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Eight Emerging Occupiers Entering the Office Scene

Stephen Silverstein, Principal and Managing Director, US Project and Construction Management, Avison Young

Eight Emerging Occupiers Entering the Office Scene

Posted: September 15, 2023 | Project Management

By Stephen Silverstein, Principal and Managing Director, US Project and Construction Management, Avison Young

Over the past few years, we have been introduced to “The Art of the Possible.” We have faced two major questions: “How can your business and portfolio become more agile to the ebbs and flows of change?” and “What does this mean for space and occupancy?” For occupiers, it means re-evaluating their space needs and implementing a unique return-to-office solution that aligns with their services, products, and employees. For landlords, it involves redefining their portfolio and asset strategy. 

One solution that is making waves is adaptive reuse. Adaptive reuse is the process of repurposing an existing building for a different use than its original design or intended purpose. It entails taking a structure that may have become obsolete or vacant and transforming it into something new and functional. In the context of office buildings, adaptive reuse can be a compelling approach, particularly in the revitalization of communities and sustainability of spaces.

The first step is understanding emerging occupiers and their space requirements. The second step is deciding if transforming the space is a judicious investment of time, money, and effort. Architects and contractors must be able to navigate this adaptive reuse decision-making process.

You will find that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. This undertaking necessitates continuous education, expert insights, and a grasp of the commercial real estate market. Understanding the potential target audience and their preferences is crucial to determine the project’s feasibility.

To facilitate your understanding, we have identified eight emerging occupier groups below.

Emerging Occupier | Space Needs
1. Institutions and Education - Various uses — Residential, operations, classrooms, lounge areas; Tech-enabled; Accessibility — central to campus, public transportation; Blank canvas — branding, artwork, and murals.
2. Life Sciences and Healthcare - Open floor plate; Air quality control; Security and access control; Techenabled; Modular features; Waste management; Clean rooms.
3. Hospitality - High-quality finishes; Functional layout; Acoustic considerations; Private and group settings; Lighting design; Sensory experiences; Tech-enabled; Energy-efficient; Accessibility.
4. Retailers - Intimate spaces; Blank canvas; Natural and accent lighting; Regular maintenance; Window displays; Secured environment.
5. Co-working organizations - Collaborative and workstation zones; Flexible environment; Techenabled; Natural lighting; Accessibility — public transportation, retail, restaurants, parking.
6. Affordable Housing - Cost-effective design; Energyefficient; Sustainable materials; Functional layout; Amenities; Accessibility — ease of access, public transportation.
7. Non-profits - Community involvement; multipurpose areas — meetings, training, events, exhibitions, private conversations; Sustainability optimization; Natural elements.
8. Logistics / Light industrial - Large and open; Flexible and scalable design; Ceiling height and clearances; Air quality control; Waste management; Proper zoning.

Adaptive reuse can benefit occupiers, landlords and the end users, offering a win-win scenario. In some cases, it helps preserve historical and architectural heritage while addressing contemporary needs and reducing environmental impacts associated with new construction. However, it also presents challenges, such as meeting building code compliance, safety standards, and retrofitting for new purposes.

Considerations for a Successful Transformation 

Building Condition and Structural Integrity - Conduct a thorough assessment of the building’s current condition and structural integrity; Determine if any major repairs or renovations are necessary to make the building suitable for the intended new use. This includes evaluating the foundation, roofing, plumbing, electrical systems, and compliance with building codes.

Market Demand and Feasibility - Research the market demand for the proposed adaptive reuse project; Assess whether there is a need and demand for the new use in the location where the building is situated. Understanding the potential target audience and their preferences is crucial to determine the project’s feasibility.

Zoning and Regulations - Investigate local zoning regulations and building codes to ensure that the intended new use is permitted in the area. Some cities may have specific guidelines for adaptive reuse projects, so it’s critical to be aware of any restrictions or requirements.

Historic and Architectural Significance - If the office building has historical or architectural significance, consider how the adaptive reuse project will preserve and enhance these features. Historic preservation guidelines may need to be followed, and any alterations should be carried out carefully to maintain the building's unique character.

Cost and Budgeting - Analyze the costs associated with the adaptive reuse project, including acquisition costs, renovation expenses, and ongoing operational costs. Create a detailed budget and ensure that the project is financially viable, taking potential revenue streams into account.

Environmental Impact - Assess the environmental impact of the project, comparing it to the potential impact of new construction. Adaptive reuse often has a smaller environmental footprint, but it’s essential to consider sustainability measures and energy-efficient upgrades during the renovation process.

Accessibility and Safety - Ensure that the building will meet modern accessibility standards for the intended use. Consider fire safety, emergency exits, and other safety requirements to comply with current building codes.

Infrastructure and Amenities - Evaluate the availability of necessary infrastructure and amenities to support the new use. Consider factors such as parking, public transportation access, utilities, and nearby facilities.

Design and Space Planning - Plan the layout and design of the adapted building to suit the needs of the new use. This may involve reconfiguring interior spaces, optimizing natural light, and creating a welcoming environment for occupants or visitors.

Community Impact - Consider the impact of the adaptive reuse project on the surrounding community. Engage with local stakeholders to gather feedback and address any concerns they may have about the proposed changes.

Project Timeline - Consider the time required for permits, design, construction, and any other relevant processes. Establish a realistic timeline for the adaptive reuse project.

In conclusion, successfully transforming an office building through adaptive reuse requires a thoughtful and well-researched approach, involving collaboration among architects, developers, local authorities, and community members. By learning more about emerging occupiers, developers can maximize the potential of existing structures while positively impacting the surrounding area. The end result is transforming a block, a community, or city with new opportunity and new life.
About Avison Young: Believing in creating a positive impact wherever they go, Avison Young — a global commercial real estate services firm — plays a vital role in creating healthy, productive workplaces for employees, cities that are centers of prosperity for its citizens, and built spaces and places that create a net benefit to the economy, the environment, and the community.

About the Author: Mr. Silverstein brings more than 25 years of corporate project management experience, heavily focused on design and construction management, to Avison Young’s team. As the lead of U.S. Project Management Services and an integral part of Avison Young’s strategy to deliver consultative, holistic offerings, Silverstein is responsible for developing and building optimal real estate solutions for office, industrial, retail and institutional clients. 

For more information, please visit or contact Stephen Silverstein.