BOMA Measurement Methods: Out with the Old, in with the New…

Brief History…
In 1915, the first issue of the BOMA Standard Method of Floor Measurement for Office Buildings was published.  Shortly thereafter, BOMA standards were adopted thought the industry as the national standard for floor measurement.  Over the years, amendments and revisions have been released to keep the standards current, overcome the changing needs of the real estate market and to account for the evolution of office building design. The latest revision was released in late 2017 (2017 Office Standards Methods A and B).

Key Ingredient = Measurement

Measurement is the fundamental concept in understanding the physical world.  Unified measuring systems have brought the world together. Mankind’s obsession to measure has driven us to build tools that have changed the way we understand the world around us.  As technology continues to evolve, we endure to innovate and create new forms of complex measurement. From a ruler to a tape measure to a laser disto to a laser scanner, each tool serves a unique purpose within the history of measurement to aide our unwavering determination to dimension the physical world.

One key concept that often gets overlooked within BOMA calculations is how the raw measurements of an office building were recorded.  What equipment was used? What was the knowledge/experience level of the technician in the field? Have the tools being used been calibrated and properly maintained?  What is the level of accuracy of the tool? I could go on and on but the point is there is no real “standard” to follow on the field measurement side. The way office buildings were measured in 1915 is vastly different from the way office buildings can be measured today.  Ultimately, this is the reason why a building measured by two different parties can produce drastically varying results. Accurate raw measurement values are the foundation to all BOMA studies, and without them, there is really no point in having BOMA standards to follow.

At Eco3d, we understand that inaccurate measurements are the leading cause of error in square footage calculations.  The ability to precisely measure can maximize the prevention of unknown lease losses, reduce renovations costs, cut down on disputes, and maximize lease profitability.  The purpose of this article is to convey the benefit of using laser scanning, the fastest and most accurate form of measurement, to obtain the raw measurements necessary for any particular BOMA calculation and/or standard.  When measuring an office space with a laser scanner, one could argue that you are unlocking its true value as it relates to occupied space. It’s the truth serum ensuring that a building space is not undervalued or overvalued based on actual conditions.  Knowing what the exact existing conditions are with 100% certainty is a powerful negotiation factor for all parties involved in any real estate transaction.

Hypothetical Case Studies

Imagine that two brokers are negotiating the sale of the building.  Assume one broker claims the rentable square footage is 49,500 SF and the other claims the rentable square footage is 50,000 SF.  That may not seem like a huge difference but let’s assign some values to the 500 SF discrepancy. According to BOMA, the national average cost of office space in the U.S. is $23 per square foot.  That means the difference under negotiation is $11,500. If the brokers were negotiating a ten-year lease, the difference under negotiation becomes $110,500. Imagine if this same scenario was is New York City where the average cost of office space is $72 per square foot.  When discrepancies like this go undetected in larger real estate deals, or if they are spread across large real estate portfolios, millions of dollars are easily left on the table.

It’s critical to understand that in the example outlined above, there was a mere 1% variance between rentable square footage values of the building.  What if that discrepancy jumped to 3%, 5%, or more? Consequently, staggering sums of money and astounding amounts of profitability are altogether eroded.  So how do discrepancies like this get resolved? The answer varies based on individual situations; however, many get resolved in blind negotiation. In other situations, one party may concede based on supplemental information presented by the other.  Subsequently, I would argue that, prior to the property being listed, an unbiased 3rd party should laser scan the building and calculate the rentable square footage following the BOMA Standard Method of Floor Measurement for Office Buildings. That is exactly what we are here to do at Eco3d.  Leveraging laser scanning and other technology, we can measure any space efficiently and accurately to provide the raw information necessary to solve any dispute and inform the owner/seller/brokers of what actually exists.

Additional Benefits to Laser Scanning

As stated previously, any time you’re buying, selling and/or leasing an individual space or building, it should be laser scanned by a reputable source to ensure a fair, unbiased, and accurate report for all parties involved.  The cost to laser scan a property will pay for itself in a variety of ways outside of just accurate square footage calculations. For example, please refer to the images below of a raw point cloud and the highly accurate floor plan created from the millions and millions of data points.

When Eco3d is hired to scan a building and calculate the BOMA floor measurement, we turn over the point cloud to our clients free of charge along with the AutoCAD as-built. The point cloud digitally documents the exact existing conditions of anything we see with the naked eye. The potential uses of this data set are seemingly endless in terms of use cases. It could be as simple as creating an AutoCAD reflected ceiling plan, site plan, exterior elevations, interior elevations, building sections, etc.  Alternatively, it could be as sophisticated as calculating surface areas of all interior walls, locating all flooring material changes and transition points, tracing the existing electrical finish layouts, etc. The need to revisit a site would all but be eliminated in any situation where a measurement issue needs to be resolved. The same data set could be reused to facilitate solutions for the rest of the building lifecycle. The data remains relevant, doesn’t expire, and is as accurate today as it would be in 10 years from now provided nothing drastic within the building has changed.

What if a real estate portfolio had every piece of property digitally documented in this fashion?  Imagine if every building owner had this information once construction of a property was complete. How about a broker having this information at the start of a transaction?  As you can see, the value of laser scanning goes far beyond providing the most accurate BOMA reports. That is why we believe using this technology should be the mandated standard form of measurement for any BOMA calculation.  What do you think; out with the old and in with the new?

Written by: Sean Spisak

About Eco3d

Eco3d is the largest digital as-built service provider in North America, serving clients in the architecture, engineering and construction industry. We provide accurate data capture and 2D/3D digital representations of all project types, including hospitality, office, retail, healthcare, entertainment, industrial, public assembly and the arts, forensics and high purity.


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