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Why Your Project Needs a Commercial Test Fit

You’ve search around and found a great location for you business. Now what? How do you know whether the space will suite your needs, fit what you need to fit, and be comfortable and accessible to your employees, clients, or guests? Enter, the Commercial Test Fit.

October 12, 2023

Finding a new location for your business or opening your first brick-and-mortar location is a big step. It takes a lot of thought and dedication to find a commercial space you love. You may have thought a lot about what you want in your commercial space, how you want it to flow, and how you want your guests or employees to feel while they’re there. So, how do you know if everything you want in your business, office, café, or restaurant will work with the space you’re looking at? And how do you know whether your budget or planning strategy are compatible with the space? That’s where a commercial test fit comes in.

Why do you need to test fit a space?

A commercial test fit is a feasibility-based approach that confirms your project's program (we’ll explain this more later) fits into a specific tenant or facilities improvement space. Test fits typically include options to help people to see and respond to space planning strategies.

Performing a test fit can help you understand whether the space you are considering for your project works for your vision of your business. Additionally, test fits provide the benefit of early preliminary code-compliance review, benchmarking the space with metrics to help you understand its strengths and weaknesses, and offering initial assessments of infrastructural baselines to evaluate the viability of using in-building systems such as utilities, mechanical, and electrical set ups.

When should you get a test fit?

The best time to do a test fit is before you sign a lease, while you’re still exploring commercial spaces. Think of a test fit like test-driving a car. While it’s impossible to know how everything works, there is huge value to vetting whether a car will comfortably and rightly fit your evolving needs before you buy it. And this can be made even more effective if you're test driving with someone who knows a thing or two about cars.

Even before you approach a broker, while you’re in the dreaming stage, you can be thinking about what you need in a commercial tenant space, exploring what options are out there, and considering what sort of program will work for your business to confidently inform your decisions.

What should you know before you test fit a space?

Before embarking on a commercial test fit, you should have a good understanding of your desired “program.” Your program includes, but is not limited to, all the spaces and amenities you need, the operational and staff requirements of these spaces, and the size and number of certain features of your space, like desks or displays. Here are some things to consider.

  • Typical and occasional functional and operational necessities.
  • Seating, such as the number and types of desks.
  • Private rooms, such as offices, conference rooms, or meeting spaces.
  • Desired or required counter lengths.
  • Food service equipment requirements.
  • Break areas and kitchenettes.
  • Reception needs.
  • Storage needs.

Your business plan will inform your program. But if you don’t yet have a business plan or are still in the dream stage of your brick-and-mortar needs, you can still think about these things. Visit businesses in your area that have a similar feel and size to the business you want and take note of the types of spaces these businesses are in, what you like about them, and what you might want to do differently. Count desks, chairs, and rooms, consider the flow of the space, and observe your general comfort and enjoyment in the space. Once you start making these observations, you might be surprised by what you learn!

What does a test fit include?

It isn’t always obvious how functional a given space will be for your business’s needs. Especially in retail, office, restaurants, or other hospitality service businesses, it can be surprising to learn how much you can fit into a space and have it still be functional.

A test fit will help you understand what’s possible in a commercial space, what elements can be reused for your purposes, and what to consider for ease-of-use within the space. Here are some of the things we can help you consider when test-fitting a space.

  • Clearances around furniture so people can easily move around them.
  • Exit locations and safety precautions for exiting.
  • Location of the existing walls or rooms. Working around or with what already exists within a space can save you money in construction.
  • Locations of existing plumbing, electrical, and mechanical elements. Keeping these items in the space locations can also be a big money-saver. In restaurants, especially, understanding the existing locations of exhaust vents or mechanical equipment can help inform where these critical spaces will be located.
  • Levels. Is the space one story on the ground floor? Are you looking at a loft space? Are there multiple stories?
  • Accessibility. How will people access your space, either as a guest or an employee? Do the existing access points produce barriers for those with limited mobility? The accessibility of certain areas of the commercial space you're considering might impact where and how you organize services or products and can influence decisions about navigation.
  • Windows, daylight, and views. Are there specific views you want to take advantage of? It could be a view outside or beautiful daylight in a double-height space. Do your visitors get to enjoy these views? Would you like your staff to experience them? Access to daylighting can influence your guests’ and staffs’ enjoyment of your business, so we encourage maximizing daylight for everyone who might visit or work in your commercial space.
  • How will people interact with and mix within and around the space? Some spaces are designed to be naturally quieter, while others are more vibrant and interactive.

Who can perform a test fit?

A test fit can be done by anyone who understands how to access the considerations above. We think an architect and interior designer are the best options for most scenarios. As designers who do this work every day, we are in tune with the clearance, accessibility, and egress requirements that can have planning implications that can help you determine whether a commercial space is right for you and your budget.

An architect and interior designer can come to the space you’re interested in and serve as an advisor with keen eyes on the accuracy of its listing as part of your lease negotiations. We can also research the permit and use history of the space to see if there are any issues that could delay or complicate permitting.

Test fits are the first step in translating your business plan into a physical reality! Nothing is more exciting than seeing something you’ve schemed and dreamed of for years start to take shape and it’s essential for you to know whether the space you want will truly accommodate what you need for a successful business. A commercial test fit can help give you the critical information you need before you take the leap.

Would you like to read more from the team?

If you enjoy reading our blog as much as we enjoy writing it, that just makes our day! You might also enjoy a few of the related posts below. And, if there is a topic that you wish we would cover, let us know!

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