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A Complete Guide To Commercial Fit-Outs

People working in co-working space

Rasmus Dengsø

Designing a new office or any workspace requires you to put together several things before you can have a space that meets all your needs. Among the main things that should be included are comfortable furniture, a proper computer system, and a temperature regulation system. If you want to enhance the overall appeal of your office even further, you’ll need to invest in commercial fit-outs.

Remember, office decoration is crucial to the experience of your employees and prospective customers. The staff will feel inspired when working in a well-designed space, which can significantly increase productivity. Similarly, customers will always want to be associated with a future-focused brand, and the space design is one of the things they can use to pass their judgement.

That said, investing in the best office set-up sets the desired tone is imperative. In this article, you’ll learn all you need to know about commercial fit-outs. Keep reading for more information.  

What are commercial fit-outs?

Before getting into the nitty-gritty side of things, it’d be prudent to understand the basics of this aspect. Fit-out, basically, refers to the process of modelling the interior of a space and making it ready for occupation.  

Developers build a vanilla box (a bare building) when constructing commercial spaces. The occupants will then design the interior as they wish. This is an important aspect of commercial construction because it allows the tenant to tweak the space in a way that embodies their brand.  

So, what should you expect to include in your fit-out project? Ideally, these activities involve installing floors, branded ceilings, furniture, and the required partitions. Other features that may fall under this category include internet connectivity, communication arrangement, cabling, and electrical wiring. 

It’s worth noting that office fit-out is different from office renovation, although the two terms are often used interchangeably. Office renovation refers to the process of revamping a space to give more aesthetics and ensure that it meets the current trends. Since you’ll need to remove the current décor and install new items, the whole renovation process tends to take longer than a fit-out project. 

Types of commercial fit-outs

To make the right decision when starting your fit-out project, you must understand the various options you have at your disposal. Office fit-outs generally fall into three categories: shell and core, category A, and category B.  

Keep in mind that there are no official “steps” regarding office fit-out. On the contrary, these three categories represent those steps, given that each option is at a different construction stage. As a tenant, you’ll choose the ideal fit-out category based on your needs and what you want to feature in your office. That said, here is a brief description of all the options and what each of them requires from you as the tenant.

Shell and core fit-out

Shell and core category refers to the installation of the basic structure of the building. Here, the basic framework is already in place and is waiting for the fit-out process. From the outside, you may think that the building is already complete given its appearance. But, in reality, it’s just a shell waiting for the final construction phases. In other words, the system and services required in a typical office are yet to be installed.

So, as a prospective tenant, you’ll need to install pretty much everything to make the interior ready for occupation. Among the missing basic components are interior walls, heating, lighting, and electrical cabling. Of course, the main electricity and water supply system are already in place. All you need to do is partition the building and ensure that each space is supplied with water and electricity.

The main advantage of opting for this concept is the fact that it gives you a blank canvas within which you can implement your interior design ideas without affecting the main fabric. This flexibility doesn’t only speed up the project but also generates cost savings. It’s an ideal option for big companies whose operations are likely to take up large spaces. 

Category A

Category A or Cat A is another jargon you might have come across in the construction industry. It refers to the basic finishing of commercial space. As a prospective tenant, you’ll find all the basics that make an office functional but without some finishing “touches” that make the office fit for its intended purpose. Among the things you’ll find in a Cat A level fit-out includes electrical distribution, wall coverings, small power sockets, suspended ceilings, and toilets. 

All fit-outs that fall in this category are normally carried out by landlords. Those who rent the space will then add a few things to the current interior design to make it ideal for their desired operations. 

There is also another popular fit-out level known as Cat A+ (Built to Lease). It’s simply an advancement of category A fit-out adapted by landlords looking to let their commercial space immediately. It includes pretty much everything you’ll need in your office. 

Category B

The final category you need to know about is Cat B. This follows on from Cat A and includes most of the things—if not everything—missing in category A fit-out. It also focuses on the aesthetics of the office to make the space not only functional but also reflective of a company’s office practices. In other words, this fit-out level is made more specific to your business needs, unlike category A which is designed for general office purposes.  

It’s worth noting that spaces featuring this fit-out category result from working closely with industry experts. The final product will bring the occupant’s business to life. So, if you’re looking for a commercial space tailored to your requirements, then a category B fit-out level is your best bet.  

