Office space planning and drawings

I really didn’t anticipate the planning stages of my tenant improvements to be so lengthy and involving.  In retrospect, I should have studied up on this part some more instead of just assuming that it would be quick and easy.  Part of my inadequate preparation was because I misunderstood the difference between space planning and architectural drawings.  Yes, they are completely different.

As you know, I leased my office as a warm empty shell.  While we were in negotiations, the landlord had his architect create a floorplan based on my desired specifications.   Foolishly, I thought that the architectural drawings would only require a slight tweak from the floorplan.  How wrong I was.  Originally, I futily tried to negotiate for the landlord to pay for the architectural drawings.  If I knew how expensive they would be, I would have tried harder.  Most likely, I might have been able to share a portion of the cost.

Let’s go over the types of drawings I had made.

Space Planning

Space planning is the easiest and cheapest of the drawings.  Basically, you divide up a given space as efficiently as possible to fit your office needs.  You can reference my “Space” post to see what I did with my office.  The architect doesn’t have too many rules or restrictions to follow with this type of drawing.  I think my architect spent only few hours on mine.  I’ve heard that space planning can cost around $1 per square foot, which would be a bit over $1,500 for my office.  The landlord paid this bill, along with the cost of one revision.

Architectural Drawings

This one took my architect 40+ hours worth of work.  I guess if architecture was as easy as just space planning, it wouldn’t take 8+ years to get certified.  Using the floorplan as a starting point, my architect created multiple sets of drawings that would serve as a step by step guide for the construction crew to follow.  Pretty much, he acted as the navigator of the project.  So, with my input, he had to plan out the demolition, construction, ceiling layout, interior design, materials (cabinetry, sinks, doors, etc.), lighting, electrical outlet locations, etc.  All of these plans had to meet the city’s building code and ADA requirements, which require specific dimensions, heights, and locations for various items in the office.  In addtion to the office itself, the architect had to provide drawings for the bathrooms outside the office, the entire floor, and the entire building lot.  Since this architect had worked on other suites in my building, I would imagine that this part didn’t require much work.  All in all, the final draft took about 3 weeks to complete.  I paid $5,400 for the drawings, and another $400 for blueprint fees. Expensive huh?  But wait, there’s more!

MEP (Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing) Drawings

These plans require someone with an engineering backround.  My architect was kind enough to let me  contract with a recommended MEP firm directly, which saved me the 15% mark up he would have charged.  The MEP guys worked on creating the schematics for the electrical wiring, the HVAC system, and plumbing system.  The electrical plan was designed to prevent power surges and short circuits, since medical offices tend to have greater electrical requirements than a regular office.  Of course, all their drawings had to be according to the city’s building code as well.  These guys took about 4 or 5 weeks to finish their work.  I paid another $2,800 for their service.

My general contractor was constantly involved throughout this entire planning process.  We had a few conference calls together, for which I understood less than half of the content.  I wasn’t shy to ask questions, and everyone was kind enough to patiently explain everything to me.  All these meetings resulted in revisions that will cost me another $5,000 to my tenant improvements.  Mainly, these additional costs will go to extra sound-proofing  and more electrical outlets.  I kind of went overboard with the electrical outlets because it will be cheaper to put them in now rather than to find out a year later that I don’t have enough places to plug in my equipment.

Also, during these planning stages, I met with the architect to pick out my wall colors, carpet, and cabinet design.  With the help of my architect, I was able to find designs I liked without going over my contractor’s allowed budget.

In summary, the drawings began in mid October (architect was on vacation before that), and we ended up submitting the permit in late November.

By the way, my general contractor also did offer the architectural and MEP drawing service.  However, my landlord wanted me to use his own architect because he was more familiar with the building.  Had I used my contractor instead, it would have cost me $5,000 for architectural and $4,000 for MEP.  So, in the end, I actually ended up with a better deal because the MEP was cheaper.

4 thoughts on “Office space planning and drawings

  1. Hi,
    It’s good to follow your progress. I am going through a similar process. I’m starting my plastic surgery practice and have an office that requires a buildout. I have to pay close to $100 K for a buildout of 1500 sf office. I have been looking for an office for almost half a year and this one will be exactly as I want it. It is in a very good location, I have locked a very favorable lease rate for the next 10 years and I think it’ll be sufficient for the next 10 years of my practice. I just wonder if spending $100 K for upfit only is a good business decision for a startup practice. Any input is welcome.


    • I’ve stated that TIs are some of the most expensive part of your startup. Mine were zero because the existing space was the right size and the landlord covered the few cosmetic items (well, amortized into my lease= covered).

      You just have to think of $100k as $10k per year or $833/ month. Which compared to your total collections is a small amount to be in the right location and have the right size office. Don’t get me wrong I’d rather have $100k in my pocket, but it’s the price of doing business.

      This number is typical although on the higher end for this size office buildout.

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