Through the Eyes of an Engineer: Office and Retail Tenant Improvement Projects

When there is a TI work request, a tenant of a commercial space – often an office or retail space – requires structural expertise commonly in the form of anchoring for architectural features.

When a client asks DCI to provide tenant improvement services, the project scope does not necessarily include modifications to the existing structure, seismic upgrades, change of occupancy, or adaptive reuse. Each TI project is unique. Not only does each space contain different features, the structural design is influenced by the building’s existing core and shell structure. The following features are common TI-related project elements which might be included in build outs for office and retail spaces:

  • Operable partition supports. Operable partitions are often found in conference rooms or ballrooms. They allow spaces to be used as one large room or a series of smaller rooms. The operable partitions are hung from the structure above and are not connected to the floor.
  • Demountable partitions. These partitions are similar to office cubicles. The walls are a series of panels that have various finishes on each side with frames around each panel. The walls typically extend up to a ceiling grid, but no further. We design the connection of the walls to the floor and bracing of the wall top track to the underside of the above structure.
  • Specialty ceiling features and soffits. These are commonly used by architects to visually define spaces without breaking up the space. Based on the architect’s design intent, we can propose an appropriate structural system to showcase the feature ceiling.
  • Partial height, free-standing walls are used to establish spaces. Since the walls are free-standing, we must design them as a cantilevered element. We customize our support based on the existing structure and the specific elements of the new wall.

  • Communicating stairs. Connecting stairs from one level to another often involves designing a new opening in an existing floor for the stairs to pass through to the next level. Structural engineers can determine the loads, design appropriate members, and detail support connections.
  • New storefronts. New storefronts either inside or outside of the building introduce visitors to an official entrance, lobby, or receiving area. DCI collaborates with the architect to design a structural system that helps achieve the look and feel they have envisioned for the built space.
  • New mechanical units might require anchoring or bracing. Mechanical units may be inside or outside of the building. The units may sit on the existing structure or be hung from it. Support and bracing often consists of a combination of Unistrut members and threaded rods supported from the above structure.

Although we have discussed a few possible components of a TI project from a structural perspective, the specifics of the design are always driven by the architect’s vision for the end product.

About the author

Rose Bechtold

Rose Bechtold, Communications Specialist | Rose comes from a journalism and technical writing background. She is in her element while in research mode and naturally immerses herself in expert knowledge by interviewing staff members about new subjects. In her spare time, Rose practices plein-air sketching of buildings and random scenes around town.

Share this article
linkedIn facebook twitter

Latest perspectives

See all
Baumberger Studio Final 2022 0321

DCI Project Featured at 2024 Mass Timber Conference & in New Short Film

1510 Webster Street straightened

1510 Webster Street: An All-Around, Mass Timber First

Heartwood Exterior

The ABCs of Tall Mass Timber