What’s So Great about Grey Shell Construction?

Commercial construction interiors - and exteriors as well - can be an ever-changing landscape. This is because if there’s one constant in business overall, it’s change. Specific commercial buildings can change constantly due to the requests of inhabitants. Some occupants may grow too large for a specific space over time, some may go out of business, and others may relocate. Individual companies may want to upgrade their space - or need to for technological (or other) reasons. Businesses may change branding, or get bought out, or may just want a brand refresh. Buildings may need new wall divisions, new wiring or new plumbing. And the buildings themselves may need to be expanded - whether vertically or horizontally. So many changes can exist in commercial buildings. What most people don’t think about is the various construction stages involved in these building evolutions. Commercial buildings don’t always go from one original state of design for occupancy to a later stage of renovation in one simple migration. It is very common for there to be at least one stage in between. This in-between stage has a few options, but some of the most common are a “white box” or even a “grey shell.” What’s So Great about Grey Shell ConstructionThe idea of a white box or grey shell is to “start fresh” so to speak. It is to get the commercial space out of the previous tenant’s finished stage and back to a construction state that’s easier to build with. The two basic differences between a white box and grey shell is that a white box is more finished than a grey shell. Therefore a grey shell provides even more opportunity to change things; it’s even more of a blank canvas than a white box. A grey shell includes:

  • No finished duct work (but with HVAC in place)
  • No plumbing or electrical
  • Unpainted/unfinished walls
  • Point of connection in place for sewer
  • Exposed ceilings, unfinished, without tiles
  • Unfinished sprinkler system (not dropped to final ceiling height)
  • Unfinished floors
But a white box or grey shell doesn’t have to be used only between tenants. In fact it is very common to build new construction and get it to the point of a grey shell (or white box) before attempting to lease it at all. The reasons are the same either way. There are several good reasons for a white box or grey shell construction stage to be built and offered to tenants. For example:
  • There is an old real estate tip that building interiors always sell or lease better in a mostly white or naked state, because it’s easier for new customers to imagine and plan what they want on a “blank canvas.” This as opposed to customers looking at a fully furnished space with finished flooring, walls, shelves and lighting fixtures - which can be intimidating and harder to picture for the customer’s end goals of use.
  • This is not just good for visualization, it’s also good for planning in general. For example, if there are fewer wall dividers up in a space, it’s easier to plan where you want them, as opposed to having to work around the walls already there.
  • And what goes for walls can go for ventilation, HVAC, plumbing and electricity. It’s easier to plan for the necessary placement of these elements if not all the walls are finished in place.
  • It’s also often easier construction-wise to build interiors from the ground up as opposed to working around what’s already there and in the way.
  • Of course there’s age and degradation to consider as well. If building renovation is to occur, it’s much smarter to go ahead then and knock down old walls for replacement. Especially since these old walls are likely to contain ancient wood beams and supports. Then, it is ideal to replace them with stronger, more modern steel studs.
So whether a commercial interior space is between tenants, awaiting newcomers, going through a rebrand or even just built, a grey shell can be a great strategic mid-point stage in the overall process. Want more? Read about Buildrite's ground-up construction services.