Also called “vanilla box,” a white box build out represents a building’s interior (such as for a store or office) before the TIs (tenant improvements) are implemented. For a new business, or an old business with a new location, it has to start with something for its space. However the landlord can’t predict what the next commercial tenant is going to want there. For example the landlord can’t predict the trade-specific equipment for a new tenant. But this also applies to specific fixtures and furniture. And it applies to the wall colors, bathroom and plumbing special fixtures, types of flooring and custom ceilings, since these will all depend on the tenant business’s brand or industry tastes. For these reasons tenants expect to start with a “white box;” just the basics. Therefore they expect unfinished interiors prior to most of an office’s interior walls (except code-required walls). Concrete floors instead of finished floors. No paint (or white/foundation paint) instead of final paint, and so on. The “white box build out” is built and completed prior to the tenant’s interior finishing.
It may seem to be a minimum amount of work, but a lot goes into a white box build out, and it’s typically done very quickly. Landlords want white boxes executed quickly to be available for new tenants to move in asap. With a ready white box build out tenants can likewise quickly turn around and finish it into their own specifically tailored expectations. To get new tenants quickly, building owners can sometimes also lure them in with an allowance for interior and construction improvement TIs (although these allowances are typically for construction as apposed to tenant equipment and furniture).
Although we may think of a white box build out as “unfinished,” there are still critical requirements for a completed white box. They include obvious elements such as roofing and basic ceilings, exterior walls, doors and windows, access to fire escape and elevator and stairs. Also included are basic lighting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, hot water and restrooms and drinking fountains. But they also require less tangible aspects such as building permits and licenses and any other code requirements.
Simply put, a white box build out comprises preparing a commercial building for the essential basics for a tenant to move-in, before the tenant implements TIs (tenant improvements) to finish the store or office to the business’s more specific requirements. A white box build out is not finished enough for the tenant to conduct normal every day work, but it allows the tenant to get the space finished to their own specific requirements before being open for business.
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