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Increasing Property Potential: Facelift

Owning an older property can have low mortgage expenses, but likely has increased maintenance costs and marketing expenses. Many times we have owners come to us wanting to improve the curb appeal of a building. Sometimes the building must be completely renovated; other times it is simply a facelift.


Remodels or renovations can have additional attributes other than increasing the marketability of the building; it can help the operational costs. Over the past few years, the aspect of incorporating green or sustainable solutions has become more prominent. Green buildings are marketable and they provide the owner with a more energy efficient facility that is also marketable. BUT THAT’S NOT ALL, FOLKS! Some of these attributes can also become part of the aesthetic solution to increase curb appeal.

Before the facelift

The Facelift

Here is a case where an existing office building circa 1970’s in Midtown Atlanta had an aging window wall system. Several of the metal spandrel panels were delaminating and creating a pillowing effect. This pillowing was only seen when sunlight hit the panels at certain angles, but did not affect the performance of the exterior skin; no leaks. Also, the age of the glazing meant that it was less efficient than newer glazing would be, and many tenants had mini blinds that remained closed, blocking much of the natural light. The other issue was that the entry was discrete and hidden from the street. The owners were concerned with current soft market conditions and trying to remain competitive in the leasing market, so they wanted to explore what could be done.

Jones Pierce was asked to provide solutions for two scenarios; one was a 2-5 year short term solution, the other was a 5-10 year solution. The goals were to either fix or hide the pillowing panels and to increase curb appeal creating a stronger identity than “the black building”. The short term goal was to be minimal cost respectful of the short time period for return of investment. The long term was to be of increased cost that could be incorporated in a more substantial renovation of the building.

Short Term Option:

We presented the idea of a wrapping a horizontal canopy above the first floor windows. It would serve to provide needed shade and covered walkway to the entrance. It would also provide a means to support building address or a tenant’s name to identify with the building. The street side of the building would have vinyl mesh fabric with a printed pattern or graphic mounted off the window mullions. The mesh would be semi transparent to allow tenants to see out, but provide a light reflective surface to reduce solar glare and heat gain. The red vertical fins would provide some screening, but also identity for the entrance below.

The remainder of the south facing elevation would be applied film, like that used on buses for advertising. The glass portion would be screened to allow vision and the spandrel panels would be solid. However, the printed pattern or graphic would reflect the sun and provide a new identity for the building while hiding the pillowing effect of the panels.

While the canopy is seen as more of a long term expense, it had a multipurpose function. The facelift would satisfy the initial objective of hiding the panels, but the added benefit of cutting some of the solar load on the aging glazing hopefully resulting in lower energy costs.

Long Term Option:

Again, the horizontal canopy made sense for providing shade to the lower floor as well as shelter to the entrance. A vertical folded plane of color now highlights the location of the entrance. It will be fabricated out of perforated aluminum panels. The street face has wood louvers that protrude about 18” – 24” from the glass supported by vertical supports mounted off the window wall mullions. Likewise, on the south and west faces would be same size louvers made of aluminum. Once installed, these louvers would provide enough shading to significantly reduce the solar gain from the hot summer sun, eliminating the need for replacement glazing. Should the window system be replaced, these same louvers could be re-used with a less expensive glazing.

Both facelift options require an investment. However, the later option could mitigate a larger investment of recladding the entire building, as discussed for the future renovation. The result of each scheme is to create a new identity for the building to market to tenants, while allowing the owners to maintain the current lease rate, if not better.  The benefit to each option is the gain through lower utility bills. This would be realized by the tenants without affecting the lease rate. Obviously, this would be enhanced greatly if the long term option was incorporated with the comprehensive renovation of the building that included a new mechanical system, new energy efficient lighting, and water saving plumbing fixtures.

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