Architect firm connects owner and tenant, then offers services to design the new tenant’s work environment.
By Deniz Ferendeci, Dyer Brown Architects
Time kills all deals, as commercial brokers and property owners know all too well. Wait too long to act, and the prospective tenant disappears. In previous economic cycles, tighter supplies of building stock gave some owners and leasing agents a bit of breathing room. Today’s markets favor lessees. In cities such as Boston, Atlanta, and Seattle, new buildings are adding to existing inventory, offering fresh options. Plus, end-users are shifting workplace strategies, reallocating uses, and even renting in what were once less-desirable locales. These new trends heap pressure on property owners to stay nimble and get creative.
Learn more about how the Dyer Brown Building Services studio functions in our interview with Deniz Ferendeci.
With these challenges, many owners now turn to design firms for on-call services. Owner-designer relationships are becoming more common, too.
At Dyer Brown, we have been operating a Building Services function as a central part of our firm since the 1980s. The Building Services studio provides owners with ongoing consultation, design services, calculations, and analysis. The team adds a broad understanding of the intricacies of leasing, new-tenant dynamics, workplace trends, and the latest commercial architecture and interiors techniques.
In this way, Building Services complements the property-management discipline. It’s all about helping owners attract, accommodate, and retain the best possible tenants. Typical services may include:
• strategic fit plans for prospective tenants
• 3D visualization and virtual-reality tools
• tenant space build-out design
• common-corridor and shared-amenity upgrades
• building area calculations
• accessibility reviews.
Add to this a dollop of well-honed creativity and branding savvy. It’s a potent mix when, for example, owners need to assess shared-space arrangements among multiple prospective tenants.
A case study
Several years ago, one of Dyer Brown’s larger Building Services clients requested a fit plan for a global social-media-analysis company seeking new Boston offices. The architects and designers calculated the best fit based on the company’s requirements — number of desks, kinds of collaboration spaces, approximate kitchen size, reception area needs — and responded with a few comparable proposals. The prospective tenant could show the program requirements to other design firms, if desired, to get apples-to-apples comparisons.
Once a tenant selects a plan, lease negotiations begin in earnest. In this case, the tenant opted to include a tenant-improvement (TI) allowance in the lease terms, rather than have the owner work with the design team to deliver finished space under a turnkey lease agreement. The deal was inked, and our main goal was realized: a successful lease transaction. But then the happy ending got better: The tenant took its TI allowance and hired Dyer Brown—the Building Services provider—to design and oversee the new office construction.
To be clear, our goal wasn’t to win a new design project. It was to get that lease signed. But, as the owner client would point out, the best on-call relationships make everyone happy.
The owner’s and tenant’s hard work paid off, too. The project team conceived a two-phase occupancy plan for the 50,000-sq.-ft. space, finishing the first floor early so the tenant’s current staff could move in sooner. The second floor was constructed after, ready in time for a planned expansion.
Connecting the two floors is a big curving slide. It’s a fast way for employees to reach their colleagues and, even more, it’s a fun and memorable design element reflecting the company’s corporate culture of creativity and play. This ideal is reinforced in the design of other office areas, which include a game room, electric fireplaces, comfy lounges, and zesty pops of brand colors.
All of these architectural enhancements make buildings (and leases) more attractive to tenant companies and their employees, who work long days and often feel their office is a kind of second home.
Deniz Ferendeci, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, is director of Building Services at Dyer Brown Architects, Boston, where he directs a team actively involved in nearly 25 million sq. ft. of office space.