Measuring Without a Ruler
By Tony Ozelis

How Big is Your Body?

da Vinci- Vitruvian ManIt happens to us all every once in a while. There we are out doing other things and we come across a site that may work for us. Although it’s not always practical to have a tape measure, rolling ruler or other measuring devices with you, there are a few time-honored tricks that the pros use in times like these …they simply walk it off.

We’re not implying that they walk away…we mean they pace-off the site.

You see there are two measurements that you carry around with you all of the time that come in pretty handy in real estate development; they are the length of your stride (practiced to consistent three feet) and the width of your out-stretched arms (finger tip to finger tip), which obviously varies from person to person, but averages anywhere between five to six feet, for us mere mortals.

At the risk of looking Monty Python silly, if you place an open tape measure on the floor, extended to about twelve or fifteen feet and walk past it a few times, you’ll eventually get the feel of what a step of three feet feels like. Try not to exaggerate it; your stride is what it is…the important thing is to commit to memory the average length of your stride. Do it comfortably and naturally in your normal pace (and preferably alone, so nobody thinks you’re practicing for an upcoming sobriety test).

 

Can you see inside?

If it’s vacant space, you can usually count the ceiling tiles. Many retail stores these days are built using the standard 2’X4' suspended ceiling tile (the 2’X2’ is a somewhat distant second, but still just as useful). By counting the tiles and doing a bit of quick math, you can get pretty close to the actual usable square footage of the place. If the depth of the site is blocked by walls and/or partitions, you can either take the measurement of a similar adjacent store (as long as you look nonchalant while walking through doing your counting) or pace-off along the outside of the building.

Unfortunately with floor tiles, aside from coming in all sorts of shapes and sizes, they do appear to get much smaller as they run away from you, so counting them with any hope of accuracy is fairly difficult unless you’re inside the space, in which case you should just pace it off. Of course, these methods are only going to give you a ballpark number and will not take into consideration any loss-factors that the space or building may have, but as we said, it will give you a pretty good idea of the approximate size of the space.

Now, with your new-found knowledge, if you come across a space and don’t have a tape with you (or there is another tenant currently in there and you want to keep it on the quiet side) just think how cool you’ll appear when you calmly take your calculated stroll past a site and, in a smug, matter-of-fact-tone say “it’s only 22 feet wide”...wow…that’s dirt-guy cool.

Happy hunting…

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