When searching for office space, it’s important to not only consider the cost of rent, but also the costs involved in making the space you choose ready for your use. There are a number of variables you must take into account when trying to estimate the overall cost of your office build-out project, many of which will be decided before you even sign a lease.
Our project management team has experience coordinating hundreds of office build-out projects throughout Austin and have helped us put together a list of the five most important factors that can skew the price tag higher or lower.
1. Condition of the Space
One of the biggest factors that can affect the cost of your office build-out is the condition of the space you are renovating. When talking about building out space, it’s helpful to know industry lingo to talk with contractors, project managers and brokers about budgeting for a build out. There are two types of conditions a space could be in before the project begins:
Second Generation (“Second Gen”) Space
If a tenant has occupied the space before, most of the buildout has probably already been done. Since the space will already be move-in ready, there is usually no need for the new tenant to completely strip the space and start over.
Also known as “renovations,” these minor projects generally consist of projects requiring a low-to-average amount of work and funding. This type of project will include mostly visual changes to the space, such as paint and carpet, and sometimes may involve minor hidden changes, like plumbing or electric.
In general, existing space requires a smaller budget than shell space.
When a new office building is finished and enters the market, most of the space is delivered in “shell” condition, meaning that no improvements have been made. That gives new tenants the chance to do renovations without having to remove any preexisting structures.
Also known as “capital improvement projects,”, these build-outs often involve major alterations to the space’s look and infrastructure.
Companies wanting the chance to completely customize their office space, such as Google at 500 W 2nd, will generally look for space in this condition.
Shell space generally requires a larger budget than existing space.
2. Size of the Space
As with most things, typically you can expect that the larger your project, the more expensive it will be in total. More materials are needed, and more labor will be required to cover the full expanse of the project.
However, economies of scale do play a big role in most buildout projects. This means that, the larger the space, the lower your costs will be on a per square foot basis.
These fixed costs, along with discounts for ordering supplies in bulk, usually mean large projects will have a lower price per square foot compared to their smaller counterparts.
For more about budgeting for your project cost, check out our article: Cost to Build Out Office Space: How to Plan and Budget
3. Quality of the Finishes
The quality of the finishes you choose will also play a big role in determining the cost of your project. Do you want high quality woods, or will laminate be sufficient?
Your answers to questions like these will help determine how much you will likely need to spend on higher quality, higher priced items.
Law firms are a great example of build-outs putting a lot of money into the finish quality; these companies often have large desks, wood accents and are generally willing to pay more for quality finishes in areas where they have client interaction. In contrast, a small tech company comprised of recent college graduates may be satisfied with simple finishes and concrete floors. Their client interaction may be limited to phone calls and video conferencing and spending more on finishes may not be something they deem as necessary to conduct business.
4. Office Layout & Amenities
The office atmosphere you design can also influence the overall cost of your project.
Office spaces with multiple private offices, a handful of conference rooms and several break rooms can be great for employees who like privacy at work, but this type of layout also means you will be paying more during the build-out process. Because every office will require walls and every conference room will require additional wiring, adding these separations can significantly raise your overall cost.
In contrast, an open floor plan can lower these costs by taking away the additional walls and wiring. Having one large space that all employees share means less work and materials must be put towards the project.
Additionally, adding amenities such as break rooms and conference rooms can add expense.
Planning far ahead is essential to the office buildout process. It can take a significant amount of time to find contractors, make design decisions and gather the materials necessary. Starting the planning process months before the project needs to be finished can not only result in a better finished product, but help you stay within your project budget.
However, if you do start the process late or have to make major changes midway through, it is likely going to cost you. This is why it is important to have a preliminary project schedule which will show you important milestones and the critical path of the project.
Ready to Get an Estimate?
As you can see, there are many variables that go into the cost of your office build-out project.
If you are ready to move forward with your project, or want to learn more about the process, contact our project management team today.
Office build-outs are complex, and, of course, these variables do not cover everything, but they are still a good starting point. Ready to start blocking out your office build-out budget? Download our Office Build-Out Budget Calculator.
- What is a Tenant Improvement Allowance and What Does it Cover?
- Cost to Build Out Office Space: How to Plan and Budget
- How Long Does It Take to Build-Out or Renovate Office Space?