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Why does this Tenant Improvement Cost So Much?

    I'm often asked questions like this in the early phases of a tenant improvement. The client has many questions during early phases of an office relocation, and they normally would prefer to pin down the cost question quickly, so they can make a decision whether to move forward.
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DesignLine Architects, LLC
470 E. Canyon Creek Court ,
Gilbert, AZ 85295
Phone: 4807103861

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Tenant Improvement

Tenant Improvement Architecture in Phoenix

If you have a commercial property, calling the right tenant improvement architect can help you to avoid a nightmare this Halloween season.

An architect can help with a project, regardless of how big or small it is

Call in an architect for commercial or residential projects | (480) 710-3861

Tenant Improvement Nightmares

We once had a commercial tenant call us in a panic.  It seems that when they did an office expansion, it caused one wall to be structurally unsound.  They were lucky that the wall didn’t collapse, however, a building inspector caught it and gave them thirty days to correct the problem.

Most tenants of commercial spaces need to make some improvements once in a while so as to make the space work for them. The extent of changes however depends on a number of factors-whether the space was previously occupied, the prior uses of the space and the new contemplated uses. A building that has been previously occupied for example may only require a few adjustments such as carpet cleaning and some minor repairs while a previously unoccupied space may need extensive improvements done. The projects require collaboration from both the tenant and the landlord as they need to decide who does what and who pays for it. Tenant improvement projects mainly help improve the working area and with modern working spaces always evolving, hiring a tenant improvement architect helps create a stylish working area on time and on budget. Architects who use modern trends help create stylish living areas not only at home but also in offices. Here are a few modern trends used in tenant improvement projects.

Trends in Tenant Improvement

First the traditional closed office spaces are gradually giving way to open offices that are greener. This is because open spaces not only improve teamwork among employees but also enhance creativity. In addition the employer gets to save lots of money on energy bills by creating greener spaces. Therefore tenant improvement projects should not only improve the aesthetic appearance of the area but also help save on certain costs. Commercial buildings for example tend to consume lots of energy which can be avoided right from the design phase of the building.

So remember, improving your space doesn’t have to be a nightmare. It can a wonderful, liberating, and exciting bit of applied creativity that will help you make better use of the space you have. So this Halloween season, if you’re looking to make a change, call the one professional who can make the world of difference: your tenant improvement architect in Phoenix.

Read more about this topic…

DesignLine Architects, LLC
470 E. Canyon Creek Court ,
Gilbert, AZ 85295

Tenant Improvement Architects and Your Building Part 2

Part two of a series on tenant improvement architects explores when you should and shouldn’t agree to tenant improvements.

Tenant Improvement Architects:  What Requests Are Valid?



As a landlord, it’s your responsibility to balance your tenant’s needs with how much it will cost and whether it is even doable.  However, you must try to keep your tenant happy, and hiring a tenant improvement architect in Phoenix is a good step in that direction, as they can help you control costs effectively.

First off, any tenant improvement that adds value to the property should be agreed to without hesitation.  For example, electrical improvements such as additional power outlets, and communications upgrades such as broadband internet connections, entertainment such as cable or satellite are safe bets.  Another thing that works are any improvements that bring your building in compliance with various laws such as ramps for wheelchairs, smoke detectors, etc.   In fact, these tenant improvements are very cost-effective particularly when viewed against the cost of fines and litigation.  Upgrades to the HVAC system also add marketability to the property and should be considered right up front.

Cosmetic Changes and a Tenant Improvement Architect

Cosmetic changes on the other hand are a judgment call for any landlord to make.   For example, knocking out a wall and replacing it with glass bricks is a tenant improvement that may limit the use of the property when it comes up for rent again.   And with an existing tenant, you have to consider whether or not you wish to keep them as a tenant before agreeing to any tenant improvement projects.  In cases like custom paint jobs for the lobby, it’s a good idea for landlords to put in a clause that the tenant has to restore it back to its original shape when they move out.

So as you see, some improvements are obvious.  Some others, you have to measure cost versus gain, and other ones you have to consider sparingly.  One thing that you don’t want to do, however, is do any project without any input from a tenant improvement architect.

