Image source: SPAR Inc.
Interior buildouts refer to the customizations made to a commercial space for move-in-friendly results. These business-specific projects allow you to relocate or start a new venture by adding the necessary retrofits to the chosen building. For this reason, interior buildouts are also known as tenant improvements (TI) or leasehold improvements. They address the needs of commercial tenants to ensure that the leased space reflects their business identity, accommodates all the technologies and hardware, and has functional amenities. Your commercial rental space will either be available as a blank shell or previously occupied space – which determines the size of your interior buildout. Improving a new area will require renovations and additions from scratch, whereas an already rented building will include some improvements from the previous tenants. This marks the difference in project costs, and you will generally share them with the building owner.
Finishing the interiors of offices, hospitals, restaurants, retail stores, hotels, etc. depend on specific project requirements of the tenants. You might want to construct new ceilings, demolish old walls, install new floors, and customize the lighting. Buildouts also focus on workstation layouts and décor aspects, allowing you to fully personalize your commercial footprint.
The buildout crew includes constructions professionals who can help you finish out the interior based on relevant building codes and zoning requirements. All of these roles and responsibilities contribute to the final cost, which is determined as the interior buildout cost per square foot. Since the building owner covers some or all of the costs – under tenant improvement allowances – discussing the arrangement during lease negotiations will pay off remarkably throughout your tenant stay. You can seek commercial real estate advice for optimum financial numbers that can fuel your specific project. Sufficient allowance is a key feasibility factor and supports valuable improvements based on square footage, as discussed in this article.
The interior buildout process
Who is involved?
Interior buildouts are all about renovations and configurations tailored to your business’s objectives. You will work with project contractors, project managers, engineers, architects, electricians, plumbers, interior designers, painters, and building inspectors. Licensed teams deliver not just quality projects but also code-compliant results to prevent legal consequences down the road. They can create commercial adaptations out of your bespoke details for the interior buildout, which is why it is important to collaborate with contractors who specialize in commercial remodeling. The buildout documents and plans can help estimate the initial costs per square foot, and each stakeholder’s contribution adds up to the final value. You can also discuss your project feasibility with commercial real estate experts as well as remodeling specialists before hiring a contractor. This gives you a good vantage point regarding the costs, renovation types, labor charges, and zoning specifications – building the discussion grounds for contractor proposals.
Why is it important?
Commercial interior buildouts are planned for several reasons, all of which revolve around the emerging needs of businesses. Custom renovations to the leased space can help you upgrade your corporate environment using the latest design trends. Rebranding is a popular perspective, and by simply finishing out the building, you can save up on hefty new constructions. Startup businesses who want sustainable working practices can exploit such projects to their best potential, as you get to go green by starting green! Interior buildouts are also important for building owners, as they are more likely to rent their space if it meets the expectations of potential tenants.
To establish this win-win agreement, a favorable TI allowance amount must be negotiated, so it can translate into relevant costs per square foot throughout the project. The proposed use for a leased space will differ for each business – as office suites have their own corporate functions, medical centers rely on specialty services, and cafes/restaurants need commercial kitchens and dining areas.
What is included?
All interior buildout processes are divided into the designing, planning, and remodeling stages. Your chosen crew will use various digital tools to create specifications, drawings, and evaluations. These determine the feasibility of your buildout project and help you collaborate on cost-effective strategies. A thorough design stage includes detailed consultations, allowing you to curate itemized project milestones along with their cost breakdowns. The planning stage is where your designs are put in action and the paper-based ideas seek permits, approvals, and a proper timeline. This aligns your buildout’s material procurement and delivery aspects very efficiently, so all the required resources arrive on time. Professional scheduling techniques are important to meet the lease deadlines and narrow the timeframe for successful occupancy.
With all the paperwork checked off, the buildout crew can begin the actual remodeling stage. During this time, various mechanical, electrical, plumbing, demolition, painting, and lighting aspects will be completed – making your leased space finally come together. Other configurations include framing requirements, drywall additions, millwork, HVAC layout, and acoustic ceiling installations. Building inspectors will assess each renovation detail. Combined with your walkthrough analysis, the necessary updates need to be addressed, after which you can move in. The interior buildout cost per square foot is the cumulative mix of all the above material and labor input.
Interior buildout costs
Hard and soft costs
Commercial interior build out costs per square foot is commonly divided into hard and soft costs, based on the permanence or volatility of your changes. Hard costs cover all the permanent, tangible improvements you make to the leased space, like the paint, carpeting, HVAC systems, and electrical wiring.
These additions stay even after you leave and are often improvised by the future tenants – making them a crucial consideration for TI allowance. Soft costs are related to various paperwork and approval aspects such as permit fees, inspection charges, and other approval costs. Your final buildout cost will include both of these hard and soft costs, depending on the frequency of inspections and repetitions.
