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The Office Design and Build Handbook

Welcome to our office design guide where we talk you through the steps of an office relocation or refurbishment. It has been proved time and again the inestimable benefits of engaging early with an experienced office design and fitout partner to help steer you through the early stages of your project. This doesn’t require heavy financial commitment but allows you to find a partner you can trust to guide you through the different stages involved in creating your optimal workspace.

We recommend you take time to work through the real estate strategy section to avoid the trap that many companies fall in to having assumed that an office relocation is the only solution to their current lease situation. As one of London’s top office design and build companies, time and again we find that an efficient optimization study or workplace analysis helps to draw out the underlying issues with the existing building and will challenge the misconception that a workspace is well utilised – leading to many of our clients realising that a relocation is not necessary if their current space can be fully optimised and often a change of the working practices and models can facilitate an improved usage of your real estate – making every square foot pay its way.

CONTENTS + JUMP LINKS:

REAL ESTATE STRATEGY

This section deals with the analysis of your existing situation and helps you to take stock of your current building and location and underpins the work that is carried out further down the line. Without this analysis and a clear understanding of your current situation, decisions can be derailed later on in the project.

Gain a clear understanding of who your stakeholders are. As with any project it’s always critical to know who is calling the shots, who you’re reporting to, and who to include in your project team to support you throughout the process.

Start by commissioning a thorough analysis of your current building and the facilities that it offers you. List all the known constraints about the layout of the existing space, the way the desks are laid out, the amount of meeting rooms or breakout space that is available to you. Consider whether there is enough choice of different ways of working, how does the building infrastructure work for you, are there enough power sockets around the space and is the air conditioning sufficient and effective for the space. How do you rate the performance of your landlord’s property management team; are they responsive and supportive, and do they look after your needs effectively? Many of our clients will take the time to get feedback from their staff as to how they feel about the existing building and its facilities such as showers, toilets, bike storage and parking.

Take time to understand the existing lease agreement on your current space. Whilst some clients have in-house capability and experience to be able to understand the technicalities of a lease, many clients will engage with a property agent or solicitor to help them. Key points to search out and understand will include: lease end date, lease breaks, lease holidays if relevant, clauses around subletting, and a clear understanding of your dilapidation¹ obligations.

At this stage of your project it can be helpful to engage the services of a good property agent who can be best sourced through recommendation. An agent will carry out market analysis and give you a clear idea of the current trends in the property market, rent rates across your local area as well as comparisons with alternative locations that fall within your search criteria. They may have experience with your current or potential landlord and would be able to give you an insight into the likelihood of renegotiation on your existing lease.

Finally, it’s sensible to consider the pros and cons of your existing location specifically in relation to staff travel times and commutes. Considering the proximity to public transport and facilities in the neighbourhood such as coffee shops and gyms will help in your analysis of your existing situation.

WORKPLACE FEASIBILITY

Commissioning a workplace analysis by a third party is recognised as an excellent way to get a detailed insight into the way you use your space, and the possible opportunities open to you to change or improve this. It is critically important to scale any workplace feasibility analysis to your specific needs and requirements and there are essentially three ways you can do this; in-house with your own team, using the design team from your office design company or by commissioning specialist workplace analysis consultants.

The core activities of a workplace analysis include the study of the way the space is currently used in terms of human occupation and footfall, including desk occupancy studies, heat mapping of the floor to highlight areas of high and low occupancy and usage, footprint analysis helping to understand where people go during the day and why, a clear understanding of future expansion and an assessment of the needs of each department.

As part of the workplace analysis your design and build partner can work closely to assist with your budgeting around various scenarios that come out of the analysis. This can range from minor alterations to a full refurbishment of your current space or a relocation to a new property. With our experience across our extensive client-base and projects we can run standard meterage rates and budgeting templates across multiple spaces with a high degree of accuracy, allowing a top level but intelligent understanding of the costs and financial impact associated with each option being considered.

We feel it is worth highlighting that many clients have a preconceived view as to an office relocation being the only solution to their lease situation. We often find that following the workplace feasibility study, optimization of the existing space proves to be a more effective solution than relocation. That being said the cultural positivity and powerful impact an office relocation can give to a business and its staff cannot be overlooked – as it can give a fresh start and new beginnings which can help accelerate growth.

DESIGN

Taking the design brief for the solution reached through the workplace feasibility outlined in the point above, the designers focus on what is known as the GA plan² which sets both Day 1 and Day 2 layouts of the proposed space which underpins the complete design and will be submitted for approval and therefore will require stakeholder sign off.

Our design team will then take the office design layout and develop their concept design producing inspirational imagery and concepts told out through digital or physical mood boards which will tell the story of the inspiration that has shaped their thoughts and imagination for the space in question. Once presented and feedback received the office design concept is then passed over to our visualisation team who will bring the design to life using CGIs³ and VR – CGIs showing photorealistic views of the space whilst VR allows you to virtually walk the floors of your new office. 3D visualisations are a powerful tool to allow the stakeholders the opportunity to understand the creative vision for their new workspace before it is built and money invested.

The final fixtures and fittings within the space, including floor finishes, furniture, lighting and art, are a critical part of the creative process and are proven to be integral to the final design of the space. Our office design consultants can arrange to take you on showroom visits around Clerkenwell where many of the key manufacturers have showrooms. This is an excellent opportunity to see the physical product before commitment is made and decisions signed off.

