The "Standard Method for Measuring Floor Area in Office Buildings" is published by BOMA International (The Building Owners and Managers Association) and approved by ANSI (American National Standards Institute). The Standard is used by building owners, facility managers, leasing professionals, tenants, appraisers, architects, planners, and building measurement professionals to compute floor area in office buildings using an agreed-upon, standard method of measurement.
BOMA International first developed the standard in 1915. Since then, it has undergone several revisions. The most recent major revisions are from 1996, 2010 and 2017. BOMA 1980 (ANSI/BOMA Z65.1-1980) is also still used in some marketplaces; primarily in ultra-competitive, downtown core markets where landlords are reluctant to move to the modern standards which produce higher load factors. BOMA 1996 (ANSI/BOMA Z65.1-1996) and BOMA 2010 (ANSI/BOMA Z65.1-2010) are both in wide use today, especially in North America. BOMA 2017 (ANSI/BOMA Z65.1-2017) was published in October 2017 and is expected to quickly dominate new and renewed leases in the office market.
There is a common misperception that BOMA 1989 is a distinct standard unto itself, however this is not the case. In 1989, BOMA republished the BOMA 1980 Standard to include a French translation and a supplementary question and answer document called "Answers to 20 Questions Frequently Asked about the BOMA Standard Method of Floor Measurement." The text is otherwise identical to the previous publication.
Building Common Area is the key feature that distinguishes BOMA 1996 from BOMA 1980. In determining rentable areas, BOMA 1980 employs floor common area only. While straightforward, there are important limitations to consider when using BOMA 1980. For example, tenants residing on floors with large portions of common area are penalized by large gross-up factors. This problem is particularly evident on ground floors, where lobby areas and other building amenities are considered floor common area and therefore allocated to ground floor tenants exclusively. This generally results in exorbitant gross-up factors when compared to "typical" building floors. It is also important to note that BOMA 1980 makes no provisions for floors that do not have tenant areas such as mechanical floors. As a result, BOMA 1980 does not recover rent for such floors at all.
BOMA 1996 employs floor common area (like BOMA 1980) and additionally, building common area. Building common area is comprised of building lobbies, mechanical penthouses and other building amenities. These areas are proportionately shared by all of the tenants in the building resulting in a more equitable distribution of common area in general. The inclusion of non-tenanted floors (such as mechanical floors) and its allocation of building common area generally results in larger total rentable areas and improved recovery of operating costs when compared to BOMA 1980. It should be noted that an entire building must be measured in order to perform BOMA 1996 rentable area calculations, whereas BOMA 1980 could be measured on a floor-by-floor basis.
BOMA 2010 is similar to BOMA 1996 but there are some key differences. For example, in BOMA 1996, building common area is allocated a proportionate share of floor common area, just like a tenant area. Therefore, a corridor (allocated as floor common area), which leads to tenant spaces and building common spaces is proportionately allocated to both, since it provides access to both. In BOMA 2010 however, building common area is divided between building amenity area and building service area. Building amenity area is included in the proportionate allocation of floor common area along with tenant areas (like building common area in BOMA 1996), but building service area is not. This is designed to help prevent rentable areas from fluctuating in the building when floor common areas change.
In BOMA 1996, occupant storage was included in the rentable area of a building. In BOMA 2010, occupant storage that is not suitable for human occupancy (such as below grade storage) is measured and disclosed but omitted from rentable area. Therefore, the total building rentable area under BOMA 2010 is often lower than BOMA 1996. BOMA 2010 also allows landlords to apply a capped load factor to occupants on a floor-by-floor basis. Landlords were already doing this in BOMA 1996, but the practice was not endorsed by BOMA. This resulted in many “Modified BOMA” area studies which was not good for the standard. This issue was mostly resolved by officially allowing capped load factors in BOMA 2010.
Finally, BOMA 2010 is generally a more fair, precise and flexible standard in its allocation of common areas and the document itself is much more detailed than any BOMA office standard before it, which helps greatly with consistency when applying it.
The BOMA 2017 Office Standard was released in October 2017 and represents a significant leap forward for the standard. Several of the changes focus on the formatting of the document itself, which is designed to be easily digested. One of the goals was to make this standard more approachable to owners, property managers and brokers who might not need to apply the standard, but do need to understand it on a cursory level. The changes made with the general organization, copy and illustrations lends itself well to achieving this goal. However, the document remains primarily a technical manual, focused on how to apply the office standard accurately, consistently and objectively.
