What was once considered to be adequate ceiling height for industrial properties – 14 to 16 feet – is no longer a selling point for landlords and brokers pushing what many consider to be functionally obsolete buildings. Modern distribution centers, in particular, require high ceilings for maximum efficiency.
Raising the roof on otherwise appropriate buildings has become an increasingly viable option for prospective tenants and building owners who often lament the lack of industrial space on Long Island.
Take Arrow Linen Supply, a family-owned and operated supply company servicing New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, which maintains an existing facility in Brooklyn and was recently looking to acquire a building on Long Island. While location, size and lot were all important factors in the search for a new facility, ceiling height was critical for the company, which was looking to expand into commercial laundry services, according to Chief Engineer Frank Park. Additional cubic footage, as opposed to square footage, was needed to accommodate the monorail system that is used to move merchandise for processing, he said.
Park was disappointed by the inventory on Long Island.
“A lot of buildings in the Long Island area had low ceilings,” he said. “We couldn’t find a bigger, suitable building to meet our needs.” When a real estate agent suggested purchasing a 72,000-square-foot building with 14-foot ceilings in Garden City and raising a portion of the roof, Park was skeptical. After learning more about the process and evaluating the cost-effectiveness of the project, however, the company got on board.
“[Lifting the ceiling] provides another option for people to do something different with their industrial building,” Davis said. When companies calculate the cost per square foot (Davis Construction charges $15 per square foot to raise a ceiling) against the value of what the property will be with more usable space, it generally makes sense economically, he said.
Higher ceilings are also a draw for landlords, who are able to attract more tenants, Schwartzberg said. He estimates in one-third of situations, ceiling height is the single factor influencing whether or not clients are interested in a property.
If two buildings are similar, side-by side in the same location, and the only difference is a 14-foot ceiling vs. an 18-foot one, “nine out of 10 customers will choose the building with an 18-foot ceiling.
“It’s very rare someone will say, ‘The ceilings are too high,’ ‘The lights are too high’ or ‘The utilities will cost me a fortune,’” he said.