Built to Suit — What Is It and Why Are Businesses Taking a Good Look at It?

The days of the dull, generic, all-purpose workspace are fading away. For many commercial property owners, adaptive spaces have quickly become the more desirable and profitable option. Gensler’s Design Forecast 2024 states1, “We must design spaces that are agile enough to endure future challenges and flexible enough to rapidly evolve with the changing demands of the workforce.” 

The most successful office spaces increase productivity and job satisfaction by including the amenities that resonate most with in-person and remote workers. As the workspace model evolves, the AEC (Architectural, Engineering, and Construction) industry must focus on creating work destinations promoting employee connectivity, collaboration, and well-being. To meet these new demands, the traditional TI (Tenant Improvement) project can’t provide the agility and flexibility of the BTS (Built to Suit) option. 

What is Built to Suit?

Like a Purpose-Built project, a build-to-suit property is highly customized for the tenant’s needs and future growth. This customization can include specialized labs, clean rooms, scalable infrastructure systems, or any other feature essential to the company’s brand, values, and culture. The key difference lies with property ownership. The organization typically owns purpose-built properties, whereas, with a BTS project, the tenant typically leases the BTS space for 10 years or longer. Leasing can provide significant capital and tax advantages for the tenant compared to building ownership and maintenance costs.

Why Is Built to Suit (BTS) Important for Thriving Commercial Properties?

BTS helps a business maximize efficiency, as required work areas, specialized product display areas, and community interaction opportunities are included in the building design process.  These designs create an enhanced experience that fully engages employees, customers, and the community in pursuing a common bond and shared priorities such as sustainability and the four fundamental principles of a circular economy. 

  • Design for Disassembly – Buildings should be designed so that their components can be easily disassembled, reused, reconfigured, or recycled at the end of their life cycle. This reduces waste, conserves resources and energy, and encourages a more circular approach to the use of construction materials.
  • Material Reuse – Using reclaimed or recycled materials in construction helps minimize potential resource depletion, waste in landfills, and CO2 emissions. Reuse can include salvaged materials from demolition sites or repurposing materials from other industries.
  • Longevity and Durability – Designing durable and long-lasting buildings reduces the need for frequent renovations, replacements, and maintenance costs, decreasing resource consumption and waste generation over time.
  • Adaptability and Flexibility – Become critical design considerations since workspaces will continue to evolve and adapt as companies add new technologies to their workflows. As a result, data and electrical cabling systems must be easily accessible for changing business needs.

Because BTS projects are designed to adapt for future growth, their infrastructure systems must be highly flexible and easily reconfigured. Access flooring systems can provide this adaptability by relocating the data and power infrastructure from the walls and ceilings to a more accessible space underfoot. Access flooring systems, like the Gridd® Adaptive Cabling System, create a space (less than 3”) between the concrete floor and the modular floor finish that makes cable changes, upgrades, or a complete rewiring quick and easy.

Wow Factor to Attract Community

According to the report, Gensler predicts that these BTS buildings and campuses will outperform more generic real estate designs because they demonstrate a dedication to their core values across the company, shareholders, and the market. Peter Weingarten, Gensler Build to Suit and Headquarters leader suggests to company owners, “Build the headquarters that builds your company. Investment in a built-to-suit project gives you the power to fully curate your physical environment to nurture your culture, attract and inspire your employees, and drive growth and innovation for a sustained future.”

  • Companies with established headquarters can reevaluate their space needs and test different hybrid work arrangements and spaces through on-site pilot projects. 
  • Testing different concepts, such as adjusting floor plans and program elements, can help cultivate agility for the future and define workspaces for other company locations. 
  • As the future of work continues to change and evolve, pilot projects can showcase the company headquarters as an agile testing ground for improving its products, services, and customer service.

Company data and power infrastructure systems must provide the freedom and flexibility to adjust and evolve as these concepts are developed, tested, and potentially brought online. The only certainty is that new technologies such as AI (Artificial Intelligence), AR (Augmented Reality), and BMS (Building Management Systems) will require more power and data bandwidth than traditional cabling infrastructure can provide.

Measuring the Success of BTS Projects

Gensler suggests that measuring the success of these projects should focus on three key indicators.

  • Organizational Benefits
  • Individual Benefits
  • Team Benefits

The following charts show the percentage of survey respondents who indicated that working in a positive or very positive office impacts the three KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) above when comparing high- and low-performance workplaces.

For Organizations

BenefitHigh PerformanceLow Performance
Quality of Work/Services94%47%
Decision-Making Speed92%43%

For Individuals

BenefitHigh PerformanceLow Performance
Personal Productivity94%45%
Intel Awareness92%48%
Job Satisfaction93%39%
Career Advancement92%38%
Work/Life Balance91%33%
Personal Health/Well-Being91%33%

For Teams

BenefitHigh PerformanceLow Performance
Sense of Inclusion93%49%
Relationships with Colleagues93%57%
Connection to Mission/Purpose93%41%
Team Productivity93%48%

Based on this survey, the BTS option allows companies to design, test, and adjust different workspaces to increase employee attraction, retention, and productivity. These measures directly impact the company and its employees. However, consumers are rewarded with improved products and services, while communities benefit from increased jobs and spending.

Flexible Strategies for Quicker Customized Workspace

Companies will continue prioritizing sustainability and decarbonization efforts as they design and create these highly adaptable BTS buildings. As a result, architects must incorporate flexibility into the infrastructure systems that not only answer today’s business challenges but can quickly adapt to changing needs, as raised access flooring systems can. Commercial properties that can provide customization, flexibility, and adaptability will easily outperform buildings with rigid designs and infrastructure components from the 20th century.

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