Designing & Permitting Your Office, Flex or Warehouse Space  

Confused People thinking about the designing and permitting process for an office, retail, or warehouse space.

The commercial real estate build-out process can be challenging especially if you are not familiar with the city’s regulations and codes where your new office, flex, or warehouse space is located. Sometimes, the space will be move-in ready, which can reduce some of the steps in the permitting process. Other times, it is essential to have a general contractor who knows the commercial build-out process ins and outs, starting from drawings, requesting city permits to constructing the space itself. An expert general contractor will help make the experience effortless. Unfortunately, they are hard to find and very expensive. 

When it comes to designing and permitting your new commercial space, many steps need to be taken in order to proceed with and complete the build out process. The first step requires a creative designer to understand your space requirements and create multiple office, flex or warehouse design layouts to choose from.  The second step, once you choose a layout that will work for your business team, is to work with a company that will provide a city permit package to be submitted to the city for approval.  The Commercial Real Estate Construction Permit Package for building out your new office, flex, warehouse, and industrial space consists of: 

  1. What is a Commercial Real Estate City Permit Package Data Sheet or Building Code Summary Sheet?
  2. Planning Your New Office, Flex, or Warehouse Design
  3. Commercial Real Estate Permit for Demolition of Old Walls
  4. Commercial Real Estate Permit for Building New Walls
  5. What is a Reflected Ceiling City Permit Plan?
  6. What is a Commercial Electrical Drawing Plan for a City Permit?
  7. What are Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Mechanical Drawings?
  8. What are Plumbing Mechanical Drawings?
  9. What is an ADA Overview, Demising Wall, and Door Schedule?

In the sections below, we have compiled all the steps that must be completed to design, permit, and build out your office, flex, or warehouse space. Most all cities throughout the United States will have similar commercial permitting requirements. Drawings can be provided by a general contractor with the help of an architect or a commercial property management company like JW Management who works with an in-house team of experts. Working with the correct team will ensure that when the permit package is submitted to the city, the process will go as smoothly as possible.

Learn more about Commercial Real Estate Terms and Definitions

We have compiled a list of terms and definitions to assist you in understanding the commercial real estate industry definitions, concepts, and leasing terminology. These terms are necessary to understand on any property you are looking to lease.

Click here to learn more
Stressed out business man learning about the learning about the Dallas & North Arlington City permit package requirements

What is a Commercial Real Estate City Permit Package Data Sheet or Building Code Summary Sheet?

Each Permit Package contains a Data Sheet. The Data Sheet is a resource for city planners to navigate the Permit Package easily by knowing where specific detailed information can be found. Think of it as the ‘Table of Contents’ of your Permit Package Drawings. It is embedded with architectural symbols that makes it easier for city planners to determine where a specific section is. For example, an additional wall section will be constructed on your new office, flex, or warehouse space, the Data Sheet will tell them which page in the package they can find more details about the wall section. The sheet will point them to the details such as the materials, construction, and finishing of that wall section.

Planning Your New Office, Flex, or Warehouse Design

Once you have decided the space will fit your needs, then it’s time to review and sign a tenant commercial real estate lease agreement based on the estimated build out for the final design and full office requirements. An office, flex, or warehouse lease can always be amended if the general scope of the work for the buildout changes significantly.

The design process, many times, starts as a rough draft before your lease agreement is signed. Having a basic understanding of each step will help you go through the process smoothly. JW Management is a general contractor for our properties. As a general contractor, JW Management understands the complexities associated with finishing out your space requirements. The general contractor walks tenants through the step-by-step processes to design or modify an existing office, retail, flex, warehouse, or industrial space for your business requirements.

If you’re working with an outside general contractor, a final drawing needs to be created by utilizing an outside architectural firm. The architect will draw out the instructions for a Data Construction Overview Sheet, Existing Construction Demolition Schedule, New Wall Build Out Schedule, New Reflected Ceiling Build Out, Electrical Requirements Drawing, HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air conditioning) Installation Overview, Plumbing Overview Sheet, ADA Overview, Demising Wall and Door Schedule of the new office, flex, industrial, and warehouse space your business will be moving into.