Cost per square foot
Your TI allowance is also expressed as a cost per square foot, so if you end up paying anything extra for the buildout, you will only consider the [total buildout cost – the TI allowance]. This makes the lease negotiations a very crucial part of an interior buildout, as there are multiple win-win possibilities for both parties. If a considerable proportion of your tenant improvements are hard costs, then these could also benefit the owner in the long run by speeding up the next move-in at the end of your lease. At the same time, you can strike up a confident TI allowance from the owner. Tenants and building owners often discuss the interior buildout costs based on the location, remodeling scope, type of commercial context, and of course, square footage. The costs will differ between commercial contracting companies and your project size, but here is a general guide for what to expect:
- basic finishes: $50 and above ($50 – $80 per square foot)
- mid-range finishes: $100 and above ($100 – $135 per square foot)
- high-end finishes: $150 and above ($150 – $200 per square foot)
The average interior buildout cost per square foot is around $50 when you want to add just the standard finishes for your lights, paints, tiles, etc. This will give you more priority on the functional side rather than aesthetic appeal. Choosing above-average materials would cost you around $100 per square foot, and extravagant details for luxury finishes can go up to $200 per square foot. This sets the general scale between $50 – $200 for an interior buildout. The lower end of this range would create a basic office layout, and as you climb up the scale, you can find high-quality designs for executive offices and also amenities like cafes and gyms.
High-end buildout projects that cost $150+ per square foot can be imagined based on their space plan. A progressive space has a 100% open floor plan and inspires collaborative coworking. A moderate space would feature just 10% enclosed offices and 90% open workspaces.
A traditional space features more individual offices and can divide enclosed to open spaces in a 40:60 ratio. More isolated offices require more construction, and so the interior buildout costs would increase from progressive-traditional spaces.
Online cost calculator
Commercial contractors often provide online calculators on their websites to help tenants and building owners receive quick estimates. An example is the commercial buildout cost calculator from Hurd Construction Management. It makes a simple and helpful guide for calculating the cost per square foot and factoring in the relevant cost drivers. You just need to enter your zip code, choose the proposed commercial use for office/store/restaurant, select the square footage on the given scale, and confirm your current stage in the project. This lets the tool know if your permit stage is over and you are about to start preconstruction, and so on.
The calculator displays a smart estimate based on where you live and your given commercial context, so you have a useful benchmark for the bidding stage. By using simple and intuitive online tools like this, you can obtain a rough quote for the entire project, as these calculators do the math using the company’s stated rates – which are updated with the shifting trends. For example, at $50 per square foot, your interior buildout of 5,000 square feet will cost $250,000 – and the calculator will incorporate any additional costs for influencing factors based on the details you provide.
The cost range can be affected by various factors. The project size, number of demolitions, quality of finishes, architectural complexity, material cost, material availability, and labor rates are some examples. The age and condition of your leased space is a key factor. Blank shell spaces – or first-generation spaces – do not have any work done so far, costing you on the higher end of the spectrum. On the other hand, a second-generation space has already been improved by its previous occupants, making their hard costs an opportune discount for you! You can also expect cost fluctuations from delayed deliveries, weather problems, market trends, and the type of commercial operations you will run. Specialized interiors for hospitals and call centers will definitely cost more than an office of the same square footage, considering the technical diversities.
Costs vary greatly between states, which is why your zip code is requested by online estimation tools. Geographical elements determine various zoning requirements.
This decides the permissible building changes, their costs, and the accompanying permits. The zoning aspects also govern material procurement, logistical options, and labor compatibility for your project. For this reason, you can expect the topographic makeup of your building’s location to easily influence the costs. Buildout costs for the same square footage can vary significantly between regions, especially for those businesses that operate in earthquake-prone areas or various natural landscapes.
Putting one foot in front of the other
Commercial interior buildouts need to be progressive and aligned throughout the project. By finishing out your leased space, you can make it move-in-friendly for your commercial goals. Custom modifications help the space become better optimized and equipped for your specific operations. Working with experienced contractors, designers, and architects allows you to set the pace for a well-organized buildout that inspires your corporate vision. Receiving ballpark quotes from potential contractors makes a good starting point to understand the buildout costs.
Professional contracting companies will take extra time and effort to deliver quality improvements that will facilitate your business, create lasting impressions, and promote a healthy corporate culture. A commercial contractor who understands and anticipates your commercial needs will help you break down costs and analyze how they add up to the square footage. With a reasonable budget at hand, you can turn a raw space into a fully functional commercial interior, packed with all kinds of amenities that boost workplace productivity.
Buildout projects are an excellent chance for reimagined coworking opportunities, especially if most of your employees work from home. Tenant improvements offer versatile rebranding scopes for your brick-and-mortar store or office. With improved value added per square foot, you can make sure that your corporate four walls exude professionalism and creativity while your employees aim to break the glass ceiling!