“Fit out” refers to the process of making an interior space ready for occupation. As a common practice, when constructing commercial buildings, the spaces inside are left bare for the occupants to determine the level of refurbishment needed (or fitting out).
Ideally, fit-outs allow the business to plan and create how the establishment will look like.
In building preparation, fit-out refers to activities such as the installation of the floors, ceilings, partitions, and furnishings. Additionally, building services such as cabling, wiring, internet connectivity, and communication arrangements may also fall under the fitting out process.
Fit Out vs. Renovation: What’s the Difference?
Often, people confuse fit-outs with renovations, and most times, the two are used interchangeably. However, while they’re closely related, both have distinctive purposes and procedures.
To easily understand these two terms, let’s take the example of an office fit-out.
What is an Office Fit-Out?
This involves taking an empty space and transforming it into a usable office set up. This means putting up structural features like window placements, door fittings, heating, plumbing, and ventilation.
What is an Office Renovation?
Office renovation has more to do with the interior design aspects of the office. These are the features needed to give the space a professional look. Ideally, renovation is more about revamping a space to give it more aesthetics. This may include painting, adding better furniture, and including some décor items. Generally, an office renovation takes longer than a fit-out process.
What are the Different Types of Fit-Outs?
Commercial fit-outs are classified into three major categories – Category A, Category B, and Shell-Core fit-outs. To make a more informed decision when fitting out a commercial space, you need to understand what each category involves:
Shell and Core Fit-Out
Here, the framework of the building is already in place waiting for the fitting out process. From the outside, the envelope of the building may appear done, however, it’s missing several components such as power, interior walls, lighting, and heating.
A shell and core fit-out allows a business to custom fit a space to its specifications. This is suitable for large companies taking up a lot of space.
Category A Fit-Out
Category A fit-out is typically what is found in a commercial space that’s ready for renting. This is a basic functional unit with some utilities such as electrical wiring and plumbing fixtures already in place.
Usually, a Category A fit-out will involve installing features such as:
- Electrical outlets
- Raised access floors
- HVAC systems
- Fire protection systems
- Grid ceiling
Basically, the space is functional but lacks the secondary features of design that’ll make it fit for its intended use. From this building phase, a business moves in and implements a Category B layout.
Category B Fit-Out
Category B fit-out is the layout that takes into account your business needs and image. This fit-out involves installing features and systems lacking in Category A. In other words, Category B is the aesthetic design fit-out phase where the space is made to be more specific to the business.
This phase may involve window treatments, adding furniture, installing the lighting, adding some flooring, partitioning, painting, and branding.
For best results, Category B should be inspired by the company’s culture, work ethics, team size, and protocols. This is the stage to tap into your creativity and business style to create a compelling brand image.
Things to Consider Before You Start a Fit-Out Project
Commercial fitting out requires a lot of planning and preparation. Before starting any project, consider the following important factors:
Comprehensive Price Estimate
Before conducting a commercial office fit-out project, confirm that the initial quote received from the interior design company is comprehensive and eliminate any additional expenses. Take time to review the quote, making sure it covers the following:
- Design briefs
- Technical plans
- Building assessment
- Project management
- Material delivery
With a comprehensive quote, the company can budget for the whole project effectively and never fall victim to sudden increases in the final costs.
A Design That Matches the Branding
The new office design should match the brand colors, appearance, culture, values, and vision of the company. It should be an extension of other marketing and advertising materials. That way, the clients get the same impression when they walk into the office, read the brochures, browse the company’s website, or visit its social media pages.
Efficiency of the Service System Designs
Design the fit-out in a way that different systems within the workplace operate efficiently to match the staffs’ needs (including reliable AC system for optimal office temperature, adequate lighting system, enough sockets, and so on).
Here are some systems to consider before finalizing the layout with the designer:
- The type of data cabling required
- Lighting and lux levels
- Position of power outlets and switches
- Number of data points required
- Number of power outlets required
- Air conditioning units
- Air conditioning to server rooms and server racks
- Ventilation, the position of mechanical registers, and return air grills
Talk to the employees to ensure you have all the crucial information about the commercial space.
Migrate IT and Telecoms
Communication necessities such as the internet and telephone can greatly get disrupted when moving from one workplace to another. Depending on the business, any slight communication disruption may result in inconveniencing or losing several clients.
This can be avoided by hiring a reliable fit-out specialist to create a solid migration plan for the communication system. A seamless migration process ensures that clients can email, text, or call even when the business is moving into new offices.
Legal Compliance of the New Space
The new design has to comply with all government requirements, which cover areas such as:
- Fire alarm and extinguishers
- Safe electrical setups
- Ample working space
- Efficient and comfortable working environment
- Health and hygiene
Compliance with the above lowers the risk of illnesses, injuries, and accidents to the employees. The company also avoids unnecessary lawsuits.
Built-in Opportunity to Expand the Space
Though not always possible, it’s important to design an office that’ll allow more equipment and furniture to accommodate more clients as the business expands in the future. With room for expansion, the business avoids the need to relocate, saving more money.
