The Architect's Blog

How Long Should My Commercial Building Last?



As the owner of a commercial building you want to entice the best tenants by offering competitive lease rates. But you also need to understand that there are hidden costs involved that you need to make sure are covered.

One of the largest costs associated with any commercial building is replacement of building systems that simply wear out.

Whether it is roofing, mechanical systems or plumbing, it is imperative that you understand the lifespan of these items so you can plan for these costs and not be caught off guard when it comes time to replace them.

With proper maintenance, the lifespan of major building systems fall into one of two categories. Systems that last 20 years and those that last 40-50 years.

Systems that need replacement or major overhaul at 20 years include: roofing, mechanical or HVAC and glazing. Though you may never notice it, buildings are constantly moving. Years of temperature fluctuation, wind and ground movement can cause roofing material to crack, creating the potential for leaks. Climate as well as use, can make a rooftop air conditioning unit fail & cracked glazing seals can make windows leak air, making interior temperature control more costly.

Building systems to be addressed at the 40-50 year mark include: plumbing and electrical systems. These items tend to last longer because they are typically better protected – but can be costly to overhaul for the same reason.

Though the cost of addressing major building system replacement can be significant, with proper lifespan planning and maintenance the building owner can reduce the financial impact and sticker shock normally associated with replacing these large ticket items.

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