What is a White Box Construction Finish?

Ambiguous Construction Terms Finally Defined

By Scott Hamele, DBIA President and founder of Construction DesignWorks, LLC and Nationwide Commercial Inspections, LLC

In the world of construction, the term “white box” is often used by real estate brokers and landlords to define the level of finish a space has prior to a tenant’s office remodel or tenant finish. However, it is an imprecise term. White box is often synonymous with vanilla shell, lit shell, plain vanilla shell, plain vanilla box, warm vanilla shell, warm vanilla box, warm white box and warm white shell.

White box finish construction design works

White box is a term used for a type of finish in commercial real estate with an unfinished interior and does NOT include: interior walls (other than code required restrooms), wall coverings, paint, flooring, plumbing fixtures (other than code required restrooms and drinking fountains), upgraded electrical fixtures, and upgraded code required restroom fixtures. A white box – build out is ready for tenant improvements (TI’s), which are to be completed once the lease agreement has been negotiated and executed.

It includes a space that is protected from the outside elements which typically includes a roof, exterior windows and doors. Also included is a basic finished ceiling, concrete floor sufficient for most flooring, basic heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), basic lighting, hot water, adequate access by way of an elevator or stairs and if required by code fire protection, restrooms and drinking fountain.

This particular form of construction is for commercial owners who need to quickly incorporate a new tenant to their property. It is typically an interior space that is minimally finished. The idea being that the next tenant will be presented with a shell space that they can quickly convert into virtually anything.

Though the finished project may seem like the bare minimum, the process required to achieve this state is far from it. All components of the space must be up to code and ready for a new interior tenant build out. Typically a building permit and other licenses are required, depending upon the jurisdiction of the space.

In many cases, the landlord will offer financial incentives in the form of a tenant improvement allowance (TIA), which pays for or at least partially defrays the cost of any improvements necessary for the tenant to occupy the building itself. Tenant improvement allowances do not usually include furniture, fixtures and equipment (FFE) or trade fixtures necessary for the tenant to conduct business.

Usually white box finishes, or those improvements necessary to upgrade the building from a cold shell, are not completed until the lease agreement between the tenant and landlord has been negotiated and executed. This ensures that the landlord does not pay for improvements that are unnecessary or that the tenant does not want.

White Box Finish for Office Space

Construction design works white box

By using a universal definition of white box, you will now be speaking the same language when negotiating leases and evaluating construction bids.

Construction DesignWorks uses its hands-on approach and design expertise to create and develop a winning design build team that is specialized for each customer. Their complete turnkey solutions align with the unique business needs of various types of real estate. Construction DesignWorks, LLC. is located at 21961 West 83rd Street in Shawnee, Kansas. If you are looking for a building contractor or for more information about interior design-build, call (913) 745-4727 or visit their website https://constructiondesignworks.com.

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