CAT A and CAT B Office Fit Out

CAT A (Category A) Fit Out is when office spaces are finished to a standard that the landlord would let the space to an incoming tenant. CAT A spaces are usually finished with suspended ceilings, raised floors, lighting and air conditioning and/or heating, they are often described as a fresh/clean ‘white box’ or a ‘blank canvas’ ready for an incoming tenant to make their own bespoke interior when they undertake their CAT B Fit Out. Interior décor such as wall decoration or flooring are often neutral in terms of colour and design.

CAT A offices are always left as an open plan space therefore have no rooms (such as offices or meeting rooms) formed.

The M&E (Mechanical & Electrical) Systems installed at CAT A stage are also suitable for an open plan environment, so you will find items such as the lighting and air conditioning evenly spaced throughout the open plan floor plate.

CAT A Spaces shouldn’t be considered ready to move into, as they require a CAT B Fit Out to ensure your business has all it needs to operate.

To summarise a CAT A Fit Out the below is what you would expect to see:

  • Neutral Décor to walls/ceilings/flooring
  • Basic M&E (including Fire Detection) Installations suitable for an open plan environment
  • Air Conditioning/Heating & Fresh Air installations (HVAC) suitable for open plan environment

The above information is should be used as a guide as to what you would typically expect from a CAT A Fit Out and it would be worth noting to ensure you understand exactly what you are getting when signing up as landlords allowances and interpretation of a CAT A Fit Out will vary from one to the next.

See the CAT B section below to find out what you need to do once you have signed up for your CAT A Office space and to make it a fully functioning and amazing interior for your business to operate and thrive from.

What is CAT B Fit Out?

CAT B (Category B) Fit Out follows the CAT A and is when the incoming tenant creates a bespoke working environment specific to their business. CAT B Fit Outs are usually left to the tenant to design and install.

The first step of a CAT B Fit Out would be to undertake a space planning and workplace consultancy process to understand how the current business functions and then to apply this to the new CAT A space, ensuring the right number of workstations, breakout spaces, meeting rooms, cellular offices etc are captured.

The second step (once the space plan is ‘frozen’) would be to undertake the Interior Design stage where the interior décor and specification of all the fixtures and fittings are prepared and tailored to your brand. This is an important stage as it’s all about ensuring you create a space that your workforce love to be, it’s worth considering that many office based workers spend more time at work (8 to 10 hours per day) than they do at home with their families, therefore getting their working environment right is critical to ensure you help boost productivity, retain and attract the best talent.

To summarise a CAT B Fit Out the below is what you would expect to see:

  • Solid and glazed Partitioning to form the various offices, meeting rooms, breakout spaces
  • Kitchens and tea points
  • Flooring, decoration, signage and branding
  • Bespoke Joinery for items such as reception counters, feature walls and ceilings, boardrooms
  • Adjustments and additions to the landlord CAT A installed M&E Installations (Air conditioning/heating/lighting/fire Detection)
  • IT and Infrastructure (data cables/WiFi/power/comms room)
  • Audio Visual Installations (TV screens/presentation areas/video conferencing)
  • Workstations and seating etc

What are Dilapidations relating to CAT & CAT B Fit Outs?

Landlords will often require as part of the lease that a tenant must return the space back to the CAT A space you took when the lease commenced, this is known as dilapidations.

Most tenants who are leaving a premises don’t wish to become involved in striping out and refurbishing their unwanted CAT B Fit Out as they are focusing on their new premises so the landlord will employ a Dilapidations Surveyor who will work out the cost to undertake this for you. This figure tends to get negotiated between landlord and tenant and then the landlord would undertake the works to ensure the space is in a lettable condition for a future tenant.

What are the financial and programme benefits of combining CAT A & CAT B?

When a contractor is appointed by the landlord to undertake a CAT A Fit Out the Landlord and their Sales Agents will begin advertising the space to the market. Quite often a new incoming tenant will sign up for the new CAT A space whilst the contractor is mobilising or onsite to undertake the fitout. An incoming tenant and landlord can capitalise on this by engaging with the contractor to also undertake the CAT B at the same time as the CAT A. This can save both parties costs as when two projects are merged then certain fees can be shared which namely would be the running costs of the project.

The overall programme can also be shortened as usually a CAT A project would be delivered first then the CAT B follows so two project timelines run end to end, whereas if merged then the overall timeline can be reduced by a number of weeks. Tenants need to ensure that some landlords are happy with this scenario as some are not, it is certainly worth asking during your initial lease negotiations if this is of interest and available.

What is ‘Value Engineering’ (VE)?

Whether it’s a CAT A or CAT B Fit Out, or whether you are a landlord or a tenant, you will need to appoint a team usually including a Fit Out Contractor who will engage with Interior Designers and Consultants to produce a design, specification scope of works and cost for the project. This team will take your brief and present back a scheme that will create an initial project cost.

It’s worth considering that to build up the above it is quite a ‘jigsaw puzzle’ of many components and options on specification so you need to start somewhere to get an initial design you like then a cost on the table for review, this cost should never be seen as fixed and final as you can make great savings by small tweaks, the cost at this stage needs to be taken as a starting point which requires more work.

When a project is fully designed and fully costed ‘Value Engineering’ (VE) is a process where the client (landlord or tenant) can work with the team to look across the costs to see where savings can be made. Savings can often be made by tweaking the specification of an item that has been selected. For example, if a £25 per SQM carpet has been selected for a 1000 SQM project this equates to £25,000, if this is exchanged for a £15 SQM carpet then a £10,000 saving can be presented as a possible VE consideration for the client. This process can be undertaken for all items across a project. Sometimes it may be a compromise on a specified item but just swapping a brand can bring a saving with no obvious compromise.

Interior Designers and M&E Consultants can be known to select high specification products and finishes which can drive up the overall budget, a good contractor will always offer VE alternatives when costing a project which can be considered.

How can Ultimate help?

Our team at Ultimate (Commercial Interiors) Ltd offer a full Turn-Key Design & Build service that encompasses all of the above, we have a large team of interiors experts and consultants who will look after you across the entire journey of your office fit out and relocation. With over 17 successful years trading and as Industry Award Winners we are considered to be proven experts in this sector.

We are a customer focused contractor who really cares about delivering a high-quality project. The success our business has been the volume of repeat business and recommendation is something we are very proud of and have upheld which has allowed us to grow steadily across our years.