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When relocating an office, two heads are better than one.

Locating the ideal space for a client during a relocation can often seem like looking for a needle in a haystack. But when you're armed with the specifics of what to look for - required floor to floor heights, number of windows, ratio of perimeter to interior space, etc. - the search for space can be incredibly focused, making a broker's job much easier.

For a broker, searching for the ideal space to house a client's abstract vision can be terribly frustrating. As an architect, I've witnessed the intricacies, and at times, uniqueness, of a client's specifications for a new office, which even for a design professional can at times be difficult to picture. That is why collaborating our expertise on behalf of the client is the optimal way to go. As a team, the architect and broker can use their respective talents and resources to locate the perfect space to suit a specific office plan and design.

During the infant stage of a relocation, the architect assists the broker in quantifying the design requirements, taking into consideration the specific needs of the client. This process, called "programming," begins with generating information about the company, its current space and its desired space needs. At Gerner Kronick + Valcarcel Architects, (GKV), 'programming' helps us to define the overall purpose or direction of a new space, with the greater objective of establishing how the office will function.

In addition to determining the requirements and function of the new space at this stage, we also begin to consider the design. We ask clients questions such as: "What do you want your new office to say to clients and competitors?" This establishes the message, or image, for the new office which will prevail during the space search and creation of an office layout.

There are several steps involved in 'programming,' briefly explained as follows:

Step #1: Outline a Program. In order to locate the ideal location, it is imperative that a broker knows the square footage required before the space search. At this stage of the process, an architect tabulates the total number of employees, and working with management, projects for expansion or contraction. By assigning an office or workstation "standards' to each employee and allocating areas for special and support spaces, the architect assesses the sq. ft. needed per person to get an overall space requirement.

Step #2: Detail Program. Delving deeper into the issue of space requirements, the architect documents all existing conditions, projects future growth and surveys special space conditions. The survey of special spaces is case-specific, devoted entirely to the exact physical needs of a client. For example, dependent on the client's business, special spaces may be needed for computer or video rooms, training rooms, conferencing centers or even dining spaces.

Step #3: Establish Budget Parameters and Schedule. By meeting with management, we determine the desired budget, which defines the guidelines for all parties involved, from the engineer to the painter. At this point, it is also best to set a schedule, and time line for the entire process from start to finish.

Recently, when GKV programmed the space needs for JTB, the Japan Travel Bureau, a travel agency devoted to tours of Japan and Japanese tourism in America, we had to pay special attention to the company's layout requirements. We focused on open areas to accommodate for open plan stations, allowing for employees to maintain visual contact and management to oversee departments. In this way, the search was narrowed, and the ideal space was eventually found in Midtown.

After completing the first step, an architect is able to quantify the findings into the square footage needed in the new space. Once we've defined the amount of "assignable" space allotted per person, and for each special space, the figure is multiplied by a factor to include internal circulation and a planning factor. This total, also known as "carpetable space," becomes the actual square footage needed to accommodate every person, place and need in the new office. Armed with such a precise number, the broker is then fully-prepared to start the search.

After completing the "programming" stage, and often following the completion of the first step, the broker identifies potential sites using our data as a guide. Once several sites are selected, the architect becomes involved again, visiting potential sites to assess whether each site meets the specific spatial requirements. In particular, we make sure that according to the specific space needs of each individual, the new office would be able to accommodate staff with the necessary adjacencies, or more precisely, according to the "work flow analysis."

When we review a site, we conduct test layouts to see how specific spaces and situations will fit. More importantly, we test how the space will support the function of the company. During this process, we evaluate the building's systems and compare them to the clients' specific requirements. If a space shows promise, we recommend the client consult an engineer to carry out a more detailed analysis of the building services.

Eventually, the ideal space is identified and the negotiations to draw up the lease begin. This is the last, although equally important part of our job as architects during the pre-design. We always review the work letter and lease to make certain that all specific technical requirements are negotiated prior to signing. And finally, the architect is called on to do what he does best: design the perfect space that captures the desired image, and accommodate all requirements of the clients.
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Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Focus on Construction & Building Services
Author:Valcarcel, Miguel
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Aug 21, 1996
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