Commercial Fit-Out Steps to Follow
The whole fit-out process may be daunting. It requires the input of both employees and construction and design experts. Utilize the following steps when fitting out a new business space:
Select the Fit-Out Team
Choose the right people within the business to manage and oversee the fit-out project. For this project, pick individuals who are organized, creative, good with numbers, and able to make decisions. With the team:
- Determine what will work in the workspace and what’s right for the employees
- Set and communicate the budget
- Establish how much space is needed
- Make contingency for future growth and expansion where necessary
Ideally, the team members should be from different departments of the company to ensure the fit-out project caters to everyone’s needs in the new space.
Building Search and Appraisal
If the business has to choose between staying in the current building or moving somewhere else, consult widely to make a more beneficial choice. Staying could be more affordable, but moving out might offer more opportunities for future growth and expansion.
If looking for a new or more suitable commercial space, choose a highly recommended property agent to assist you.
Engage a Legal Team
This team will not only help you to compare leases and start the negotiation process but also be in charge of finalizing the old lease if the business is moving out. They will also take care of all other legal requirements of the project.
Choose a Relocation or Fit Out Partner
Research, evaluate, and select the best relocation or fit-out company for the project. Since it’s difficult to juggle multiple suppliers, ensure the selected fit-out partner can offer every service the business needs.
Discuss with the office interior designer and finalize the design and scope of work for quoting. While at it, communicate all the needs including branding and efficiency of operations.
Carry Out Pre-construction Planning
The business still has to run even when the project will be taking place. Discuss and plan with the fit-out partner on how there will be minimal disruptions.
Start the Fit-Out Process
Once the fit-out process begins, maintain communication with the team such that any change of plan can get implemented effectively.
If moving to a new place, the previous building management will most likely require the business to leave the space as it was initially. So, plan with your fit-out partner to have this implemented too.
When ready to move to the new office, hire a reputable company to make the migration process as seamless as possible. That’s why choosing an all-round fit-out company that can offer all the services, including migration, is important during the initial stages of the project.
Once the business moves, ensure the fire systems, hydraulic systems, security systems, and so on are in excellent condition. Any necessary adjustment required after moving in can always take place during maintenance.
8 Fit-Out Mistakes You Should Avoid
Fitting out requires a lot of patience and attention to detail. The following are some of the fit-out mistakes that many businesses make:
1. Rushing Through Planning
Skipping or rushing through the planning stage will result in a poorly done fit-out which is a waste of money and time. It’ll be prone to structural setbacks and the need for regular refurbishment.
Get a fit-out expert to do the planning for the best results. They’ll make use of the limited space and stretch the budget, without compromising on the quality.
2. Dysfunctional Layout Design
Work with a layout plan that incorporates both the present and future plans of the business.
Envision the office, not from an individual point of view, but that of the employees and visitors. Think of the needs of your business and create a presentable outlook and a pleasant working environment.
Aim at creating a dynamic, professional, and functional space by attending to every aspect of the office needs. Besides the working area, don’t forget about the space and access to the conference room, reception, and break room.
3. Inappropriate Budgeting
Creating a comprehensive budget is a priority to businesses seeking to improve their fit-out.
Determine your financial blueprint and work within its limits. The aim is to achieve a cost-efficient fit-out that makes provisions for unexpected changes in price and other factors. Get a fit-out expert to help you with the budgeting.
4. Failing to Consider Future Business Plans
Ensure the fit-out design can accommodate future expansion needs. Instead of permanent wall fixtures, business owners could consider contemporary designs for their offices.
Additionally, share the long-term corporate plans with the fit-out expert and ensure they incorporate it into their designs.
5. Replicating Other Office Designs
Getting inspiration from other fit-out designs is fine. However, replicating it may not bring out the same aura, especially if the businesses are in different sectors.
Incorporate the company’s core values, goals, and achievements on the fit-out design to stand out from the competition.
6. Assuming the Landlord
Not being fully acquainted with the landlord’s regulations and restrictions could negatively impact the project costs and duration. Restrictions such as operating during specific working hours could significantly affect the project’s progress.
Before starting the fit-out project, discuss the designs and other project details with the landlord or their representative. Make sure there’s an agreement on how the project will be conducted.
7. Inadequate Lighting and Airflow
Staying in a poorly lit room with insufficient ventilation could negatively affect a person’s health. Consequently, exposing employees to poorly lit rooms with inadequate airflow hinders their productivity and performance.
A good fit-out design should incorporate the use of large windows to allow sufficient airflow and natural light. Additionally, the fit-out expert should be able to advise on other environmentally friendly designs for the office. This will help attract clients and save energy.
8. Not Consulting Employees
Since employees spend most of their time in the office, it’s vital to keep them in mind when coming up with the fit-out design. Consult them on what to include and what to prioritize on the design.
Find a Good Fit-Out Construction Company for the Best Results
A fit-out can make or break a business. It ensures that systems are working efficiently, employees are productive, and customers enjoy the ambiance in the business premises.
This is not a simple renovation – it’s the image the business portrays to the public. As a result, be sure to set aside a reasonable budget for this project for the best results.