What is the product?
This will vary upon location, but generally, the expectations on base build offices are shifting. Emphasis on wellbeing, the desire for natural light and greater flexibility means more is demanded of space, and the amenity built into buildings is more varied and demanding on the base build. More volume per user is desirable, so higher ceilings, or exposed services with the structural soffit being the perceived ceiling rather than a suspended ceiling has been the recent trend. As an aside, we have recently been asked to design a scheme for a new build business park in the Thames Valley with exposed servicing and structural elements, where design precedents referenced by the Letting Agents were retrofit schemes. The qualities of space more usually found in retrofit are now making their way into new build schemes, and the line between the two are blurring.
When is the optimum time to come to market?
This is obviously very project specific, but there could be advantages to bringing an office building to market at a certain point in time. Depending on the level of retrofit and intervention, there are often significant programme advantages to reusing and adapting the existing structure, which might allow the building to be brought earlier to market, reducing costs and getting quicker returns for the developer.
How far can the existing envelope be extended given planning restrictions?
If there is only the opportunity to add limited additional volume, it is more likely that the existing structure will be able to support this.
If working on an existing building that would not be approved under planning regulations, there may be value in significant strengthening and adaptation works to retain this rather than knocking down and rebuilding a smaller volume.
What is the existing floor-to-floor height?
As above, natural light and an emphasis on volume means that a low floor to ceiling/soffit height is likely to have a detrimental effect on the value or even the ability to let the space. Generally, buildings built from the late 1980s onwards tend to have more contemporary floor-to-floor heights that can accommodate higher ceilings.