This concludes part two of our series on tenant improvement architects. Be sure to read part one of this series as well.
DesignLine Architects, LLC
470 E. Canyon Creek Court ,
Gilbert, AZ 85295

Tenant Improvement Architects and Your Building Part 1

Tenant improvement architects can help commercial property owners effectively allocate their buildings based upon the needs of the tenants.  Look at the scenario of a retail property.

Post Modern Architecture and the 21st Century

Phoenix Architecture Firms

Tenant Improvement Architect Doug Rusk | 480-710-3861

One of our clients, we’ll call him John, owns a shopping plaza that was built in the early 70’s.  The wiring is up to date, and there’s even Wi-Fi.  However, one of his higher paying tenants wants to expand their store space from 1200 square feet to 2400 square feet.  He was all in favor of it, until the client started discussing knocking down walls.  John fortunately was wise enough to call us for his tenant improvement architectural project. 

It isn’t just for building permits and load-bearing walls that you want to call in a tenant improvement architect, however.  We were able to tell the client which walls weren’t load bearing, as well as help them to navigate the process of building permits with the city.  We were able to recommend builders and everyone was happy with the end result.  John was lucky, because the building was sound.  We’ve had some clients where the retail space was considerably older, and in one notable case was even listed as historically significant, meaning that the bureaucratic process was even more convoluted and elaborate.

The Importance of Hiring a Tenant Improvement Architect

As tenant improvement architects, we know that it is often not possible to change much in the structure of a historical building.  We had a client find out that the hard way.  She bought a beauty salon that was in a historical district of Phoenix.  She called in a builder to knock out a wall, put in a picture window, and thought nothing of it…until the fines and cease and desist orders started coming in the mail.  Seems that there was an ordinance about modifying the building.

She had to pay to restore it back to the way it was, and it was then she called us.  We were able to keep her costs down, and get her back into compliance with the city.  So, as you see, it is a good idea to call in a tenant improvement architect in Phoenix at the start of a project, not at the end.

This concludes part one of our series on tenant improvement architects.  Please be sure to read part two of this series as well.

DesignLine Architects, LLC
470 E. Canyon Creek Court ,
Gilbert, AZ 85295



Jobs for a Tenant Improvement Architect Part 2

Why should you hire a tenant improvement architect? Well, for one thing,  most tenant improvement projects leave  little room for error.  And why would errors even be an issue? Well for one,  since larger projects require  teams of people to complete them, all with their own management.

Tenant Improvement Architects Bring Order Out of Chaos

Get a tenant improvement architect in Phoenix

Get a Tenant Improvement Architect in Phoenix | (480) 710-3861

Architects are vital for construction projects involving structural modifications to ensure that a project remains both safe as well as practical. However, their structural skills are only one thing that they bring to the table.  What happens if your building is leased? As most businesses operate in leased spaces, it’s important to clear any plans with the building management.

The tenant improvement architect also serves as a liaison between you and the landlord.  An architect can also help you to determine whether you should proceed with your  project.   For example, if the lease is under two years, and you’re looking at moving out after that, a  large-scale construction project is usually not feasible.  If you decide to proceed with the project, you may need construction crews.

Construction workers turn the plans of an architect into reality, while reducing potential impact to a business. For example, it may be necessary to have a construction crew work after hours, or on weekends.  In the case of a rush project, there may be crews there 24 hours a day.  An architect is also aware of safety regulations, which will help your business avoid any potential liability.  Then after the work is done that’s where a designer comes in.

An Architect’s Role in Aesthetic Appeal

A good designer will work closely with both the client as well as the tenant improvement architect.  You think a skylight would be a nice touch, and the designer agrees,  however, the architect tells you that the skylight will be in shadow during the winter months, so he can help you to place it so it gets the right balance of light.

An architect can also help with the type of windows to get.  For example, hurricane windows reduce  noise, improve security,  strengthen the  structure of your building, and restrict UV rays.

So you see, doing a project of this sort requires a lot of planning, so start with the right step first.  Call in a tenant improvement architect in Phoenix today.


Jobs For a Tenant Improvement Architect Part 1

What can a tenant improvement architect do?  A lot of people think that an architect may not be necessary, however, commercial construction can become rapidly complicated without a professional present to help.

