The New 2017 BOMA Standard Methods of Measurement for Office Buildings; A Comparison with Previous Standards

Feb 05, 2018

Written by: Paul Carr, Mohagen Hansen Architecture | Interiors

This article was written in February 2018 for the 2018 Quarter One newsletter.

With the substantial amenity investments building owners have been making inside and outside their buildings in recent years to attract and maintain tenants, it makes sense that the new 2017 BOMA Measuring Standard is including some types of spaces previously unaccounted for within rentable square footages such as balconies, covered galleries and finished rooftop terraces that are for exclusive use by a tenant. These changes reflect a general sensible trend over the years in each new BOMA Standard to account for spaces within our buildings in more detailed fashion. Changes through recent BOMA Standard revisions also reflect the desire for measuring methods to be understandable and as user-friendly as possible amidst the efforts to account for more space in more specific ways.

BOMA International, along with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) published the first standard method of floor measurement in 1915. While many re-adoptions and reprints have occurred over the years, this new standard represents the sixth substantial revision to the standard – the most recent previous revision being in 2010. The new standard’s official name and title is: BOMA 2017 For Office Buildings, Standard Methods of Measurement – ANSI/BOMA Z65.1-2017. With a title like that, you know it’s gonna be good stuff!

Some of the primary purposes for the Standard of Measurement that ring true in all versions are to promote and provide consistent measurement of rentable square footage, which in turn allows for “apples to apples” comparisons between buildings, as well as providing common terms which allow clear discussion between members of a real estate transaction. Bringing those themes to a larger stage, this new 2017 revision, for the first time makes the BOMA Standard compatible with the International Property Measurement Standards (IPMS) which are relatively new, being first published in 2014. BOMA International has been a participant in and proponent for the development of the IPMS standards.

An example of the dual goals to provide a more detailed and customized account of the growing variety of spaces within today’s office buildings, and yet be user-friendly, the 2017 Standard maintains the use of two distinct measurement method options (first introduced in the 2010 Standard): Method A – Multiple Load Factor and Method B – Single Load Factor. Multiple load factors were first used in the 1996 Standard. In that standard, rentable/usable factors changed on a floor-by-floor basis, accounting for as much of the occupied and used areas within a building as possible, in an accurate and equitable manner. However, after facing some backlash related to the new complexities of using multiple r/u factors within a single building, the 2010 standard answered those who appreciated the simplicity of the single load factor standards by offering the option to use one of two methods. The Method B (Single Load Factor Method) in both the 2010 and 2017 standards however employs advancements to allow for greater accuracy than the “old” single load factor methods. Primary among these is the use of “Base Building Circulation”.

The new standard makes the point that “both Method A and Method B offer their own advantages from a building management or leasing perspective; however neither Method A nor Method B create a larger or smaller building. They simply allocate the same quantity of area differently.” Some examples of the nuances between the two methods: Both methods offer similar load factors for multi-tenant floors, but Method A will typically offer lower load factors than Method B on single-tenant floors. In Method A load factors are more likely to change than those under Method B when tenanted floors are reconfigured. As noted, these and other nuances may present particular benefits or disadvantages, though both methods will produce identical total building rentable areas when executed correctly.

Page 7 of the new standard gives a succinct list of what is specifically new in the 2017 revision:
• IPMS Compatibility • Support for Balconies, Covered Galleries, and Finishes Rooftop Terraces
• Calculations for Extended Circulation and Occupant Storage Circulation
• Inter-Building Area fully implemented
• Occupant Area now comprised of Tenant Area and Tenant Ancillary Area
• Capped Load Factor applied to individual occupants
• Interior Gross Area (IGA) renamed to Boundary Area
• Height limits for Dominant Portion and Restricted Headroom etc.
• Width limits for Unenclosed Occupant Circulation and Base-Building Circulation
• Major Vertical Penetrations at lowest level are included in Rentable Area
• Public Pedestrian Thoroughfare condition removed
• Enclosure Limit condition removed
• Floor Amenity Area removed (replaced by Inter-Building Amenity Area)
• BOMA Best Practices incorporated throughout

A quick look at Inter-Building Area (one of the changes noted above) exemplifies how the new standard is allowing for a greater level of customization while also helping to ensure tenants that they are being treated fairly in not paying for spaces in the building from which they derive no benefit. Inter-Building Area is a new designation for spaces, such as conference rooms, health and fitness centers and loading docks, that are used by a specific group of tenants. It provides standard methodology to allocate that space square footage to only those tenants using it, rather than to an entire floor or building. Inter-Building Areas can be either amenity areas or service areas. Amenity areas are non-permanent and can later be converted to tenant area if that change is desired, whereas Service areas are permanent and are generally not convertible to tenant area.

Another revised item to consider is the Capped Load Factor for an individual occupant. As recent BOMA standard updates have been accounting for more spaces within buildings more accurately, overall r/u factors have tended to bump up. As this continues to be the case, the marketability of these higher factors will also likely tick up. However, the two most recent standards have allowed for a load factor cap to be used to bring high factors down to a marketable level, while still being fully-compliant with the overall BOMA standard. This 2017 revision brings more flexibility to that concept in the option to cap an individual occupant’s load factor rather than only having the ability to apply a factor cap to an entire building universally. Though it should be obvious, it is important to note that the Capped Load Factor cannot be higher than the actual calculated load factor from either Method A or Method B.

There’s plenty to read and review in the new 2017 standard (total 105 pages compared to the first standard I ever worked with when still wet behind the ears – a version of the 1980 revision, that I believe had a total of less than 20 pages). However, these additional pages present clear graphics and good explanations of many of the scenarios the complex buildings of today present. It’s by far the most thorough standard to date.

While the number and complexity of calculations required to correctly execute a new BOMA standard survey of a building has grown, once complete, the end product provides a great deal of customization and flexibility for Owner/Manager use as well as good confidence for tenants that they are paying for accurately and fairly allocated portions of space. All that said, give the new standard a look, and call your friendly local professional to give you a hand with the calculations if need be!

Category: Industry Insights

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