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Foresight essential for effective TIs

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Tenant improvements (TI) to existing office space can be a costly and complicated endeavor for building managers who are looking to not only provide amenities that will attract and retain tenants, but that will also stand the test of time.

However, TIs are a necessary investment if a building is going to remain competitive within the market and ultimately help attribute to higher revenue for the building overall.

According to Jim Dowling, president of Dowling Construction, before starting a TI, the building manager must first determine the priorities of timing, budget and performance.

In most cases, the bottom line remains the number one consideration for most building managers. Dowling notes that more and more property managers are developing detailed building standards to help save time and money in the TI process. It is also essential to evaluate the lifespan of the investment in order to avoid improvements that may be quickly outdated.

"It is important to stay away from customizing a space that is specific to one tenant's requirements," Dowling said. "The more a space can be built with a standard space plan, or 'vanilla' space as it is commonly called, and using building standard materials, the less work will need to be performed as the space is turned over. In addition, the more open workspace, the better chance of reducing future demolition and retrofitting costs."

It is also beneficial to managers to consider the future when planning TIs. Staying ahead of industry regulations can help avoid the more expensive retrofitting of space to ensure accordance with new regulations like energy and fire safety standards, for example.

"Energy codes are constantly changing to provide for more energy efficient space," Dowling said. "Some of the most significant changes for 2005 Building Energy Efficiency Standards include the requirements of carbon dioxide sensors for conference rooms, lounges, dining rooms and gyms, lower power limit requirements for indoor lighting, and R-8 duct insulation."

Looking ahead, Dowling predicts that environmental factors will play an even more significant role in office improvements.

"Green building design practices, also known as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), have been implemented as an important step toward reducing environmental impacts and achieving superior economic performance," Dowling added. "We also foresee government requirements being put in place to recycle building materials being removed from a project such as steel studs, doors and door frames and lighting fixtures."

With the foreseeable reduction of resources and costs forever increasing, by establishing and utilizing building standards combined with planning for the future, a building manager can ensure for the most efficient and cost-effective TIs.

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