Tenant Improvement Architects:  Some Sample Jobs

Tenant Improvement Architects in Phoenix

Tenant Improvement Architects in Phoenix | Call Us Today | (480) 710-3861

Let’s say you have an older building that was once subdivided into warehouse space.  You’ve bought it for your new Internet startup, and you have the keys.  The retro style of the building appeals to you, however, there is a slight problem, or more accurately problems.  First off, your building is in Phoenix and it was put up in the 1930’s.  The last tenant had the office space air conditioned, but the back is only cooled by a beat up series of swamp coolers.  A tenant improvement architect can retrofit the building to have air conditioning throughout it.  However, there’s even more.

For example, most tenant improvement projects are a lot more complicated and require a team of people.  The architect can be the coordinator between the building owner or landlord, the interior designers, and the construction crew to name but a few.  However, there are certain regulations that have to be adhered to as well.

How an Architect Can Help You to Comply to All Applicable Codes

You make widgets and sell them on the Internet, do you know about building codes?  How can you make your building handicap accessible other than a ramp?  You need to open in a few days, how can you do all of this without shutting down and renting temporary office space?  What about dust control?  As you see, sometimes, projects can rapidly spiral out of control.  What you need is someone who helps to control the project, not let the project control you.  The best person to get for the job is your first step before you open for business.  An architect that does tenant improvement can help answer all of these questions and more.

So, concentrate on getting your business started, and let the tenant improvement architect handle the stuff behind the scenes.

DesignLine Architects offers tenant improvement services.

DesignLine Architects, LLC   
470 East Canyon Creek Court   
Gilbert, AZ 85295  
(480) 710-3861


Happy New Year From Your Gilbert Architect

Design Line Architects wishes you and yours a safe and happy New Year.


Happy New Year From Your Architect


Happy New Year From Your Tenant Improvement Architect | (480) 710-3861

Need an Architect?

Want to Remodel Your Home for 2013?

We can help.  If you’ve made a New Year’s Resolution to remodel your home, or even if you haven’t, your Gilbert architect stands ready to assist you.

Design Line Architects, LLC  is an architecture firm based in Gilbert, AZ.

Design Line Architects, LLC
470 East Canyon Creek Court
Gilbert, AZ 85295
(480) 710-3861

Tenant Improvement

Commercial tenant improvement is something that becomes necessary for a variety of reasons.  Sometimes, additional space is needed, or a room needs to be built that requires a special configuration, like a server room. A commercial tenant improvement project involves items like interior remodeling of an existing office or retail space, upgrades for the current tenant or changes to accommodate a new tenant that may be moving in.

As to why an architect must be called in that’s due to the complexity of modern buildings.  Simply knocking out a wall could be disastrous if one hit a load bearing strut or if the wall itself is load bearing.  One could accidentally rupture a pipe or electrical conduit, or even damage utilities like fiber optics or cabling.

Tenant improvement allows flexibility for a tenant to adapt space to suit their needs while still staying in compliance with structural requirements and applicable city codes.

Calling in an architect is always your best bet for such improvements.

DesignLine Architects is a Gilbert based architecture firm.

Design Line Architects, LLC
470 East Canyon Creek Court
Gilbert, AZ 85295
(480) 710-3861

CASE STUDY– Mesa Office Tenant Improvement

Written By Doug Rusk, Architect

Mesa Office Tenant Improvement

A recent office tenant improvement we performed for a national insurance company showcases a great example of why some businesses are more successful than others.   When you’re an insurance business that focuses all day on helping other businesses and individuals with risk prevention, damage protection and safety & Loss control, it’s no surprise to find they are just as smart at handling their own office tenant improvement in a similar way.

So when Mary, their regional Project Manager, needed a reputable General Contractor for her company’s 2875 SF office tenant improvement project in Mesa, she called Joe Harris, managing partner of AZ Construction, LLC.   Joe’s first move was to confirm this project qualified for the “Permit By Inspection” program offered by the City of Mesa for minor tenant improvements projects.  His second move was to retain Doug Rusk, a principal with DESIGNLine Architects, LLC ASAP, who he knew would make him look good to his client by expediting their design/permit submittal package.  And because our client Mary provided a detailed specification package that described all their project goals, Doug’s design team needed only 21 business days from signed design contract to obtain City approved building permit in order to start construction. And Joe’s team needed only 20 business days from building permit approval to finish construction so the tenant could move in.


