If you’re a property manager or owner and looking for ways to increase revenue, don’t sleep on accurate space measurement. Whenever the Building Owners and Managers Association of North America updates its BOMA measurement standards, this typically has significant implications for maximizing property revenue.

Accurately measuring spaces to reflect current market conditions and measurement standards will maximize your rentable square footage (RSF).

BOMA 2017 Office Standard

This is the latest edition of the BOMA measurement standard primarily designed to produce leasing data for commercial office buildings. The BOMA Office Standard is considered the de facto building measurement standard both nationally and internationally—except for the New York City area, which does things its own way, Jack.

New BOMA measurement standards typically provide design changes and clarify existing terms. The 2017 update was no different, providing a larger glossary of terms, step-by-step measurement formats, and a section on best practices.

The new standard also emphasizes compatibility with the International Property Measurement Standard (IPMS) for office buildings. The main goal of IPMS is to provide clear and consistent measurement standards regardless of geography. IPMS does not gross or apply load factors, and therefore can’t be applied in leasing markets where tenant rentable area includes service areas.

BOMA measurement is the de facto standard for office buildings like these two in North America

How Does BOMA 2017 Impact RSF?

BOMA 2017 introduced five major changes to the office standard.

  • The inclusion of exterior amenities, such as exterior balconies and roof terrace areas as part of the building’s rentable area.
  • The inclusion of Major Vertical Penetrations at the lowest level.
  • Removal of the Public Pedestrian Thoroughfare Boundary Condition found in BOMA 2010.
  • Inter-Building Service Areas (IBSA) can now be applied to a specific group of tenants. Previously, IBSA was applied on a floor or building-wide basis.
  • Load factors capped on a tenant-by-tenant basis instead of a floor-wide option. Capping the load factor and bringing it down to the market standard enhances a building’s marketability. This decision is the prerogative of the building owner or manager.

Two Methods of BOMA Measurement

Like the BOMA 2010 standard, BOMA 2017 offers two methods to measure buildings on a building-wide basis: the creatively titled Method A or even more imaginatively titled Method B. Property teams must measure the entire building to determine RSF. Note: both Method A and Method B yield the same total building rentable area. They only differ in how they allocate shared service areas to tenant areas.

Shared service areas such as lobbies can be calculated differently using BOMA measurement

Method A: Multiple Load Factor Method

BOMA measurement Method A traces its roots to 1915 and the publication of the first office floor measurement standard. This method determines rentable areas by allocating shared service and amenity areas on a pro rata basis. To allocate these shared areas, two load factors must be established: Floor service load factor and building service load factor. A load factor is defined as the ratio between the rentable and usable space.

Floor service load factor proportionately allocates floor service area to any occupant area according to the configuration of each floor. This usually results in varying floor service load factors throughout the building.

The building service load factor proportionately distributes shared spaces that service the entire building to all occupant areas.

When floor and building service load factors are combined, Load Factor A is established for each floor and generates multiple load factors throughout the building. The result is a fair distribution of Building Service Area throughout the building.

Method B: Single Load Factor

Method B, also known as the Single Load Factor Method, was first established as an option under the BOMA 2010 standard. Using Method B, you can apply a single load factor to all tenants in a building. It gives each tenant the same portion of floor or building service area.

The single load factor is calculated by determining and consolidating all Floor Service, Building Service, and Base Building Circulation Areas as one, then allocating proportionately to occupant areas.

Base Building Circulation is the minimum path on a multi-occupant floor necessary for access to and egress from:

  • Occupant areas
  • Access stairs
  • Escalators and elevators
  • Restrooms
  • Janitor’s closets and water coolers
  • Required areas of refuge
  • Life safety equipment
  • Building service and amenity areas

Method B assumes Base Building Circulation exists on all floor levels regardless of the number of tenants residing there. It offers leasing advantages and more long-term stability in the rentable area of the building. But you need to be meticulous about documenting Base Building and Extended Circulation.

When using the BOMA 2017 standard, you must choose either Method A or Method B and apply that method to the entire building. The two methods can’t be mixed within the same building.

BOMA measurement is used across offices in North America - aside from New York City

BOMA 2010 and BOMA 1996 Office Standards

The BOMA 1996 Office Standard has largely fallen out of favor due to inflexible calculation limitations. However, BOMA 2010 remains relevant for some properties and markets.

BOMA 2017 is the most favorable standard to landlords and generally results in the largest total building rentable area. However, be warned that this standard can produce high load factors, since additional service and amenity areas are allocated to tenant RSF. For this reason, landlords may choose to apply the BOMA 2010 Standard. The BOMA 2010 Standard brings load factors in line with market conditions.

Comparison of BOMA Measurement Methods

  BOMA 1996  BOMA 2010 Method A  BOMA 2010 Method B  BOMA 2017 Method A  BOMA 2017 Method B 
Building-Wide Measurement  X  X  X  X  X 
Capped Load Factor / Optional Adjustments by Floor     X  X   X   X 
Base Building Circulation / Single Load Factor        X     X 
Capped Load Factor by Tenant           X  X 
Unenclosed Features (balconies, terraces, etc.)           X  X 
Major vertical penetrations at the lowest level are included           X  X 

You should also be aware of the additional measurement standards for distinct property types including Gross Areas, Industrial, Retail, Multi-Unit Residential, and Mixed-Use. Learn more about these BOMA measurement standards, and regional variation in measurement standards, when you download and read the Building Engines white paper: Methods of Commercial Real Estate Building Measurement & National Trends.