Right through the design process we encourage the positive interaction of our clients into the design of the space. This interaction includes actively seeking feedback at each stage of the development of the design allowing true contribution and ownership by our clients of the design. Our design team are always keen to hear your ideas and your vision for the interior and will work hard to ensure they can be incorporated. Our designers are qualified as interior architects and all have extensive experience in the design and implementation of workplaces around the UK. We take pride in our ability to exceed expectations in creative design originality whilst ensuring our concepts are functional, practical and will stand the test of time.

Lisa McLeod, our Head of Design, is WELL certified and leads our sustainability initiatives from the front. We take sustainability and looking after the environment seriously and to this end our design team will look to source products into your design which won’t cost the earth – both literally and metaphorically. Check out some of our favourite products here such as Smile Plastics, Foresso and Interface.

PRECONSTRUCTION

During the design phase, our designers will be working closely with our preconstruction team. This team ensures that the office design plan is practical and can be built within the budget and timeframe of the project. The preconstruction team are responsible for estimating and programming the project, as well as looking after the technical detailing of the build. This teams’ responsibility includes liaison with the landlord’s management team to understand the complexities of the site and the building, delivery and signing in arrangements, site rules, and permissions and permits. The key role of the preconstruction team is to de-risk the project at an early stage to ensure a smooth delivery.

Once the design has been completed and design freeze reached, the preconstruction team will bring together a full cost estimate which drills into the detail of the specific products that the designers have specified, site access arrangements and how long the project will take to deliver.

The team will oversee the production of working technical drawings – such as elevations of joinery items, power layouts and the RCP – all of which help facilitate an accurate delivery of the project without unnecessary delays on site. The team will analyse the supply lines and ensure early notification of long lead time items and goods that need to be specified. This all helps to de-risk the project and ensure a snag free delivery.

This team will develop a draft construction programme into a full working programme and will ensure every aspect of the construction process is considered – both from the mobilisation and enabling phase of the site set up, to the closing out, finishing and commissioning – to ensure that the agreed programme and dates given are achievable, and promises can be delivered upon.

The preconstruction team work closely with the building management team, and will ensure the landlord’s requirements are all met in a timely fashion, and all statutory regulations – such as building control – are adhered to from an early stage.

CONSTRUCTION

Our team of dynamic and disciplined construction professionals are very experienced with either the fitout of your new property or the refurbishment of an existing space. They are adept at carrying out in situ refurbishments, while clients still work in areas of the space, and ensure due consideration is given to the health and safety aspects of the project.

Health and safety are paramount to the success of our projects, and the safety of our staff, your team and indeed anybody who visits the site is critical, and our project managers have the health and safety of your project planned and monitored throughout the duration to ensure a safe delivery.

The overall management of the construction process is managed by your project manager, who will have a team of construction professionals working alongside – such as the external consultants, the site manager, site operatives and subcontractors. They are responsible to deliver an amazing space that reflects the design signed off by your team, as well as ensuring the programme runs on time and in budget. The project manager will report on progress weekly through regular site meetings – together with progress photographs and a traffic light system of risk management. The team are responsible to ensure programme is met and any changes on the critical path are notified and all stakeholders are kept updated. The project manager oversees all the statutory requirements through the construction including the H&S F10 submission, and compliance from a building control perspective. They will ensure the furniture delivery and installation at the end of the project is carried out in a timely manner, and the site is left in pristine condition ready for hand over and occupation.

The handover includes the commissioning and training on the various pieces of equipment that have been installed in your space, including items such as air conditioning or an instant boiling water tap.

AFTERCARE AND MAINTENANCE

Once your project is delivered and you are established in your new space, the very team who have delivered your project remain available to you for any necessary adjustments to the installation, to ensure that you achieve the optimal use of the new space.

Over the following months we stay in touch with our clients to ensure that as the needs of your business evolve, we are on hand to provide the necessary assistance to achieve the goals that you have set.

When the needs of your business change, we are available to carry out ongoing smaller works as necessary, with many clients calling us back in to install additional spaces such as a management office or a new meeting room, oversee office churn and expansion which may require additional power and desking, or to facilitate space for a new initiative such as yoga classes. Our Day 2 team are well placed to provide for you, given their detailed knowledge of your current installation. Whether it is work carried out over a weekend or over evenings, our teams are flexible to ensure the smooth running of your operations.

Summary

In conclusion the early engagement of construction partners is a real bonus, allowing a smooth, risk free, and snag free delivery. Finding the right partner to assist you through the project sometimes isn’t easy but a recommendation from a trusted source is always a good way to move forward. A refurbishment or relocation provides an amazing opportunity for a business to capitalise on culture and change – to enable a fresh outlook and motivation.

Having a detailed understanding of your current situation, including a logical analysis of the constraints you are faced with, often helps to change preconceived conclusions about your space. In the current climate many landlords are so motivated to retain occupation that there are great opportunities to renegotiate and secure favourable terms for the ongoing occupation of your space.

GLOSSARY

Dilapidations. Your legal obligation stipulated within your lease to return your space to its original layout and finish.
GA Plan. General Arrangement plan is the layout spaceplan for an office.
CGIs. Computer Generated Images which will bring your office to life in 3D

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