BOMA 2017 removes the Public Pedestrian Thoroughfare Boundary Condition. In previous versions of the standard, ground floor tenants with street frontage were measured to the outer surface of exterior walls, rather than the inside finished surface. The removal of this condition results in slightly reduced rentable areas, but this was a confusing nuance of the standard and BOMA decided for overall consistency, that all tenant spaces should be measured the same.
Major Vertical Penetrations are no longer excluded from rentable area at their lowest level in 2017. Previously, this rule was already applied to vertical service areas, such as pipe and mechanical shafts, but not to vertical circulation areas, such as stairwells and elevator shafts. It was confusing to apply two different rules to Major Vertical Penetrations. This change results in higher rentable areas but there is now one cohesive rule that respects one of the most basic principles of the standard - that floor space is rentable area and openings in the floor are not.
BOMA 2017 also finally includes an official methodology of calculating amenity and service areas that are in use by specific groups of occupants, rather than simply allocating such spaces to an entire floor or to the entire building. BOMA calls this Inter-Building Area and it really allows for a great level of customization to the standard. It helps to ensure that Tenants will not pay for space in the building that they do not derive a benefit from and it can also be applied across buildings in an office complex. This doesn’t have any impact on the total rentable area of a building, but it does distribute proportionately allocated areas more fairly.
Another key change made was to allow capped load factors to be applied on an occupant-by-occupant basis rather than a floor-by-floor basis. This will go a long way in helping landlords and tenants negotiate leases appropriate to the market at any given time, while still adhering to the standard.
Finally, the BOMA Office Standard is now compatible with the International Property Measurement Standards or IPMS. IPMS is an international committee developing a full suite of measurement standards focused on producing a consistent measurement methodology for building valuations across international markets. BOMA’s direct compatibility with IPMS will enhance its usefulness and further position BOMA as the de-facto standard to use internationally.
Making the standard compatible with IPMS had its complications, but there is a certain synergy to its timing. In particular, it really made BOMA reevaluate unenclosed exterior areas and consider the real world changes occurring in the industry. In today’s market, owners and tenants are demanding that their buildings include well-appointed exterior amenities where occupants can work or refresh in a finished outdoor environment. The standard needed to adapt to these changes in the marketplace and so the standard will allow balconies, covered galleries and rooftop patios to be included as rentable area in certain conditions.
Extreme Measures is the editor and illustrator of the BOMA 2017 Office Standard.
The BOMA 1980 office standard is still used in some markets for determining usable and rentable areas in commercial office buildings. The BOMA 1980 Standard measures buildings on a floor-by-floor basis. It can be a simple and effective approach for measuring the Usable and Rentable Area of a single typical floor and its occupying tenants. Unfortunately, BOMA 1980 can be over-simplistic in its allocation of common area. This can result in punishing gross-up factors for floors with large portions of common area (usually ground floors and basements). The BOMA Z65.1-1980 Standard is no longer ANSI approved or supported by BOMA.
The BOMA 1996 office standard is still widely used in commercial office buildings today. The BOMA 1996 Standard measures buildings on a building-wide basis. It introduces the concept of Building Common Area (areas common to all of the tenants in a building). Due to the inclusion of Building Common Area, a building measured according to BOMA 1996 almost always yields higher Rentable Areas than the same building measured according to BOMA 1980.
The BOMA 2010 office is very popular in real estate markets throughout North America and around the world. Like the BOMA 1996 Standard, the BOMA 2010 Standard measures buildings on a building-wide basis and therefore it is necessary to have complete building CAD data in order to determine rentable areas. The BOMA 2010 standard introduced many new concepts and definitions and renamed well known industry terms. For example, Floor Common Area became Floor Service and Amenity Areas and Tenant Usable Area became Occupant Area. Another notable difference is the exclusion of a Gross Building Area (or Construction Area) calculation. Instead, BOMA developed a separate standard for Gross Building Areas titled "The Gross Areas of a Building: Methods of Measurement". The biggest change however is that BOMA 2010 provides the option of selecting two distinct measuring methods; each of which will yield significantly different results. The two methods are known as Method A (Legacy Method) and Method B (Single Load Factor Method), summarized below. Furthermore, the standard allows real estate professionals the option of applying their own Capped Load Factor which is not to exceed the Load Factor(s) determined by Method A and/or Method B.
