Care lexicons over the next 15 years.  Once again the Health Care industry will have to adapt and re-invent itself.

Recommendations of the DOH Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on Environmental Construction Standards – August 2013 (Abbreviated Summary of Major Recommendations):

1. Health Facilities should be designed & constructed to maintain life safety and provide services if flood waters reach the 500-year crest level. (Regulatory Change)

2. Health Care Providers should include Resiliency and Storm Mitigation activities in long term capital plans for physical plant improvements. (Best Practice Recommendation)

  • Require installation of flood resistant emergency generators and fuel supplies or pre-connections for external generators
  • Require generators and fuel pumps to always be accessible
  • All emergency generators shall have pre-connections
  • Require pre-connections for temporary boilers and chillers if equipment is located below the design flood elevation
  • Require HVAC for inpatient units to be operational during power outages by installing extra generator capacity

3. Apply best practice recommendations to all New Health Facilities including Ambulatory and Out Patient facilities.

4. Harden IT infrastructure to insure patient information remains accessible even if a facility needs to evacuate.

5. Voluntary adoption of best practices by existing Article 28 providers.

  • Conduct facility resiliency assessment
  • Create a phased plan of investments to improve resiliency
  • Present plan to the Board of Trustees for consideration

Resiliency Definitions:

  1. Dry Floodproofing: A combination of design modifications that results in a building or structure, including the attendant utility and sanitary facilities, being water tight with walls substantially impermeable to the passage of water and with structural components having the capacity to resist loads as identified in ASCE7 code.
  1. Wet Floodproofing: The use of certain materials/finishes (and the avoidance of certain materials/finishes) below the design flood elevation to reduce the likelihood of mold growth.
  • Avoid – Carpeting, Dry Wall, Plaster, Hollow Concrete Block, Wood, Plywood, Particle Board, Other materials with voids and open cells
  • Use – Concrete (floors and partitions), Solid Concrete Block (partitions), Ceramic and Quarry Title (floor & wall finish), Terrazzo Flooring, Stainless Steel (casework), Metals (doors, etc.)
  1. Special Flood Hazard Area:  An area delineated on the FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) with the letter designation “A” or “V”.  Also referred to as a “100-year Flood Zone”.
  1. Resiliency:  The ability of systems and infrastructure to resist, absorb and recover from the impacts of a severe weather event.
  1. Hardening:  Physical Modifications to in-place construction and infrastructure to increase its level of resiliency.
  1. Substantial Improvement:  (NY State Building Code)
  • “For the purpose of determining compliance with the flood provisions of this code, any repair, alteration, addition, or improvement of a building or structure, the cost of which equals or exceeds 50 percent of the market value of the structure, before the improvement or repair is started.  If the structure has sustained substantial damage, any repairs are considered substantial improvement regardless of the actual repair work performed.”

7. Substantial Improvement:  (NYC Building Code)jwb-7

  • “Any repair, reconstruction, alteration, or improvement of a building, the cost of which equals or exceeds fifty percent of its market value either:”
  1. before the alteration, improvement or repair is started, or
  2. if the building has been damaged and is being restored before such damage occurred.

For the purpose of this definition, “substantial improvement” is considered to occur when the first alteration of any wall, ceiling, floor or other structural parts of the building commences, whether or not the alteration affects the external dimensions of the building.  The term “substantial improvement” does not, however, include either:

  1. any project for improvement of a building to comply with state or local health, sanitary or safety code specifications which are solely necessary to assure safe conditions, or
  2. any alteration of a building designated as worthy of preservation because of historic or architectural importance, or a building within an area so designated by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, or listed on the National Register of Historic Places or State Inventory of Historic Places.”

sciaraMichael A. Sciara, AIA is a registered architect with John W. Baumgarten Architects, P.C. in Jericho, NY, specializing in Article 28-Compliancy.  The firm seeks to educate and inform the industry with its knowledge of the stringent State-mandated regulations that are placed on facilities. www.jwbarch.com (516) 457-6583.

13.5 Important Tips Before Leasing Industrial Space

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loading_dockIndustrial and warehouse space can range from manufacturing and storage, to distribution such as pick and pack facilities.  Each building you consider will have its own set of concerns so have a good understanding of the use of the facility and make sure you ask questions of the landlord to match your needs to the intended space.

Here’s a quick 13.5 starter tips:

1. HVAC – Most industrial buildings don’t have full building A/C as it may only be provided in finished space.  Because you will have no idea how the HVAC system was maintained by the previous tenant, avoid assuming responsibility for HVAC that may have been neglected. Negotiate you will purchase an HVAC maintenance contract to maintain the existing system.  However, should the unit fail, the landlord is responsible for replacing the unit.  Obtain documentation that the unit(s) have been inspected and certified that they are in good working condition.

2. Operations Costs – Identify what can be excluded from operations costs such as roof repairs versus what’s included as part of the Landlord’s costs such as window and glass replacement.

3. Capital Repairs – Predefine capital repairs. In an older building, landlords often exclude replacements of a structural or capital nature, opting to repair rather than replace and defer the cost to the tenant.

4. Square Footage – How the landlord calculates square footage was the subject of one of my previous articles: WARNING: Ascertaining the “correct” real estate square footage can be a minefield fraught with peril!  Many landlords “grow” the size of their buildings by including the area beneath the drip lines as part of the leasable area. Pay only for the usable square footage, which reasonably can include the wall thickness.

5. Parking Lot – Exterior parking and asphalt requires maintenance and landlords may make it the tenant’s responsibility. Repairs should be performed and paid for by the landlord because it’s a long-term performance issue for future value retention. What is the assigned parking for the building and is it enough?

6. Zoning – Check zoning to identify the building’s parking ratio (spaces/1,000sf) to ensure the property meets zoning requirements. If you need more parking than the code requires, look for another property. Is the area properly zoned for the intended use? Many tenants think that they can operate their business under the current zone, which may or may not be the case.

7. Property Maintenance – Ensure your lease spells out property maintenance as you may be responsible for landscaping and snow removal.  Trash removal is usually the tenants cost.

8. Trailers – Know the type of vehicle and their weight fully loaded to ensure your docking area will support it. Check if there is maneuvering room for an 18 wheeler.  Trucks and trailers have become longer where 45′ trailers were the norm years ago, now they are 60′ which means you need 120′ turning area. Many older buildings cannot accommodate the longer tractor/trailers.

9. Electrical – Check electrical capacity is adequate for your facility. While the breaker panel and meter may indicate sufficient power, you don’t want to be underpowered or blow a transformer. Hire an electrical engineer to survey the building for your needs such as number of Amps, the service size – 240 or 480 volts, etc.

10. Ceiling Heights - Tall ceilings over 28′ will need level floors. The higher you can stack racks the less tolerance for the height of the racks to tip over. Like kid’s building blocks, the higher you stack, the more likely they will fall.

11. Neighbors – Know what options the adjoining tenants have to know if expansion can be done in the future by either party. If your neighbors want to expand, negotiate a clause whereby the landlord will move you at the landlord’s cost.

12. Bathrooms – Insist existing restrooms meet ADA laws. See my previous article: I’m renovating my office, does the existing bathroom need to be ADA Compliant?

13. Floor Load – What is the live load for the slab versus your intended use?

13.5 Energy – What is the annual energy cost per square foot for the occupied areas or what is the Energy Star Rating so you can negotiate the greatest energy efficiency improvements. If the landlord has not conducted a commercial energy assessment, make sure they are willing to perform one as a basis for negotiating tenant improvements

Richard Neuman is an Owner’s Rep and Move Consultant with NY based Relocation Management Solutions, Inc. www.relocationmanagement.com

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