Landlord-ing 101: CAD Files

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CAD stands for Computer Aided Design. In the context of commercial real estate, CAD files are essentially digital blueprints/drawings/schematics that allow architects to more easily manipulate and design buildings/spaces. Because CAD files come in both 2D and 3D formats they can be used to create simple floor plans to in-depth, walkthroughs of imaginary spaces. Previously, architects/engineers were forced to use paper drawings which were not easily modified, shared, or understood. Basically, CAD files make life easier for everyone involved in the space planning, design, and construction process.

The importance of CAD files cannot be understated, but it can be measured based on asset type. The owner of a single office condo may not “need” CAD files depending on how they choose to manage their asset; meaning whether or not they choose to obtain permits for any alterations (whether they’re required or not). If owners/landlords opt to perform any work without the required permits they are at risk of potential ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), fire/life safety, etc. violations and in addition to fines may be required to remove the alterations without compensation.

On the other end of the spectrum, for landlords with multi-story, multi-tenant office buildings, CAD files are an absolute must. In order to appeal to the greatest number of potential tenants, landlords must offer the greatest number of square footage options. There are a number of code requirements that govern how spaces can be demised, but one of the most important is ingress/egress requirements. This is specifically related to fire safety and refers to the maximum allowable distance to an exit. By using CAD files, architects can easily measure distances from anywhere on the floor to the nearest available exit and thus create a “blocking” plan which shows how the floor can be divided into individual, smaller suites.

Even if a floor is not multi-tenanted, CAD files allow architects to easily and quickly create “test-fit” plans, which represent their interpretation of the tenant’s desired floor plan/layout. If the initial plan is rejected by the tenant the architect can simply modify the existing plan until they create one that works. Because CAD files have dimensions they can also be used by the tenant’s furniture provider to digitally furnish the office with accuracy. Tenant’s can see exactly what their space will look like furnished before the space is even built and furniture ordered. They can even add digital employees.

Despite their importance, some buildings/spaces do not have CAD files or, for whatever reason, they’re unavailable to a new owner. In this case, one of the first orders of business should be to have CAD files created for the entire building. Time kills all deals and if a prospective tenant is considering multiple spaces the time required to have CAD files created, after the fact, and a test-fit performed could be the factor that causes the landlord to lose the deal. Furthermore, when marketing a property it is in the landlord’s interest to be able to present the most (code compliant) options possible. CAD files are absolutely necessary if landlords want to effectively market and lease their space. They provide owners with the information they need to estimate the cost of tenant improvements, which in many cases is the driving economic force behind the deal.

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