Calculates areas similarly to the BOMA 1996 ANSI/BOMA Z65.1-1996 Standard. An inherent conceptual weakness of BOMA 1996 is that like Tenant Usable Areas, Floor Common Area is applied to all Building Common Areas, but many Building Common Areas (although necessary to the operation of the building) are not directly used by tenants and therefore should not be grossed-up by Floor Common Area. For example, it has been questioned as to why a building mechanical room (Building Common Area) proportionately shares the washrooms (Floor Common Area) with the tenants who occupy space on the same floor. Clearly, only tenants should proportionately share washrooms. Method A of the BOMA 2010 standard attempts to mitigate this problem by segregating Building Common Area into Building Amenity Areas and Building Service Areas. The key difference being that only Building Amenity Areas (and of course Tenant Areas) are grossed-up by Floor Service and Amenity Areas (previously known as Floor Common Area). Building Amenity Areas are defined as areas in a building that provide a convenience to all tenants of a building and may include areas such as conference rooms, day care facilities, lounges, fitness centers and vending areas. Building Service Areas are defined as areas that are necessary for the building to operate and may include areas such as building mechanical and equipment rooms, building egress corridors and main and auxiliary lobbies.
Many property managers and building owners have expressed a desire to apply a single gross-up factor to all the tenants in a building. Method B of the BOMA 2010 standard provides this option and in doing so, introduces several new approaches and concepts to building measurement. The most controversial is the allocation of Base Building Circulation, which is basically the minimum path (based on the architectural features and local regulations) on a multi-occupant floor which is necessary for access and egress to tenant areas. The process of applying this new concept could be viewed as interpretive to some extent since a "hypothetical" corridor needs to be established on each floor regardless of occupancy or physical conditions. Building Amenity Area, Building Service Area and Floor Service Area, are also introduced (defined below) but are all incorporated into a single new common area type known as Service & Amenity Areas. Under BOMA 2010, Method B, Base Building Circulation and Service & Amenity Areas are represented as separate and distinct areas, but in the calculations, they are combined on a building-wide basis and proportionately distributed to all tenants of the building, establishing the single load factor.
The BOMA 2017 office standard is the latest office standard to be published by BOMA International. It is similar to BOMA 2010 in many respects in that it shares the same overall framework, but many improvements, enhancements and clarifications to the standard have been made. The document itself is progressive in its physical design but it is also well positioned to reflect the present-day and future trends in real estate. The most significant change to the standard is the inclusion of some exterior areas in the rentable area of the building. Tenant controlled balconies, rooftop patios and covered galleries are included as rentable area along with balconies and rooftop patios enjoyed as a building amenity.
A key objective of BOMA International was to make the standard compatible with the International Property Measurement Standards (IPMS). The BOMA 2017 Office Standard has been tweaked in several areas to be compatible with the area calculations known as IPMS 2 and IPMS 3, which make the office standard even more relevant to markets outside of North America.
Another welcome change is the introduction of Inter-Building Areas. Inter-Building calculations present a methodology for allocating areas common to tenants other than by floor or by building by allowing certain service and amenity areas to be proportionately allocated to specific groups of tenants. In the past this has been called “Limited Area” or “Private Common Area”. The calculations also work perfectly in office complex situations where service and amenity areas might be allocated to tenants across multiple buildings (sometimes referred to as “Complex Common Area”). Inter-Building calculations really allow for a more targeted approach to allocating areas to tenants based on the areas they actually benefit from and; consequently, not allocating areas to tenants that don’t benefit from them, which really helps with the overall fairness of the standard.
BOMA 2017 also allows landlords to apply capped load factors on a tenant-by-tenant basis rather than a floor-by-floor basis. This will help landlords negotiate deals with prospective tenants on an individual basis in a way that reflects the uniqueness of each lease negotiation.
BOMA 2017 has renamed several key terms to be more intuitive and easier to understand. For example, “Interior Gross Area” has become “Boundary Area”, “R/U Ratio” has become “Floor Allocation Ratio” and “R/O Ratio” is now “Building Allocation Ratio”. Best of all, “Occupant + Allocated Area (O)” is now simply “Floor Allocation”. Also, the new Global Summary of Areas has a “Rentable Exclusions” column that includes major vertical penetrations, occupant storage, parking and public covered galleries.
Extreme Measures is the editor and illustrator of the BOMA 2017 Office Standard.