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About 11% of U.S. office buildings could be suitable for green office-to-residential conversions

Office Buildings

About 11% of U.S. office buildings could be suitable for green office-to-residential conversions

Researchers developed model with traits that indicate financial viability for conversion


By Peter Fabris, Contributing Editor  | August 31, 2023
Photo: Pixels Pixabay - About 11% of U.S. office buildings could be suitable for green office-to-residential conversions
Photo: Pixels Pixabay

A National Bureau of Economic Research working paper from researchers at New York University and Columbia Business School indicates that about 11% of U.S. office buildings may be suitable for conversion to green multifamily properties.

According to a report at Globe St., the researchers created “a set of criteria to identify commercial office properties that are physically suitable for conversion.” The paper also discusses “several policy levers available to federal, state, and local governments that could accelerate the conversion.”

The researchers identified candidates for conversion according to the following criteria:

  • Locations in a city with the strongest negative valuation pressures and with strong transportation options
  • Buildings constructed before 1990 that tend to be cheaper, have smaller floor plates, and are more charming, increasing conversion appeal
  • Class A, B, and C buildings that are underused 
  • Buildings at least 25,000 sf in size to ensure enough economies of scale 
  • Buildings with a distance from windows to core of more than 60 feet were excluded
  • Eliminated buildings with no or few long-term leases left

The researchers showed an example pro-forma for a 212,500 sf office building that would result in post-conversion rent of $8 per square foot as compared to a $3.50 post-pandemic rent if the property remained as an office building.

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