What Is A Shell?

A shell is the term used for a bare framework of the building. There are a variety of shells, with various different internals. However, since there are no functional features inside, you will not find many construction finishes. This may include some HVAC and electrical or plumbing improvements. But not internal walls, interior space partitioning, or fixtures. It means that space is available for tenants who want to customize the build-out process right from the start. While a shell is typically the origin of a building, there is a whole spectrum of different shell types. They range from cold and warm to vanilla, grey and dark – which can be confusing to understand fully. There are critical differences in how a space is delivered that can affect the cost of a transaction. The difference can be tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars for the tenant. To make things simple, here is an analysis of the most basic types of building shells. Unlike expanding or adding office space. Commercial facilities need more than walls, offices, and cubicles. There are several options to approach building out commercial facilities. As well as there are also several shell-building classifications. Some of these classifications are: -Cold or dark shell -Warm shell -Bare shell -Vanilla shell The company's requirements will determine which shell would be best suited for rent.  The choice of the shell will also have a dramatic impact on construction finish time. For example, if the tenant requires varied machinery placed in a specific place, but the landlord puts a restroom before renting the shell, there can be a waste of a healthy amount of money because you will need to remove that restroom. That money would have been better slated for the tenant to use on the exact items and finishes they wanted.  

The Different Types of Shells

Cold Dark Shell

Cold Dark Shell Industrial Warehouse

A Dark Shell for an industrial warehouse being built.

image source This is the barest form of a shell building without finishes. It still needs to be completed or finished for use on the inside.  Dark Shells tend to only have external walls, a roof, and an unfinished floor. It doesn't have interior improvements, such as finished/painted walls or finished floors. In this type of construction, the HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) ductwork is not complete. Nor does it have existing utilities, plumbing, or electrical.  

Warm shell


This is a warm shell for office space.

image source Warm shells unlike cold shells have semi-finished interiors. This sometimes includes a preinstalled HVAC system. Warm Shells can also have lighting, toilets, drop ceilings, plumbing, and concrete flooring.  

Bare shell

Bare Shell

Bare Shells are still devoid of most of the internals.

image source Bare shells, like warm shells, allow the tenant to customize their property to fit their needs. This type of building is closer to being ready. The basic building services are in place.  There might be finished bathrooms, interior cement-plastered walls, and tiled flooring in place. Some flats may additionally feature a kitchen and pantry.  

Vanilla shell

This Vanilla Shell is ready for tenants to simply move furniture in.

image source Vanilla shell offers a tenant a close-to-finished space and a relatively quick move-in time. It is a space with more finishes than a bare, warm, or cold shell. Vanilla shell construction has finished exterior walls with drywall. A drop-grid ceiling with ceiling tiles or a drywall ceiling with installed lighting is included.  Like a warm or bare shell, it has an HVAC system distributed. Often it also may include some extra builds such as offices, a finished restroom(s) with running water, sewer, plumbing, fixtures, etc.  

How to Improve the Shell

The improvement or modification of the building is made to the tenant's specific requirements. This is often called TI (Tenant Improvement). The shell chosen will determine which enhancements can be made.  Sometimes it will be necessary to install a ventilation system right from the start or add extra ventilation. Other times it will be required to improve the HVAC systems. These ventilation improvements can help with energy efficiency and utility bills. HVAC systems can make a big difference in both the cost and the effectiveness of heating and cooling the shell. Green HVAC systems improve a facility's indoor air quality (IAQ) and energy consumption tremendously. For an HVAC system to work at its peak, it's necessary to have a properly programmed thermostat, well-sealed ductwork, adequate insulation, and to choose the proper size. Of course, this is only an example of an improvement that can be made to a shell. There are numerous different things that can be done to it.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, shell construction has endless possibilities to adapt to the wishes and needs of the tenant. The flexible design that characterizes them is a beneficial option for offices and other commercial properties.  In the long run, shells are better for cutting costs because the improvements are made according to tenants' specific requirements. After all, every tenant knows what an ideal layout for a workspace looks like. For this reason, it makes more sense to build a shell, leaving the finishing touches to the tenant once they move in. If you’re looking for specialists in shell construction, or even fitout construction as a tenant, then reach out to us here at Buildrite today!