From initial design to the day you open to employees and clients, building out your office can be a somewhat lengthy process. But  how long should you expect the whole thing to take?

The short answer is, it depends. The primary factors that can determine the timeframe for your build-out are:

  • What condition is the space in?
  • How big is the project going to be?
  • What's the scope of the build-out? I.e. are you just putting in finishes, paint and cubes, or do you have grand designs for your new office?

In this blog, we will provide estimated timelines for both a shell and second generation space based on a mid-sized tenant with a standard Class A build-out.

No matter the scope of your build-out, there are four basic steps that each project will follow. An experienced commercial contractor can help guide you through this process and take day-to-day management off of your plate.

office space renovation process

Lease Execution

The lease execution is the date that the lease is signed. This gives all subsequent phases (design, the bid process, and construction) the green light to begin.

Engage a Project Manager Before Signing Your Lease

A good tenant broker will recommend bringing in the architect and project manager early in the site selection process, to perform test fits on the space(s) you are considering and estimate construction costs, before you negotiate terms and sign the lease.

Additionally, having a project manager on board during the lease negotiation can be a huge benefit so that they can review the work letter in the lease and suggest revisions which could benefit you and ultimately help save time and money.


If you have already engaged an architect and or project manager, some of the design work may already be under way.

Once the lease is signed, design will move into schematic design, in which the layout of out of the space will be finalized and the look and feel will begin to take shape. Next the project will move into design development, and the architect and engineers will produce the final construction drawings for the project.

Bidding and Permitting

During this phase, completed construction drawings from the design phase will be used to get construction pricing and submitted to the city to apply for a building permit.

Once pricing has been received, you will compare bids and award the project to a General Contractor (GC).

Once a GC is selected and the permit has been approved, the project can move into the design stage.


This is when your project comes to life and the physical build out is completed according to the design specifications. A project manager can be a huge help throughout this phase- assisting in construction process evaluation, consistent job site inspection, timeline insurance and thorough communication between all parties.

Once construction is complete, you will need to coordinate your furniture deliveries, commercial movers, data cabling and internet installers, etc., before the office can be fully ready for move-in day and occupancy.

Shell Condition Build-Out Schedule

A shell condition space is an unfinished space within an office building. Shell spaces typically require installing all of the interior features that convert an empty suite into an office, including:

  • Framing and Drywall
  • Doors, Frames and Hardware
  • Ceilings
  • Finishes including paint and flooring
  • Millwork
  • Mechanical Systems
  • Electrical Power and Lighting
  • Plumbing for restrooms and breakroom areas

Depending on what you are specifically wanting to configure, you can expect a shell space build-out to take up to eight months. Here is a sample timeline for a 20,000-SF shell condition space requiring a Class A quality finish out.

timelife for build out of shell space

Second Generation Space Build-out Schedule

On the other hand, second generation space, commonly called “2nd Gen”, is a bit of a different story. A 2ndGen space will already have ceilings, millwork, plumbing, etc. and is typically more of an aesthetic renovation.

As there is less build-out to be done, 2nd Gen build-outs can usually be completed faster than shell condition spaces. Here is a sample timeline for a 20,000-sf second generation space requiring a Class A quality finish out:

timeline for build-out of 2nd generation space

As you can see, the timeline for your project will be largely determined by the current condition of the building you are moving into. These timelines can fluctuate, based on the size of the space and the complexity of the design.  

Once you have identified the quality of project you are looking to produce and the amount of work to be done, you can better estimate your project’s time frame.

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