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Six Cost-Effective Office Building Upgrades

Posted by Brian Lantzy on October 7, 2019
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Photo of office spaceA large percentage of Colorado’s Front Range office buildings were constructed in the 1970s and 80s. Commercial landlords of these older, mid-size properties inevitably face a challenge with aging assets — how best to spend improvement dollars to strike the elusive balance between short-term aesthetic impact and long-term financial results. It’s often a decision between lightening their pocketbooks now in hopes of healthier rent rolls going forward. Thoughtful and cost-effective office building upgrades can go a long way toward increasing your property’s aesthetic appeal to potential and current tenants, as well as brokers. Here are six tips that won’t break the bank.


1: Replace or Consolidate Ceiling Tiles

Brokers are notorious for looking up at the ceiling immediately upon entering an office suite. Brokers use the grid as a ballpark measuring tool, knowing that the grid is virtually always 2’ x 2’ or 2’ x 4’.

Beyond dimensions, the ceiling tiles reveal many things: first, it speaks to building class: generally, a 2’ x 2’ grid pattern is more modern and has a cleaner feel than a 2’x 4’ grid. Designs with heavy textures hold dirt and look out-of-date, while smoother-textures look newer and cleaner. For these reasons, landlords may consider replacing older tiles with newer ones.

If it’s not economically feasible to replace all the tiles, then follow these minimum suggestions: Group all tiles together by texture; if there are different styles, put all of one kind in one office and use another style in another office. Replace stained and damaged tiles as a matter of course. You can also opt to repaint in place rather than replace.

2: Update Lighting

Most owners are aware that there are compelling reasons to consider new lighting, specifically LED. Rebates and incentives are available to help defray their up-front costs. LEDs reduce energy costs, and therefore triple-net costs to the tenant. New lighting can also make a huge impact on the appearance of the building’s interior.

If replacing lights is not an option, there are some cheaper alternatives to consider: Replace flat-panel lenses with egg-crate parabolics and replace faded flat panels with new ones. Finally, ensure that all light bulbs are the same color temperature for aesthetic and functional consistency.

3: Refresh with New Paint

Some landlords are reluctant to paint a vacant suite for fear that tenants will want to choose their own color or change the suite configuration. This risk is a poor showing due to dirty, dated or patched ugly walls. A fresh coat of paint in the common areas or in the suite itself can make a huge visual difference to prospective tenants at a marginal cost.

Keep these painting tips in mind:

  • Whatever you do, do not paint over wallpaper. Remove any wallpaper, skim and sand smooth before painting.
  • Painting with two contrasting colors can bring tired walls to life. Ask your paint store representative for color suggestions.
  • If a full office-suite repaint is not in the cards, consider repainting just the suite entrance.

4: Replace Broken Window Coverings

Window coverings can be another low-cost aspect to consider. It’s imperative that your windows and coverings appear clean, consistent and attractive. Replace broken or incongruous window coverings. When conducting property tours, open shades to the same degree and make sure all pull-cords neatly fall straight down.

5: Review Entry Door & Signage

A newly finished suite entry door makes a very strong first impression. A battered and damaged door from years of use gives a message of neglect. At the very least, clean the door, if you cannot not paint or stain it.

Repair any damage to the door’s entry-hardware, latch-striker and molding; there are inexpensive cover plates available for this purpose, which will make a noticeable difference.

Lastly, suite identification signs should be clean and free of the former tenant’s information and ready to accept new lettering.

6: Maintain Overall Cleanliness

A building’s exterior, landscaping, and common areas are the first things prospective tenants see, so it’s imperative to keep them clean.

  • Remove all trash, weeds, and exposed landscape cloth from around your building
  • Ensure that common areas are regularly cleaned, dusted and tidied
  • Clean common-area carpets regularly to extend the life and show the building in its best light
  • Consider branded entry mats with the building’s name or logo to greet visitors, as well as to help reduce tracked-in dirt.
  • Change lobby floor coverings every five years to stay abreast of current styles

The costs to implement these simple office building upgrades are minimal compared to lost rents due from vacancy and an overall negative perception.

A Little Goes A Long Way

Not every landlord has the financial ability to bring their office building up to modern-day standards. Sometimes the return on investment of a full-building rehabilitation may not justify the investment. However, thoughtful and low-cost cosmetic upgrades can go a long way toward reducing vacancy by increasing your office building’s appeal to potential and current tenants.


Brian LantzyBrian Lantzy is the Vice President of Operations at Wheelhouse Commercial in Denver, Colorado. For more information about how Wheelhouse Commercial can help manage your properties, please call 303.518.7406 or email

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