Since JW Management is the general contractor for our properties, we do everything for you. We are the General Contractor, Architect, and Designer. JW Management’s team provides the subcontractor’s instructions for new wall build outs, drop ceiling build outs, floor type installation, plumbing details, HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air conditioning) requirements, LED lighting, electrical requirements, and instructions for demolition of the new office, flex, industrial, and warehouse space. We manage the process so you will not encounter any sudden delays or expenses, which can be frustrating.

Happy man reviewing a data construction overview sheet architectural drawing for a city permit package.
Man holding a sledgehammer showing a design for existing construction demolition for a commercial office leased suite

Commercial Real Estate Permit for Demolition of Old Walls

Demolition is the process of removing walls, flooring, ceiling, electrical, or any section of the office or warehouse structure. The reason for demolishing walls or parts of an office space is because the current layout does not satisfy the space requirements or to expand the suite into adjacent space. Hiring a highly skilled expert will ensure the remodeling process go smoothly as there can be varying methods to be used for demolition. If you don’t have a clear existing construction demolition schedule drawing showing which walls or ceiling are to be demolished, they can easily demo the wrong walls or ceiling.

Building out a new office, flex, industrial, or warehouse space will require a permit package including a demo schedule or existing construction demolition schedule together with a new wall plan. The permit package consists of drawings, and the existing construction demolition schedule drawing will show what walls are going to be demolished or removed. The drawing also specifies information about other items such as, but not limited to, ceilings, HVAC units, toilets, or countertops that are to be removed. In JW Management’s permit package, the demo schedule drawing signifies walls or other items to be demolished in RED on the demo schedule drawing page.

A demolition project is normally customized per tenant, but it normally includes these 4 steps below:

  1. Building Survey – Experts will examine the office space to be built out. They will look at the materials used, the method of construction, building codes, and conditions of the spaces and the multi-tenant office or flex community where it is located.
  2. Removing hazardous materials – if there are any hazardous materials left in the area before demolition, they will need to be removed— hazardous materials such as flammable materials, petroleum, concrete, or paint. Specialized personnel or processes are needed for removal to avoid contamination or accidents.
  3. Demolition Plan – your general contractor will then work at a detailed plan on how and what will be done before, during, and after demolition including the type of equipment that will be used and how much debris will need to be cleaned up and hauled away after the process is completed.
  4. Safety Measures – Proper permits should be secured before work is started. All personnel that is involved in the project like, engineers, architects, and contractors, will be advised of the potential hazard and exposure to dust, noise, and flammable materials.

Commercial Real Estate Permit for Building New Walls

The New Wall Build Out Schedule tells you where new walls will be built. The drawing looks like a floor plan, except that it focuses on the new walls you plan to build in your new office, flex, industrial, or warehouse space. At JW Management, our drawings indicate new walls in GREEN. Color coding makes it easier to see where the new walls will be constructed in your new suite. Additionally, it is important that the new wall build out schedule drawing is adherent to the city’s building codes and must pass city inspections once the commercial real estate space is fully built.   

A new wall build out schedule project is usually customized per tenant, but it normally includes these 4 steps below:    

  1. New Wall Building Survey – The general contractor will examine the open office space for the new wall built out. They will review the existing walls, ceilings, the method of existing construction, and conditions of the existing concrete foundation prior to moving forward.    
  2. New Wall Build Out Plan – The general contractor will then work on a detailed plan on how and what will be done before, during, and after the new walls are built. The plan includes the type of equipment that will be used and how much debris will need to be cleaned up and hauled away after the process is completed. The walls will be left open on one side for electrical and plumbing to be installed then inspected by the city inspector prior to closing the walls.   
  3. New Wall Closing Up Plan – After City inspection, the final layer of sheetrock will be installed to complete the build out of the walls. If the walls are demising walls, the wall must have 2 sheets of sheetrock and fire caulk installed around the rafters and ceiling.    
  4. Building Safety Measures – The skilled laborers that are involved in the project like, contractors, engineers, and architects, will be advised of the building of new walls and the safety measures that will need to be taken while the construction is in process. 


