Dilapidation is something to consider when building a new recording studio. As space becomes more competitive in our urban centers, property owners are cashing in. Why receive a comparatively paltry rent when you can build a lucrative block of apartments?  A typical lease will have a clause placing a responsibly on the tenant to return the space to the same condition that it was in originally before the lease was taken out. What does this mean for a recording studio, and what is the best way to avoid risking the business?

What is Dilapidation?

The term dilapidation refers to the responsibility of a tenant to repair/restore the condition of a premises to the condition it was in before the occupancy. This include structural work such as windows, doors, walls, wiring, air conditioning and more. A high-quality studio requires very specific structural architecture that your unlikely to find on rightmove, so it will need to built within the rented space, and removed when the lease ends.

Changing city landscapes…

Areas like London’s Soho and Dublin’s Windmill lane are traditionally a hotbed for media-production studios, film and music work. Unfortunately (call me biased) the past 5 years has seen interest in the these areas increase from other industries and interests. These areas are now becoming chic spaces for companies like Google, Facebook, Airbnb and other corporate giants to set up their open-plan offices. Property owners previously letting at fair prices are increasing tempted to sell up. Just recently in Dublin, the Tivoli theatre was demolished in Dublin historic Liberties quarter in lieu of a hotel (yawn). Creative industries are being made to adapt to the changing landscape in these areas and are being pushed back to the suburbs in some unfortunate cases.

Site of the now demolished Tivoli Theatre

If the worst happens, there is a significant cost associated. Consider the plight of a standard 30-person office, which with full dilapidations, can expect to pay 25k -45k to according to Makingmoveslondon. These are some staggering figures. This could mean that on average you could expect to pay somewhere in the region of a year’s rent in dilapidation costs. That coupled with the deposit for a new premises, a new studio build, transporting equipment and other costs could be enough to seriously challenge the strength of the business.

The Studio’s Challenge

Media production studios, while having many of the same assets as a regular office, have acoustic architecture, which in a traditional build is nigh-on impossible to remove without demolishing most of it. I was not able to get any studio specific numbers, but you could expect a studio’s dilapidation costs to be significantly higher than a regular office. There would have to be some heavy-duty re-structuring to return a room designed for professional audio production back into the empty room whence it came.  

A rented commercial space before Smart Studio build.

When a new site has been selected, the job of re-configuring the studio to its previous state is begun. While mixing consoles, monitors, cameras, computers and weighty racks of equipment can be unplugged and transported relatively easily somewhere else, an audio studio’s acoustic architecture often cannot be transplanted. Studio design is often a bespoke affair, and the in some cases the construction can be sub contracted to various parties. One subbie to lay the floor, one does the walls and ceiling, another for the air con, another for the joinery, another for the electrics. This results in a perfectly acceptable outcome in most cases, but what if a relocation become necessary?

The solution that smart studio offers

Smart Studio builds studios in a way that allows for easy disassembly and re-use. The same precision factory build that allowed for simple installation on-site also allows for a quick turnaround on relocating the components. Our install team has a complete picture of all the areas usually sub contracted out. We can remove the ceiling, walls, coil units, and floors, losing only fabrics and quilts. We keep our standardised modules, and these are either added to do or reduced depending on the next location. We have a consistent process no matter what the space, allowing us to achieve identical frequency response, diffusion, and sound insulation again and again no matter where it is.

Smart Studios skeleton during assembly
Smart Studio’s modular studio building technique makes for easy disassembly.

This allows users of Smart Studio to retain a core residual value from their investment and make dilapidation costs less foreboding. While you will lose some materials, but we believe about 70% of the build can be reused, and unless some unscrupulous landlord has bought us out, we will have a team ready to make that move a little easier.