Prebuilt office space gains in status

“It used to be when a landlord couldn’t lease the little pockets of leftover space, they’d do a prebuild to try and move them,” said Joseph Brancato, a managing principal at Gensler, an architecture firm that often does prebuilt design work. “You’d put down a basic carpet and drywall and paint the walls, and the upgrade would be a wood door.”

These days, however, prebuilds are becoming far more sophisticated.  They are a crucial part of a building’s sales strategy, and the quality is often good enough to attract high-end firms in finance, law, communications and consulting, among many other fields.

Small companies that don’t have the time, the inclination or the cash to go through the construction process can sign a lease and move right in.

“The start-ups don’t want to wait around for space,” said William C.  Rudin, the vice chairman and chief executive of the Rudin Management Co., which has gut-renovated and prebuilt 120,000 square feet of space in the past year. “They’ve got the money and want to get started on their business plan.”

Though prebuilt design is not aiming for the avant-garde, the offices are looking sharper and more luxe than ever. Reception areas are full of glass, wood, granite and marble, and the pantries even in small offices are often set up with stainless-steel appliances, specialty finishes and coffee bars.

Ceiling heights are raised when possible, and window treatments are getting softer and more minimal.

“Landlords are much more attentive to good, unique design versus the typical prebuilds of five to 10 years ago,” said Scott Spector, an architect and a principal of Spector Group, which has worked with many companies on prebuilds.

These offices, he added, “have been fully engineered to the hilt.” Some prebuilds are focusing on sustainability, too. The Rudin Management Co., for example, uses recycled drywall, ceiling tiles and carpeting; bamboo cabinets; and PaperStone countertops, which are made of recycled paper.

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