Rentable Vs Usable Square Footage

by | Last updated Jun 26, 2020 | Commercial

Usable square feet is the space a tenant can use and occupy and has possession of. Rentable square feet is a real estate term, usually used for commercial spaces, for the amount of square feet the rent is based on. This area includes space outside of the actual rented area including stairways, lobbies, corridors, etc… In some cases a landlord will list the square footage of a commercial space as rentable square footage and in some cases they may list it as usable square footage.


Rentable Square Feet Vs Usable Square Feet


Usable Square Feet

Usable square feet is the space a tenant can use. This is measured as the floor area within the perimeter walls. It is the amount of space the tenant has legal possession of and can use. Hence it is called usable square footage. This can be measured empirically.


Rentable Square Feet

Rentable square feet is not quite empirical. In theory the rentable square feet includes common areas. Examples could be corridors, stairs, elevators, bathrooms if they are shared and in the common corridor. Then the common spaces are divided among the tenants and they pay rent on those spaces as well.


What Rentable square Footage is supposed to be

Rentable Square Footage is supposed to be a proportion of the building common spaces. For example if a building is 100,000 square feet and it has 80,000 square feet of usable office space they then have 20% of common areas. The landlord would then add 20% to the usable square footage to calculate the rentable square footage.


My Opinion on Rentable Square Feet

In my opinion rentable square footage is rarely based on math or measurements. Many commercial landlords just make up the number to inflate the square footage on their website or wherever they have it posted. At our architecture firm Fontan Architecture we moved our office in the Chelsea / Flatiron area. We saw many offices and we always measured them ourselves for the usable square footage. We found instances where the rentable square footage was over double the usable square footage of the office. When calculating the value of an office we went based on our own measurements of usable square footage and of course took into consideration building quality and commercial building class.


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Jorge Fontan
Jorge Fontan

This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 15 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.