GSF: Gross Square Feet in Commercial Real Estate

What is Gross Square Feet in Commercial Real Estate? 

Gross square feet, or GSF, is the entire square footage of a building. Unlike gross leasable area, or GLA, gross square feet refers to all areas, whether they can be used by tenants or not. GSF typically includes areas such as the building core, maintenance and operations areas, stairwells, elevator shafts, equipment areas, attics, garages, balconies, excavated basement areas, mezzanines, corridors and walkways. 

What Areas Aren't Included in Gross Square Feet? 

Areas that are not included in gross square feet include parking lots, courts, playing fields, un-excavated basements, light wells, and elements of upper floors that are blocked by particularly tall lobbies, spaces, or other building structures. 

How Gross Square Feet Affects Building Leases 

Most commercial leasing tenants pay for the usable area they're renting, plus a portion of the common areas. Some of these areas may be outside (and could include parking lots), so they would be included in the common area rental calculation, but wouldn't be included in a building's gross square feet. Conversely, operation and maintenance areas, while included in a building's gross square feet, would not likely be included in its common areas for rental purposes (though this may depend on the specific situation.) Large amounts of common areas are more common in large retail developments (i.e. malls), and larger office buildings. If, for example, a tenant is renting 15% of the building's usable area, they would usually be responsible for also paying rent for 15% of the common areas on a PSF (per square foot) basis. In the end, gross square feet can often be a confusing number-- and may not always be the best way to calculate rental and sale costs for commercial real estate.