If renovating your home gave you sleepless nights, imagine how stressful a large commercial office or industrial space fit-out project can get. As there are so many moving parts, the risk of things going wrong, very quickly, is real. A poorly executed fit-out project is not only disruptive to the business, but it can be very costly as well.
Therefore, it is paramount that the business leaders – in consultation with a design and fit-out specialist – review their space needs and fit-out requirements thoroughly. Having a well-thought through and clearly articulated plan will pave the way to a smoother implementation process.
A fit-out is defined as the end-to-end process of transforming an internal space into a working space, complete with facilities including restrooms, raised flooring, lighting system, meeting rooms, workstations, office furniture and staff pantry.
Ms. Zeïna Henni, Head of Project Management at Colliers International, says, “The majority of work on these projects is done in the planning stage, so it is vital for a business to commit time during this stage, particularly where there may be many department heads or stakeholders all wanting to have their say in how the new office will look/operate. Consideration must also be given to how the business will likely change in the next few years, what growth or headcount adjustments are forecast and whether flexibility will be required in the space to accommodate this. It’s a big undertaking - the space has to be suitable today, and adaptable enough to meet future needs, while retaining a fresh look and accommodating all end user requirements. Did I mention it has to stay on-budget too?”
It is not a straight forward process by any stretch of the imagination, particularly for medium-sized and large enterprises. Plenty of questions will need to be asked and here is a brief checklist on the 5 “W”s and 1H – who, what, when, where, why and how – of space fit-out.
- Consider why a new office/industrial space is needed and the benefits to be drawn from the relocation/refurbishment
- Think about future business needs: expansion, contraction and reorganisation
- List some key objectives of the fit-out and office design, e.g. to raise productivity, to encourage more collaborative work, to leverage new technology, to boost employee morale, or to enhance staff well-being
- Review office locations, assessing each one carefully to make sure it is suitable for the business, the company’s branding, and is easily accessible by staff and clients
- There may be a need to plan for a phased occupation where staff move in at different times
Read Colliers’ guide on the key considerations when choosing an office space
- Know who are the ones who need to be involved in the planning phase and decision-making process
- Engage employees on the design of new workplace
- Identify an in-house office fit-out coordinator or manager who will be the point-of-contact for all staff on matters or questions relating to the project
- Appoint a trustworthy and experienced project management consultant to work on the project
- Determine what type of space will be offered: Shell and Core (an empty shell on the inside); Cat A (provides basic finishing e.g. raised floors, mechanical and electrical services, air-conditioning and ventilation etc); or in very rare cases Cat B (completely finished and ready for occupation including features such as fully fitted kitchen, workstations, meeting rooms, social areas, furniture and fixtures, power points and IT infrastructure)
- Assess the scope and extent of work that will be needed to be done
- Evaluate design and workspace requirements
- Make sure the works are compliant to all workplace health and safety as well as fire safety regulations
- Plan way ahead; chart every step of the office fit-out process in a detailed timeline
- Set milestones and delivery deadlines with both external vendors and internal stakeholders (e.g. Will the IT department have sufficient time to put all the technology infrastructure in place?)
- Bear in mind public holidays and major company events which may disrupt the fit-out schedule
- Set a realistic budget: Determine how much can be spent on the fit-out works and how it will impact the firm’s financial numbers
- Get detailed cost estimates for every component of the project and document them carefully
- Remember to set aside extra funds for contingencies, typically 5-10% of the budget.
- Look out for potential tax breaks and cost savings, e.g. some landlords may offer to defray part of the fit-out cost
These are some basic considerations that occupiers need to work through before embarking on their fit-out project. Having a project management specialist onboard will help to ensure that the finer details of the entire process are mapped out and kinks are ironed out as far as possible, so that the project can be implemented as planned. It also provides a big dose of confidence to the in-house real estate team when they know that qualified professionals are on-hand to help.
Looking for help or advice on an upcoming project? Feel free to ask