How is Office Space Measured?

Now more than ever, every square foot of office space counts

blueprint floor measurement

As you search for your next office space, you want to make sure that there is enough room for your team, especially in light of new social distancing recommendations. Available office listings typically include square footage – on Truss all office listings include square footage. But is this measurement an accurate depiction of the space?

The answer is kind of. If every office were a perfect rectangle with nothing obstructing the occupied area, measuring them would be straightforward. But most office spaces don’t fit this description. They may have columns, utility shafts and common areas shared with other businesses. Measurements may include all of these features, and others like amenities, rooftop, and lobbies.

There are standards for measuring office space that commercial real estate (CRE) professionals follow. Below, we explore these standards and share what it means for your office search.

Measuring Standards Have Existed for Years

A brief history lesson - before there were space-measuring standards, there was a lot of confusion. How could businesses know that one building was using the same measuring standards as others? And how could those buildings even measure their offices in the first place? Luckily, by the early 20th century, solutions came into play.

BOMA as an Office Measurement Solution

Founded in 1907, the Building Owners and Managers Association, known as BOMA, published Standard Method of Measurement in 1915. They remain the authority on space measurement to this day, regularly updating standards to fit with the ever-changing nature of real estate. Most recently BOMA added rooftops to their list of included measurements.

Buildings are not required to follow these standards, but if they don’t, it becomes difficult to gauge the size of a space. When we say the size of a space, what we’re referring to is usable vs. rentable square feet.

Usable vs. Rentable Square Feet

Usable square feet refers to the literal size of an office. It encompasses the space between the walls of the office and excludes unusable fixtures such as columns or recessed doors.

Rentable square feet takes the usable square feet and adds in a proportional amount of square feet from common areas in the building, such as elevator lobbies, restrooms, mechanical closets, lobby area, and amenities such as gyms and tenant lounges. All real estate listings show rentable square feet, as that is the square footage you pay rent on. Each building has its own load factor. Load factor is defined as a percentage of the building common area that is added to an office’s usable square feet. In other words, it is rentable square feet divided by usable square feet.

For example, there may be two offices that have 15,000 usable square feet, but building A is 18,000 rentable square feet and building B is 16,000 rentable square feet.  This means building A has a 20% load factor and building B has a 6.6% load factor. Despite having the same usable square feet building A is more expensive.

Why Usable and Rentable Square Feet Matter

Usable and rentable square feet each have their place in office leasing. Rentable square footage dictates how much you will pay in rent. Usable square footage denotes the actual size of your potential office. When calculating space needs for social distancing, you'll want to ensure that the usable square feet of a potential office meets your needs.

Don't worry if this seems overwhelming. Your broker is here to help! They can ensure that a building is following BOMA standards for measurement so that you can compare spaces properly. Whether you visit a space in-person or virtually, your broker help you understand how much usable square feet each space has. If you plan to lease a large amount of space, they may even be able to negotiate a better deal for rentable square feet.

Ready to find the perfect space for your team? Our local brokers can help you navigate all things leasing, including office space measurements, and get you the best deal. Get started with Truss today.