Construction man hammering in front of a new wall build out schedule for a city permit
A woman looking above a reflected ceiling buildout design that shows the planned ceiling construction of the commercial space

What is a Reflected Ceiling City Permit Plan?

The Reflected Ceiling Build Out Drawings are drawings of the ceiling’s planned construction or any ceiling features of the office, retail, flex, industrial, or warehouse space. When looking at the drawing, you will need to use your imagination and think that you are hovering a couple of feet above the ceiling looking down. Looking at the reflective ceiling drawing, you will need to visualize the ceiling drawing of the suite and the floor plan together. The reflected ceiling build out drawing plan is created to show the ceiling grids or open ceiling structure. Acoustic tiles are shown in the reflected ceiling build out drawing as well as an open ceiling in the middle of the office and in the warehouse. Overhead lighting, HVAC vents, as well as exit lighting are shown on the drawing as well.

Two different images showing what a finished ceiling build out looks like with lighting inside an office, retail, flex space

What is a Commercial Electrical Drawing Plan for a City Permit?

The Electrical requirements drawing plan provides information about the electrical works that will be completed to the new office, retail, flex, industrial, or warehouse space. Information such as the receptacle outlet locations, switches, lighting systems, ground fault interrupter (GFI), specialized office equipment, and electrical panels. The drawing plan will be created by a licensed electrical engineer or electrical contractor and must meet minimum standards by the city, or else it will require further clarification, and the approval of your permit package can be delayed or denied. After installation, city inspections will be scheduled to look at your new commercial office, flex, warehouse, or industrial space.   

The electrical requirements drawing usually has the following information:  

  • Grounding details  
  • The phase configuration, system voltage, and available fault current  
  • All feeders and subpanels with conductor types and sizes  
  • Fault current calculations from Standard Electrical System (SES) to lowest rated overcurrent device or equipment  
  • All overcurrent devices’ ampere rating  
  • Electric receptacles  
  • A single or double pole switch   
  • Occupancy and motion sensors  
  • Exit lighting 


Smiling man wearing hard hat and holding pliers in front of the electrical requirements drawing plan for a new office space
A man wearing a hard hat reviews the Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning installation drawing of the office flex space

What are Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Mechanical Drawings?

An HVAC or Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning installation overview drawing is a set of thorough drawings that shows the location of ductworks, vents, exhaust fans, and heating and cooling systems. HVAC installation overview drawings are needed in the Commercial Real Estate industry to show renovations, additions, or demolition of any part of the rented or leased suite’s existing HVAC system. The required city permit drawing goes hand in hand with the electrical drawings.  The city inspector and electrical contractor need will need to sign off on the gas, water, and electrical connections that will work together with the HVAC system to maintain the temperature of your new office, flex, industrial, or warehouse space. Having said that, an entirely new HVAC build out, and installation requires an architectural reflective ceiling plan and floor plan.   Without having the architectural drawing, the HVAC airflow calculations would not be able to be calculated correctly. There are many HVAC units to choose from in order to heat and cool a space. This drawing must be part of your permit package because the construction project’s calculated build out price is determined by the type of HVAC system that is selected for the suite build out.

What are Plumbing Mechanical Drawings?

Plumbing overview sheet drawings are also an essential part of your Permit Package. This drawing page provides necessary information about the plumbing design required for your new office, flex, industrial, or warehouse space. The plumbing overview sheet drawing will tell you where plumbing fixtures are located and the type of fixtures that will be installed. Plumbing fixtures such as toilets, sinks, water heaters, and isolation valves are the responsibility of the licensed plumber. The plumbing overview sheet drawings will be used to locate drains and septic lines as well as calculate water heater capacities within the suite. In addition to the location and types of plumbing fixtures, this drawing will also indicate where the line pipes will be run, either through walls or in the ceilings, for potable water, waste, vents, and drainage.  

The Plumbing Mechanical Drawings must comply with the National Plumbing Code and with national, provincial, and local codes. 