And as a result of our team’s continuous communication with the City of Mesa, we discovered that the current drinking fountain code requirement could be reduced to only requiring drink cups next to the break room sink.  So including the plumbing work that would have been required, this saved the client over $1200.

Mesa Office Tenant Improvement – Scope of Work

Overall, the tenant improvement scope of work on this project was relatively straightforward:

– Removed several decorative walls and ceiling elements in the main room.

– Remove the old ceiling work, and replaced with a new 11’-4” high T-bar ceiling, modified layout of lights and mechanical as required.

– Removed glass door wall in order to open up the front entry.

– Built 3 new walls to create one new office and two conference room. Painted Orange contract color on new office walls shown on left in photo above).

– Added all the necessary electrical outlets, power panel updates, lighting and data lines necessary for 12 cubical work stations.

– Updated paint and flooring throughout entire 2875 SF space.


Have you noticed the growing number of unattended office lobbies these days?  In order to create efficiencies in our tenant improvement, we down sized the fancy lobby and instead positioned one of the typical workstations to act as the reception (see image above).

After removing the curved, multi-height ceiling elements and added the new office and conference room (see left side of top picture), we installed a new single height ceiling grid.   We saved $1600 by carefully designing the new ceiling grid and lighting so that we didn’t have to move too many fire sprinkler heads.  Per Mesa Fire Department codes if you relocate no more than 9 fire sprinkler heads, then you will not be required to submit complete fire sprinkler design drawings to the City of Mesa.

Office Tenant Improvement – Location is Key:

So if you’re business will benefit more exposure, consider some of the moves our subject insurance client performed:

Find a prominent corner location on a busy intersection with a gas station next door. – Provides great drive by exposure to drivers waiting at a stop light.

Locate your business between nationally franchised restaurants on one side and a Fed-Ex type postage delivery store on the other side. This will provide continuous walk by traffic that will build familiarity to your brand.

For other great ideas, read this:  Cost Effective Tenant Improvement Ideas


About the Author

Doug Rusk is the principal at DESIGNLine Architects, LLC located in Gilbert, Arizona.  We specialize in residential and commercial tenant improvement for small and medium sized businesses with expertise in space planning and interior design consulting.  We’ll provide your General Contractor a thorough preliminary design packages that will enable an early construction cost estimate to confirm your budget quickly.

Phoenix Architecture FirmDoug Rusk, Architect
DesignLine Architects, LLC
Gilbert, Arizona

Mesa Building Permit “Shortcuts”

By Doug Rusk, Architect

The City of Mesa offers an accelerated process to obtain building permits for minor remodels.

If you haven’t already heard…  the City of Mesa offers a “shortcut” to obtain building permits for minor commercial remodel.   This special program, called “Permit By Inspection” (PBI), will significantly shorten the Plan Review and Permit Approval process – if your project qualifies.

Mesa Tenant ImprovementCity of Mesa

Minor Commercial Tenant Improvement

Permit By Inspection (PBI)

The permit by inspection program (PBI) is a voluntary alternative to the standard construction document plan review and building permit approval processes for special projects of certain building uses, occupancies and degree of complexity.   The PBI program is intended to provide a stream-lined approach to building permit plan review review and issuance in which senior building inspectors review construction documents in the field and approve the issuance of the building permit.  There is a 20% premium for the PBI process on top of the regular building permit fee and other fees.

Benefits of the “Permit By Inspection” (PBI) Process:

  • – Typically the Permit By Inspection (PBI) is processed in a 5 day turnaround time  (instead of 18 days).
  • – Cuts down on paperwork.
  • – Much of process is done by email.
  • – One contact person who is familiar with the project and special conditions.
  • – Construction work can proceeds as the plan review is taking place.
  • – Quick response time to changing field conditions.

There are currently no written criteria to determine if your project will qualify for the building permit by PBI process.  To learn more, call Clyde at (480) 644-4273.

If your project does NOT qualify for the PBI process, the regular Plan Review Turn-Around Times at this writing are:


  • – 5 business day PBI review.
  • – 18 business days review.
  • – 10 day expedite review (100% of building permit fee).
  • – Super expedite review with negotiated turn-around time (200% of building permit fee).


