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When is a Mezzanine not a Mezzanine?

mezzanine or work platform

What a difference a name can make.

People tend to call any elevated platform a “mezzanine” in this industry, but that may be a mistake. When you are installing or otherwise specifying a platform, you need to be aware that the word “mezzanine” can cost you money and headaches when applied incorrectly.

It boils down to whether or not authorities consider the mezzanine to be part of a building or capital equipment according to Steele Solutions President Kevin O’Neill. That differentiation is critical in some areas. This is because many new buildings are built with “mezzanine levels” that are essentially part of the building structure. When the structure is considered part of a building rather than capital equipment, it may have serious implications for code compliance, bathroom additions, handicap access, and potentially tax rates and depreciation. This all tends to boil down to intention — if the structure is typically used like most warehouse or industrial operation facilities, you aren’t dodging taxes or accessibility rules. You are applying them correctly. You just need the building permit people and regulators to clearly understand why the structure is being built, and what it’s for. 

Consider calling your mezzanine project names such as work platforms, elevated platform, storage platform, equipment platform, etc. These are more accurate and descriptive than the overly inclusive, and sometimes inaccurate word “mezzanine”.

When not to use the word “mezzanine”:

  • When you want the function of the new installation made clear. If it is a platform where work is being executed, calling it a “work platform” during the bidding process, on installation drawings, on permit applications, etc, provides regulators an accurate definition of the platform’s function,.
  • When the building approval process is onerous. If the new structure doesn’t fit the technical definition of a mezzanine (as defined by law), don’t complicate the issue by calling it one.
  • When federal depreciation dollars are important: capital equipment depreciates over seven years rather than 31. 
  • When you don’t want to overpay property taxes: In some areas, mezzanines are considered part of the square footage of the facility, and platforms aren’t. This can have a hefty impact on property taxes every year.

Be sure you adhere to local building codes and tax laws whenever you execute an elevated structure project; just calling these projects something different won’t change the need to adhere to these rules, but being clear as to the type of structure and function can save you headaches as you move forward.

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Scott Stone Cisco-Eagle's Director of Marketing. He has over 25 years of experience in the industry.