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Monday Oct 08, 2012

Botox for commercial properties boosts business

The location of a commercial property is always of key importance, but its appearance also plays a significant role in attracting and retaining tenants due to the perceived desirability of the venue.

A commercial property with a characteristic architectural style from the eighties.

This is according to Rudolf Nieman, managing director of JHI Project Management - a member of the Excellerate Property Services group. "It often happens that a commercially viable building may develop vacancies because of problems created by a defunct façade or one that does not have what is seen as a 'timeless design'.

"For example, buildings in an office park with a particular theme may become dated over time as architectural trends change."

Factors relating to façades that may have a negative impact on the desirability of a commercial property include: Old-fashioned appearance; The building does not keep abreast with "green requirements";

The exterior does not complement or keep pace with modern interiors that are constantly upgraded and modernised by means of tenant installation allowances, as tenants move in and out of buildings; and

Cracks, leaks and safety issues related to the building façade.

Nieman says this disparity is especially noticeable in areas where new buildings are being c onstructed, and the façades of existing and older buildings are highlighted by their contrast to the more modern structures.

To remedy these problems, JHI Project Management and ARC Architects have begun analysing methods of cladding dated façades.

Pierre van Driel, senior partner at ARC, says masonry façade refurbishment through cladding can be achieved using materials ranging from ceramic extruded profiles and large- format porcelain sheets to composite recycled plastic and aluminium panels - or even concrete.

"Each material provides its own U-value - the measurement of the material's insulation capabilities. Depending on the fixing detail, when using a sub-frame system for cladding an existing building an air barrier is formed between the old façade and the new material. This lowers the heat gain through the façade fabric, which in turn raises the façade's insulation properties.

"This reduces the load on the HVAC (heating, ventilation and airconditioning) plant to regulate temperatures in the building. These air barriers may also be ventilated, which further enhances insulation."

Many of these systems can be manufactured off-site and installed in a fraction of the time a conventional façade would take to be built.

"Sealing the building is always a critical path. Besides the time gain, it reduces any disruption or inconvenience to tenants.

"This is crucial when renovating as there are probably user tenants who are at work behind the existing façade.

"If a panel is damaged, it can simply be replaced without a string of mixed- discipline contractors being required. Some of these systems claim to be 'self-cleaning', but these treatments tend to be more effective in higher rainfall areas."

Nieman says some suppliers provide computer-aided design detailing services that are included in their rates, as achieving neat jointing and corners and low wastage can be tricky.

"Façade cladding may also provide a solution to high-level moisture ingress. To be doubly sure you can prepare or spray seal the deteriorating existing masonry before cladding. Some older buildings may have developed consolidation settlement cracks after construction and cladding conceals these.

"Expansion movement in long runs may be reduced by insulating the walls and any cracks can be monitored further from the inside.

"Some of t he l i ghter- weight systems can even be i nstalled using patented heavy-duty Velcro strips.

"Regardless of the system used, it's advisable that a façade engineer first confirms height and specific wind loads before detail selection, for obvious reasons of safety.

"Besides increasing the performance of the existing building and reducing effective time on site, cladding an outdated building can 'transport' it from the previous century and bring it up to date with trends.

"Many new buildings exhibit these systems because they make sense and are the way environment ally conscious developers are moving.

"Naturally, the initial outlay is offset by the savings achieved in consumption and maintenance bills in the longer term."

The proper design and execution of a new façade can add value to a building.

JHI Properties has experienced a marked i ncrease i n achievable rentals because of the redesign of the façades of properties - especially with office blocks.

Commenting on trends, Nieman says landlords, asset managers and tenants are increasingly looking for holistic property portfolio greening strategies to reap the full financial benefits relating to all aspects that impact on the environment.

These include water management, the recycling of materials, the materials used in refurbishing buildings, and active awareness management.

"More and more, these roleplayers are looking to their property managers to provide them with onestop solutions involving energy management and action plans for other categories that affect the environment," says Nieman.

In response to the rapidly growing need, JHI has formulated a comprehensive but simple "green strategy" with 18 categories that affect the environment.

Says Nieman: "The practical aspect of this strategy culminates in an electronic and user-friendly initiatives chart that enables users to find action steps linked to specific categories.

"To assist with the applicable intervention, each step can be evaluated in term of expertise required, costs involved and benefits to the landlord, the occupier of the space, and the environment.

"Also, the initiatives chart can be used to assess an individual building or a portfolio of properties."

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