  • – 10 business day review (5 days for master plot plans).
  • – 5 day expedite review (100% of building permit fee).


Over-The-Counter Plan Review

The City of Mesa also offers same day over-the-counter plan reviews for the following projects types:

  • – Emergency repairs (water, sewer, gas, electric).
  • – “Like for Like” repair/replacement (gas, water, electric).
  • – Banner Permits.

City of Mesa

Construction Plan Review and Building Permits
55 N. Center St.
Mesa, AZ  85201
PHONE (480) 644-4273
OFFICE HOURS:  7:00am to 6:00pm, M-TH

For more Building Permit specific details related to cities that you live or work, click on one of the following links: Phoenix, Tempe, Gilbert, Chandler, Mesa, Scottsdale.

About the Author

A Mesa architect will help you avoid many common mistakes that are made with construction projects. No matter what kind of space you need today, we’ll make sure it’s designed for your needs in the future.  This will give you future function built into today’s home addition.  To discuss your Mesa building permit needs, contact Doug Rusk at 480-710-3861 or email us at

Architect in Mesa

Mesa Architecture Firm
Doug Rusk, Architect
DesignLine Architects, LLC
Gilbert, Arizona

Chandler Building Permits – Fast Track

Small Business Benefits from Fast Tracked Chandler Building Permits

Chandler is one small business richer since a new bread making business, Gratifying Grains LLC, opened this week.    The new Mother and Daughter owners, Betsy Moore and Megan Moore, said that “because they only planned on a minor remodel, the City of Chandler offered us an expedited process to obtain our tenant improvement building permits.”

Tenant Improvement Chandler

But they’re not the only ones.  Many new Chandler businesses, who are planning to apply for a minor commercial tenant improvement (TI), have recently utilized this special Chandler program called the Small Business Assistance Program.  According to Betsy, “this terrific program significantly shortened the plan review time and building permit approval process for us. “  Because not all construction projects will qualify for this program, she recommended that people call Martin Perez at 480-782-3138 for more information.

Minor Commercial Tenant Improvement

Small Business Assistance Program

The Small Business Assistance Program is similar, but slightly different, to the Permit By Inspection (PBI) program offered at other Southeast Valley cities.   Here’s how it works.  A four member team from the Development Services staff, called the Small Business Assistance Team, will visit your new tenant space, and then mail you a written letter that identifies any issues of “significant importance” that might have the potential of costing you time and money.  This team is available at no cost and is intended to assist the small business community by helping clients navigate the City’s planning, building permit and licensing process.


There are currently no written qualifications to define a “minor tenant improvement”.  To learn more, call Martin Perez at 480-782-3138.

Chandler Commercial Remodel

City of Chandler
Transportation & Development
215 East Buffalo Street.
Chandler, AZ 85225

Phone:  Call Martin Perez at 480-782-3138 to answer expedited method of obtaining building permits.

How Do I Know if I Need a Chandler Building Permit?

May Need a Phoenix Building Permit, if you’re:

  • – Moving a sink- requires the proper extension of plumbing.
  • – Demolishing a load-bearing wall- means redistributing weight from above.
  • – Changing the home’s roof line framing.
  • – Punching in a new window or door- requires a new header that carries weight from above.
  • – Altering the footprint of your house.
  • – Installing new electrical wiring.

You May NOT Need a Phoenix Building Permit, if you’re:

  • – Putting in hardwood floor.
  • – Installing carpeting.
  • – Upgrading your counter tops.
  • – Paint

For more Building Permit specific details related to cities that you live or work, click on one of the following links: Phoenix, Tempe, Gilbert, Chandler, Mesa, Scottsdale.

About the Author Building Permits, Building Permits, Building Permits, Building Permits

A Chandler architect will help you avoid many common mistakes that are made with construction projects. No matter what kind of space you need today, we’ll make sure it’s designed for your needs in the future.  This will give you future function built into today’s home addition.  To discuss your Chandler building permit needs, contact Doug Rusk at 480-710-3861 or email us at building permits, Building Permits, Building Permits, Building Permits

Architect in Chandler

Phoenix Architecture FirmDoug Rusk, Architect
DesignLine Architects, LLC
Gilbert, Arizona