In today's tight economic environment, the practice of staging properties for sale and lease is increasing in popularity. If you think your building might need to make a better first impression, consider staging as an economical way to highlight its full potential.
Paula Green, vice president of national accounts at Fairfax, VA-based CORT, elaborates on staging, and how building owners and facility managers can take advantage of this trend.
Buildings: What is staging, and why is it increasingly popular in commercial office buildings?
Green: Staging is the act of making a property more attractive and appealing to highlight its best features, giving prospective buyers or tenants a positive first impression. These are the same fundamental benefits that have driven the home-staging industry to enormous success.
Buildings: What are the benefits of staging a property?
Green: In addition to cementing a positive first impression, staging also helps a buyer/renter envision him or herself in the space. An available space is often one big open area, possibly with private executive offices. Staging takes this space from merely an open, sterile area to a functional and productive work space that comes to life for a prospective buyer or tenant. Properties that are staged tend to stay on the market for shorter periods of time, and will often be sold or leased at a higher price than un-staged properties.
Buildings: What types of commercial spaces can be staged?
Green: In commercial buildings, office space can be staged in established buildings and newly erected buildings. [You can] stage lobbies and reception areas, cubicle configurations and other workspaces, conference rooms, and executive offices. We have also staged some mixed-use spaces, where the property owners sought to sell or lease residential and commercial units within the same building. Staging also occurs in swing spaces for companies or employees who are working from a transitional office.
Buildings: What are the typical steps in the staging process?
Green: The process begins with an assessment of the property to specifically highlight certain features or downplay others, and develop a vision for how the staged space should look. Consider the importance of lighting to showcase a workspace as efficient, practical, and functional. How should the space be configured for optimum workflow? The next move is to take the necessary steps to achieve this vision: cleaning, arranging existing furniture and items, and renting furniture to finish the space.
Buildings: Why should our readers consider staging their properties for prospective tenants?
Green: Vacancy rates are now increasing in large metropolitan areas throughout the United States. According to New York City-based Reis Inc., a real estate research firm, office-property rents nationwide were flat in the third quarter, marking the worst performance since 2004. In this environment, it's critical that property owners and managers take the extra steps necessary for their property to stand out in a sea of vacant space. The impact of a positive first impression should not be underestimated, and a prospective buyer or tenant who remembers a potential office space as a productive and inviting work environment is much more likely to make his/her final decision to lease or purchase that space.
An online, five-step checklist designed to help property managers implement environmentally friendly pest-control practices in their buildings has been published by Atlanta-based Orkin Commercial Services and the Washington, D.C.-based Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) Intl.
"Traditionally, pest control has not been thought of as a green practice," says Ron Harrison, director of training at Orkin. "We're trying to help people realize that there's a more environmentally sound way to prevent and treat pest problems, and that pest control can support their broader green-building initiatives if it's done right."
The checklist guides property managers through the process of implementing Integrated Pest Management (IPM) - an environmentally conscious approach that combines a number of prevention and control methods (with chemical treatments typically a last resort) - into their existing facility maintenance plans. Doing so can also help earn credits toward green-building certification.
"Going green with pest control can make buildings cleaner and healthier places for people to live, work, and play," says Brenna S. Walraven, chairman and chief elected officer at BOMA Intl.
Architecture Billings Index Falls
The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) dropped more than 6 points recently, after 3 months of signs of greater stability in design activity. A leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI shows roughly a 9- to 12-month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending. The Washington, D.C.-based American Institute of Architects (AIA) also reports that this was the first time in 2008 the institutional sector had fallen below 50 in ABI ratings.
"With all of the anxiety and uncertainty in the credit market, the conditions are likely to get worse before they get better," says Kermit Baker, chief economist at the AIA. "Many architects are reporting that clients are delaying or canceling projects as a result of problems with project financing."
Westbrook Elementary School Opens
Westbrook Elementary School, a new, 2-story educational facility for Orange County Public Schools in Ocoee, FL, opened its doors in September 2008. Completed by Orlando, FL-based Construct Two Group, the school boasts the latest in technology and security. The $15 million facility features a CCTV production room, synchronized fire and alarm systems, and water curtains (fire protection) for each window.
The building is 97,000 square feet and includes a media center, art and music rooms, outdoor activity areas, and basketball courts, in addition to regular classrooms, administrative areas, and a cafeteria. The school, designed by Schenkel Schultz Architects of Orlando, FL, was completed in 11 months.
Recycle Your Rechargeable Batteries
A simple way to make a facility greener is to recycle the used rechargeable batteries that power many of today's mission-critical tools. The Atlanta-based Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corp.'s (RBRC) free Call2Recycle™ program is a great way for facility managers to demonstrate their commitment to conserving the environment by preventing rechargeable batteries from entering the solid waste stream.
You incur no cost to participate in the program - everything, from enrollment to the collection containers, freight, processing, and actual recycling, is free. By dropping off used rechargeable batteries and cell phones in your building's Call2Recycle collection boxes, you can do your part to make your buildings more eco-friendly. For more information on the program, visit www.call2recycle.org.
Good Management Skills Can Help Troubled Properties
"With more and more distressed commercial real estate assets expected to come on stream as a result of serious liquidity and other problems, the need for superior real estate management, marketing, and leasing skills - and a proven record of performance - will become increasingly and acutely apparent," says Pamela W. Monroe, president at the Chicago-based Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM).
To help the commercial real estate market deal with this shift, IREM has identified experts in each property sector who can serve as information resources, addressing issues about distressed properties for the industry at large.
Report Available on Net-Zero Energy Research Agenda
A major statement on green-building technology, Federal R&D Agenda for Net-Zero Energy, High-Performance Green Buildings was recently produced by the National Science & Technology Council (NSTC). The report sets out a broad agenda for research and development on technologies to decrease the use of natural resources and improve indoor environments while reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and other harmful pollutants from the building sector.
The report draws on the recommendations of 16 executive branch agencies, along with the Architect of the Capitol and the Smithsonian Institution. The Washington, D.C.-based National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) also played a key role in developing the report's goals for measurement science methods, energy-efficiency technologies, indoor environmental quality, and knowledge transfer.
Major goals outlined in the report include developing technologies, tools, and practices that could significantly reduce the use of energy, water, and other natural resources. Promoting environmentally friendly products and practices, and reducing building material waste while meeting building performance design standards, were also goals. Enhancing federal R&D that could enable more efficient, higher-performance buildings, the report responds to provisions in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.