Office Building Classifications
While searching for office space, you have probably noticed that office buildings are often classified as Class A, Class B, or Class C. Building classes are clearly meant to capture some measure of building quality, but how are office buildings classified? How should you use building classifications in your search for office space?
The Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) sets objective standards for measuring office buildings. BOMA also provides subjective guidelines for classifying office buildings. BOMA Canada’s Office Building Classification Guide includes detailed criteria to differentiate office buildings.
Class A buildings have a definite market presence, attractive architecture, and superior finishes. They are professionally managed, have state-of-the-art technology, and often offer amenities and/or environmental certification.
Class B buildings are a step down from Class A buildings, but are still well managed, well maintained, and very functional, with acceptable interior and exterior finishes.
Class C buildings are older and “in need of extensive renovations” (pg. 7), with dated technology and inferior finishes.
The BOMA guide emphasizes that building classifications are relative to other buildings in the market.
For example, a four-story office building with good finishes and current technology would be a Class A building in many small cities. Relative to a high-rise building with full glass curtain wall exteriors and marble lobbies in Vancouver, this four-story office building would be a Class B or possibly a Class C building if it was located in Vancouver. Using building class to compare buildings across different markets is meaningless.
BOMA does not provide guidelines for other building classes such as AAA, but notes “in many markets, Class A can be subdivided into sub-categories such as Prestige, AAA, AA and A” (pg. 4). In Vancouver, the conventional sub-categories are Class AAA and Class A. Generally, AAA buildings are in the downtown core; feature significant architecture and main lobbies with exceptional finishes; offer a range of amenities; and have an environmental certification.
There is no central organization, regulator, or formula to classify office buildings. The building’s listing agent, owner, and/or manager interpret the BOMA guidelines to designate their building class. The stated building class may be useful for differentiating properties in a preliminary search, but provides little information to determine if a building meets your specific criteria.
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