CDW tenant finish, cold shell construction

What’s So Hot About Cold Shell Construction

Construction DesignWorks, Inc. Can Clarify Your Tenant Finish Questions

KANSAS CITY, MO- The ambiguity between the commercial real estate and construction industries has nurtured a culture of inconsistency in definitions and terms. A commercial broker may define cold shell construction for a space differently than a property manager might.

“A building owner who has requested commercial construction companies to provide preliminary pricing for a commercial office renovation starting with a cold shell, will likely not be able to receive apples to apples bids because the contractors have different ideas of what cold shell really is,” says Scott Hamele, President of Construction DesignWorks, Inc. “Understanding the basics of tenant finish construction is imperative in order to offer a highly competitive building to the public.”

Cold shell construction is also known as dry box, vanilla box, vanilla shell, base shell, cold dark shell, bare shell, grey shell and grey box. It is a space or building that is sufficiently protected from the outside weather elements such as rain, snow and wind by way of the building structure, exterior walls, exterior windows, exterior doors and a roof. Thus assuring that weather-sensitive materials or indoor work can begin without suffering weather damage.

For multi-story buildings dry-in can, on occasion, be confined to just that portion of the building where interior work is anticipated. For any construction project, the general contractor can provide temporary building protective measures to attain temporary dry-in status to allow specific interior work to begin.

Cold Shell Construction Components Are as Follows:

  1. Building foundation and/or footings have been installed.
  2. Exterior windows and doors are installed, and key flashing or flashing tape details are completed to assure that rain will not enter these openings.
  3. The structure is complete or if necessary, temporary structural supports may be in place sufficient to permit interior work to proceed safely. For high rise or other large buildings “structure” may refer to only a floor, wing, or segment of the complete building.
  4. The roof sheathing is installed with a suitable or permanent roof covering, or a reliable, temporary waterproof roof covering is installed.
  5. Exterior wall sheathing is installed.
  6. Building-wrap or equivalent moisture barriers have been properly installed
  7. Other exterior opening and penetrations including skylights, plumbing vent boots around roof plumbing vent penetrations, exterior wall penetrations for wiring, plumbing, etc. have been completed, or may be temporarily sealed against the weather.
  8. Exterior trim, flashings, caulks, and sealants have been installed where necessary to assure that the building shell is waterproof, wind proof, or more generally, weatherproof.

Understanding cold shell construction is an important part of what an owner may make available for a future tenant. Adding items such as an HVAC system, electrical power, plumbing and a concrete floor may actually require an additional tenant finish to substantially rework these items if undersized, oversized or not located properly. We advise providing only these basic cold shell components when the future design of the space is unknown, which will save all parties thousands of dollars in possible rework.

Construction DesignWorks uses its hands-on approach and design expertise to create and build professional interior spaces specialized for each customer using the design-build method. Their complete turnkey solutions align with the unique business needs of various types of real estate. Construction DesignWorks, Inc. is located at 21961 West 83rd Street in Shawnee, Kansas. For more information about interior commercial construction, call (913) 745-4727 or visit their website at