Defining Cold Shells in Construction

Often we hear terms such as “white box” and “cold shell” in construction (particularly commercial construction). These terms also have synonyms such as “grey shell” for cold shell, and “vanilla shell” or “warm shell” for white box. These are often representative of commercial construction stages before “tenant improvements,” or “TIs” are executed.

Defining Cold Shells in ConstructionTIs indicate what occupants want implemented in construction to make their lease space fully ready for day-to-day business. Tenant improvements are discussed and agreed upon with landlords to seal contracts and incentivize occupants to move in. Tenant improvements in contracts indicate what landlords will contribute and allow, per tenant requests, prior to being business-ready. Landlords often reduce lease fees upfront as a portion of those tenant improvement costs to attract the occupants to sign and stay with them.

Often to get ready for these types of leases, landlords get their unoccupied space built to the point of a white box. Meaning that the interior has everything ready for customization or tenant improvements:

  • Electrical is in place with HVAC
  • Accessible and finished bathrooms
  • Concrete or finished floors
  • Finished walls, painted white
  • Basic lighting provided with completed ceilings
  • Finished and ready fire escapes

All of this allows for tenant improvements to be quickly finished by occupants to be open for work.

An additional option to white box construction is the cold shell. There are more options and freedom allowed for the occupant after cold shell construction. This means less construction work upfront, however more work to be business-ready for tenants. Cold shells include:

  • Exposed, unfinished ceilings without tiles
  • The fire/sprinkler system not dropped to final height of ceiling
  • No finished duct work, but HVAC in place
  • Unfinished floors
  • Existing point of connection for sewer
  • No plumbing or electrical
  • Unpainted and unfinished walls

This discusses the pros and cons of cold shell and white box construction and commercial construction tenant improvements.

Read about Buildrite Construction’s renovation services.