There comes a time in the lifespan of most businesses where an office fit-out is considered. The company may have been putting up with an inadequate office space for some time and feel it’s time to sort things out or their business may have expanded or changed the way it operates. Some businesses want to free up space by converting individual offices into one open plan space, while others go the other way, creating partitioned offices for more privacy.
Sometimes a business just wants to improve their brand image or their staff morale by completely refreshing their offices.
And then there are those new office spaces which are simply a shell and have to be fitted out before use.
1. Do you need a Category A or Category B installation?
The first consideration you need to make is whether your refit requires a full Category A installation, including suspended ceilings; raised floors and coverings; floor and wall finishes; electrical and mechanical extensions etc., or a Category B installation, which focuses on specialist features like installing glass-partition offices; providing enhanced lighting; IT and AV facilities and the creation of tea points, reception desks and breakout areas. In reality there is no clear distinction between the two categories and elements of both may be needed.
2. Traditional Procurement or Design & Build?
An important distinction to make is between the Traditional Procurement (TP) and Design & Build (D&B) route to office fit-outs. TP is a sequential process of employing designers who then create detailed schedules ready for tendering out to contractors. Since the design has to be finalised before any contractors are brought in, TP can be a time-consuming process although the client can benefit from bulk cost discounts.
For office spaces of below 10,000 square feet, many businesses opt to go down the faster D&B route whereby the installation and design are all managed by one company. To provide added security, some businesses opt for regulated D&B which simply means that a third party is employed as an agent to oversee the project and keep an eye on costings, building regulations compliance and overall quality. For office spaces of 2,000 square feet or below, many businesses choose a standard D&B service. Whereas some D&B companies out-task the design process, others have an in-house design team with full CAD capability.
3. Choosing a Fit-Out Company
In a D&B office fit-out, it is very important that the company chosen is properly vetted. Good signs to look out for include membership of professional installation bodies, strong connections with quality manufacturers, previous work with high-spec clients and proven expertise in multiple specialist areas such as installing suspended ceilings, joinery, floor finishing, etc. A decent fit-out company will also inject creativity into their projects, as evidenced by their case studies; low quality companies often churn out drab ‘cookie-cutter’ designs.
4. Space Planning & Design
Every office fit-out process must include a comprehensive space planning and design process. Whereas space planning entails working out an overview of exactly how the business will use the space created along with the basic positioning of offices and other areas, the design process will concentrate on the specifics such as electrical point placement, types of finish and furniture installation.
5. The Fit-out Process
Once the contracts have been signed and the works schedule agreed, installation can begin in earnest. The beauty of the D&B office fit-out route is that some elements of construction can begin while design is ongoing, slashing the time taken to complete the project.
6. Procuring & Installing Furniture
The final stage of an office-fit out is usually the procurement and installation of office furniture. Some office fit-out companies have a specialised office furniture division which is responsible for sourcing the best quality office furniture for the client’s budget.