Friday, February 18, 2005

Basis of Monkey Anger

Maybe my head has gotten bigger since I scored a mention in the Archinect listings, but I have started to feel it is my duty to inform people about what the real world of architecture is like- or, at least what it’s been like for me. Architecture school has a very bad habit of glossing over- or omitting entirely- the various levels of tedium that are part of the real working world.

Another fun thing I’d never heard of upon graduation was the BOMA standards. BOMA stands for the Building Managers and Owners Association. They publish a set of standards by which property owners determine the amounts of rentable square footage in buildings, which they then use to determine leasing rates. This is done through a series of measurements and calculations.

The more I deal with BOMA calculations, the more I think BOMA stands for Basis of Monkey Anger.

First, you measure the GROSS BUILDING AREA. Then they tell you that measurement is useless for the rest of the calculations. It’s only “for record keeping.”

Next, you measure the GROSS MEASURED AREA of each floor. To do this, you have to first determine the DOMINANT PORTION: this is whether the majority of your exterior walls consist of wall or glass. Clients usually ask for BOMA calculations at the beginning of the project, before we’ve figured out how much glass there is going to be. We fake it. Then they get angry later in the project, when the true window placements cause the rentable area numbers to drop.

Third, you find the FLOOR RENTABLE AREA by subtracting the vertical penetrations, i.e.; elevator shafts, stairwells, and mechanical shaft. Even developers don’t feel right about charging rent for holes, apparently.

Next, you add up the areas of all individual office spaces, if you know them…

You know, just trying to find a witty way to describe the process is pissing me off…suffice it to say it’s long, tedious, and often confusing. On my current project, the client gave us a “target ratio” to shoot for. In office buildings, the way to get the best ratio is to have the vertical circulation core in the middle of the floor, and let the lease spaces form a “donut” around them. However, our client insisted that we break the core into two pieces, one stairwell at each end of the building, and run a 6’ corridor along the entire length of the floor. This tends to make your numbers take a nosedive. Because of this, I have been forced to do silly things. I moved one half of the core 30’ inwards, and re-did the BOMA calcs. Still didn’t make the target ratio. I moved the windows toward the face of the exterior wall an inch, and re-did the BOMA calcs. Still didn’t make the target ratio. I waved a chicken foot over the plans, and re-did the BOMA calcs. Still didn’t make the target ratio. Ad nauseum. Ad infinitum.

Every time I make any kind of plan change, (and I have made a LOT), the client requests, “can you send the new BOMA numbers with those plan updates?” The building has seven floors, plus an elevator penthouse. Re-running the BOMA calcs consists of me doing the seven steps in the process, separately, for floors 1, 2, 3 through 6, 7, and the penthouse- because they are all different in plan. We finally made the target ratio of 1.15, but on the spreadsheet, the number showed up as 1.156. Thus, I had to go back and mess with the plans over and over, until I improved the number by 3 thousandths of a point.

“Can you send the new BOMA numbers with those plan updates?”

Sure I can! (bangs head on keyboard tray)

Big Ol’ Messy Arithmetic
Boil On My Ass
Boo-hooing Over My Apathy
Bring On More Asskicking
Baboons Outdo My Architecture

Everybody…play along!!!
(Update 2/20/05: ManThing contributed: Bastards Often Make Alterations)


Sarah Jane said...

You crack me up. I graduated with an undergrad in Arch and have been working in the field for just a year. I must admit that you are dead on about how much more tedious architecture is in the real world. I am constantly listening to my 'idealistic' still-in-school archi friends and can get quite annoying. I enjoy your honestly about the field.

Additionally, I just finished doing a BOMA audit on a building. I often times thought about throwing myself down any of those vertical spaces.

Thanks again :)

Anonymous said...

I was looking for a BOMA spreadsheet to make the tedium easier ... I've been there .. I've done that ... well not for design but in the slumlord business ... for money grubbers eeking out every last damn $

And I found YOU! and your griping

I'm in LOVE!