A guide to modern office design & office fit out costs

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According to a leading office interior fit out & office refurbishment project management and cost consultancy firm in London, typical 2012 office fit out costs with a modern office design range from £45.00 psf for an office refurbishment in a logistics warehouse to £75.00 psf for a project that includes a significant upgrade to the building ventilation systems. A recently completed, high specification project for a leading FTSE 100 company – at £62.50 psf – would have been at a much higher cost, above £100 psf, but the project re-used a considerable amount of FF & E from existing premises to achieve significant savings.

Certain modern office interior design projects involve a fit-out cost per square foot far higher than the typical range; for example, with fit out costs sometimes in the region of £180 – £200 per square foot. Commercial interior fit out projects with this level of cost differ from the regular office design layout or office refurbishment in that the fittings, materials and furniture will be specified to the very highest standard rather than the usual commercial levels.

All figures quoted include Office Designs, CDM & Building Regulation submissions and project management… the figures are for complete start-to-finish projects.

Office Fit Out Costs

Suggested price ranges for CAT B office fit out costs of £40 – £60 per square foot for a basic specification, £60 – £80 psf for a mid-range scheme, £80 – £100 psf for a high quality project and £120 + for projects incorporating outstanding office design ideas and quality. Typically, these figures include separate professional fees for architects, external project management, QS and cost control that together account for the difference between Design & Build fit-out costs and the ‘traditional’ examples quoted.

Legal minimum office space per person.

There is no prescribed minimum occupancy level for a modern office design. Within the UK Building Regulations the section dealing with Fire Hazards (Part B of the Building Regs.) advises a minimum area of 6 square metres (64 sq feet) for each person in an office premises. This figure can be achieved by equating the total headcount against the overall net internal area (NIA) and so doesn’t necessarily limit the space for a single person with a desk.

In practice, offices will have a number of factors – mostly relating to Fire Escape but also the provisions of WCs, amount of fresh air available through a ducted system, etc. – that have an impact on the legal maximum number of people accommodated within an office building. The Means of Escape is the key criteria for density of occupation. Once a workstation/office design layout is defined the Building Control advisor can determine if there are sufficient escape routes for the staff numbers.

What lies ahead for occupancy ratios?

As mobile technology improves; as home working becomes more viable with bandwidth increases, and as part-time working becomes more widespread, so the need for one desk per person diminishes. Increasingly modern office design is moving towards a ratio of 7 or 8 desks for every 10 staff. The next question is then about saving money by reducing the overall office space rental, or to give some of the space over to social and team purposes? One of the leading adopters of modern office design, incorporating flexible working and shared desk allocation, CISCO Systems, works on a ratio of 160 sq ft per person.

Clearly, they haven’t used unallocated desks and mobile working as a cost-cutting measure. Instead they’ve used space imaginatively, incorporating a modern office interior design to promote interaction, inspiration, and work zones to support teams, quiet working, noisy working… whatever office design layout is needed for the staff to be most effective.

Occasionally cost information is presented on a Square Metre basis. The ratio of square feet to square metres is approximately 10.7:1.

Office Fit Out Terminology – Cat A and Cat B

CAT A refers to the fit-out or refurbishment undertaken by a Landlord. Typically, this will include suspended ceilings and lighting, a raised floor with carpet, air conditioning, sometimes a degree of local power within the open floor area, and sometimes even a tea point with integrated plumbing. Showers and WCs are usually included within the base build. CAT A also describes the quality of the Landlords fit-out, with a level that is commensurate with a building at the upper end of the rental value for the location.

CAT B is the tenants office fit out, covering internal, demountable partitions, structured data cabling installation, modern office design ideas and infrastructure unique to the occupier.

If you are considering an office fit out, office refurbishment or business relocation – and don’t have the necessary expertise in house – it is imperitive that you appoint an external project manager & cost consultant from the very outset. You can rest assured that a good one will save you far more than their very modest fees.

Especially look for a firm with specialist knowledge and experience in this field rather than a generalist. And if they have also worked on projects for plenty of `blue chip’ organizations along the way this fact alone would demonstrate their undoubted expertise in planning, implementing & managing ALL aspects of a commercial interior fit out, office refurbishment or business relocation from start to finish. The end result being that clients are able to get on with what they do best — making profits for their own businesses!

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