Plumbing drawings are based on plans drawn by the architect. These drawings show the general contractor the location of plumbing fixtures such as toilets, sinks, and water heaters in the design. Some projects require piping for the tenant’s equipment as well.  

The following are typically included in a set of plumbing mechanical drawings:  

  • A plan with lines and symbols representing all piping
  • Symbol legend, general notes, and specific keynotes
  • Fixture schedule, specifying the manufacturer and model for each item
  • Diagrams, such as water riser and sanitary stack
  • Information regarding the water heater
  • Details drawings, such as water heater, water meter connection, or floor drains
  • Diagrams or details referencing special equipment requirements. 
  • Special-air lines
Happy plumber holding a wrench and behind her shows the plumbing overview sheet design for an office, flex, or warehouse space
A relaxed and smiling business woman showing the drawing for ADA, demising walls, and door overview design behind her

What is an ADA Overview, Demising Wall Detailed Overview, and Door Schedule?

ADA stands for the American with Disabilities Act. ADA is a civil rights law that forbids discrimination against persons with disabilities in all areas of public life. Meaning, to be compliant with the law, commercial buildings or establishments must have ADA accommodation. ADA requires a landlord as well as the tenant to make their leased commercial space ADA compliant once new construction or adjustments above a certain dollar amount are made to the space. An ADA overview drawing will be part of your permit package. Bathroom access is the first step in providing ADA accommodations depending on the number of people employed by the tenant’s business and the total cost of the build out.   

Demising walls are wall divisions built to split a commercial space into several sections and serve as a firewall in case there was to be a fire in the multi-tenant complex. In the demising wall drawing, the architect identifies which part of the commercial space is a demising wall and will need to be built as a firewall. A demising wall is designed to slow down the ability for a fire to spread to an adjacent suite within the same building.   

A door schedule tells the city and the tenant the correct door type, position, and how many doors will be required in your commercial space. The door schedule drawing will also indicate the information about the materials used for the door. 

City Permitting Commercial Real Estate Office Warehouse Space

Before starting your new office, flex, or warehouse space’s build out construction, a permit is needed to be secured from the city where your leased office is located. Any type of alteration, repair, removal, or updating of your office design may need a permit. Things such as removing windows, adding walls, removing doors, moving or adding an electrical outlet will need specific permits. Each city has its own permit process. For the City of Arlington or Dallas, Texas, a one-stop online platform can be used to apply for permits, while for other cities, they may issue a permit over the counter. Even if you proceed to use an online platform, you may still end up meeting in person with the city officials. 

When applying for a city permit, drawings are required. Each application requires 10 to 15 individual drawings, depending on what work will need to be done to renovate or customize the suite. Providing drawings in the city format is called a city application package. Every city application package is designed specifically for the tenant’s needs as well as JW Management’s future needs. 

When securing a permit from the relevant city departments, drawings are required to show them the planned demolition and new construction of your new commercial office space. Permits are required to ensure that the commercial construction process is compliant with the city’s building standards. In the permit package, a COMcheck (building energy code program) will need to be completed and attached. Prior to your permit application process, you will need to select a vendor who will carry out the construction build out of your new commercial space.

Contractor Selection Process

Picking the right contractors to manage your business build out is crucial to the project’s success. If you hired a project manager to help with the bidding, he/she would send out requests from different contractors or vendors to request pricing and references and invite them to participate in a bidding process. Once you receive the bids back from different vendors, you and your project manager will choose the best team that you think will execute your build out perfectly. Read more about Tenant Construction Build Out here. 

A woman is frustrated because of the long waiting time for the city permit package application process of a leased space

Do you really want to manage your Tenant Construction Build Out?

An unsure woman looking at a hand drawing a design for the build out of the new office space

As you can see, you have not even started the construction and permitting project yet, and there are so many detailed steps. It is a complex and time-consuming process to go through these steps on your own while running your business. Over the past 40 years, JW Management has witnessed many tenants hire a general contractor and become frustrated. Often, many changes need to be done even after the work is completed, and the costs skyrocket.