Grey Shell vs. Vanilla Shell: What is the Difference?

When leasing or buying new commercial space, you may run across the following terms: Grey Shell and Vanilla Shell. Many people are confused about the difference between the two. While each situation is different, the following are basic definitions of the two and what is most commonly included.

The term Vanilla Shell (White Box, Warm Shell) is a commercial real estate term that refers to a landlord or seller delivering a space to a tenant with the basic finishings. The finishings typically include fire taped walls ready to paint, electrical panel and outlets, sealed concrete or finished floor, finished ceiling with lighting, HVAC including duct work and controls, finished bathroom (if there is no common area bathroom), and sprinkler system, if required by code.

Grey Shell (Cold Shell) is a space offered by a landlord or seller that is completely unfinished. You will generally find bare stud walls, unfinished floors, and no plumbing or electrical, but with a point of connection for sewer within the space and a space for a new electrical service within the electrical room.  The space may include a HVAC unit but no ductwork or controls and, if required by code, the sprinkler system may be installed but not dropped to finished ceiling height.

A Vanilla Shell offers a tenant a close to finished space and a relatively quick move-in time. A Grey Shell will require more work to get completed but offers greater opportunity for custom finishes and design. The finish cost for a Vanilla Shell can run between $5 to $20 a square foot, where a Grey Shell can be upwards of $30 to over $100 a square foot, depending on how custom the build-out is. Most landlords or sellers will offer some type of allowance for tenants to finish the space which can be negotiated into the lease or purchase terms. On a lease, typically, the longer the lease term, the more generous landlords are willing to be.

Do you have a question about your next commercial construction, grey shell or vanilla shell project? If so, contact us for a consultation.

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