Which fit-out should you choose?

The three fit-out stages discussed above are all targeted at specific markets. Shell and core category, for instance, is designed for companies looking to install everything from scratch. Category A, on the other hand, is meant for occupants who want functional space but are planning to design the interior independently. The final stage is for those that want a space that’s already designed to fit their needs and match their brand image.

Even with that in mind, choosing between these fit-out categories can be quite intimidating, especially for a beginner. Among the things you’ll need to consider in your decision-making process are your budget and business-specific needs. If you’re still unsure that you’ll make the right decision, you might consider consulting an expert.

 Close-up on office desk

Things to consider before commencing your fit-out project

All construction projects require a lot of planning, and commercial fit-outs are no exception. There are several factors that you’ll need to consider before you start creating an office space that can help produce an engaging workforce. That said, here are some of the things to keep in mind:

1. A comprehensive estimate

Budgeting is crucial for any successful project. Before commencing your commercial fit-out project, you’ll need to know how much the entire process will cost. Remember, the total prices will vary depending on the materials required, the fit-out level, and labor costs. In addition, budgeting for materials and labor will only give you a rough estimate of what to expect.  

Take note that it’s essential to consider having a comprehensive estimate to avoid any additional costs popping up along the way. To achieve this, you’ll need to confirm the initial quote sent to you by your selected interior design company. Does the quote cover all the details leaving out no additional expenses?  

A comprehensive estimate should include the following at the very least:

  • Technical plans
  • Material costs
  • All transport costs
  • Building assessment expenses
  • Labor costs

With all these factors included in the quote, you’ll have a clear idea of what to include in your financial plans. You’ll also protect yourself from the frustrations that come with a sudden increase in the total costs. 

2. Your brand features

Another essential factor to keep in mind as you start the project is the important features that define your brand. Among the main aspects that should be at the top of your priority list include the brand colors. How you paint the interior of your office should match your brand. This way, customers get the same impression when they visit your offices or browse through your social media pages. 

Apart from colors, you can also represent your brand’s culture and values through these interior projects. The way you design the seating arrangements, entrance, floors, and ceilings can say a lot about your company. In addition, wall art and your choice of furniture will leave an impression on the customers’ minds. Therefore, ensure that whatever you include in your fit-out project strengthens your brand.

3. Efficiency of the systems and services

Regardless of the fit-out level you decide to start with, you’ll always need to install specific systems and services at the end of the day. Electricity and water supply, for instance, are among the most crucial factors that must be included in any office setup. However, installing them is one thing, but making them efficient is where some companies struggle.

For example, the air conditioner system can only serve its purpose if it’s placed at a strategic location. Similarly, office network sockets will streamline the employees’ productivity if they’re installed in the right places. Thus, it’s imperative to keep in mind the needs of your staff as you start the fit-out process. Here is a list of major items to prioritize:

  • Lighting and lux levels
  • Position and number of power switches and socket outlets
  • The choice of data cabling
  • The number of data points needed
  • Air conditioning system
  • Ventilation

While at it, it would be a good idea to consider the future expansion of your space while installing these items. For instance, if you decide to increase the number of employees, the new staff members should still be able to enjoy the benefits of the installed systems and services.  

4. Communication system migration plan

One factor that can be disrupted easily when moving to a new workplace is the communication system. Any slight breakdown in communication can inconvenience your clients, and you may end up losing potential customers. Unfortunately, many people don’t plan ahead; they also struggle to find the right plan to overcome the system migration hurdles.  

To be on the safe side, it’s essential to consider hiring a commercial fit-out specialist before starting the project. This expert will assess all the options and give you the best plan for migrating your communication system without interrupting customer care services and other vital operations.  

The space should meet all legal requirements of a typical workplace. This includes the safety of all the occupants and the comfort of your employees as they carry out their day-to-day duties. Compliance with the necessary requirements will lower the risk of injuries and illness. It’ll also ensure that you don’t land into unnecessary lawsuits in the future.

Among the most important areas to cover include:

  • Safe electrical designs and set-ups
  • Strategic positioning of fire alarms and extinguishers
  • Favorable working space
  • Comfortable furniture
  • High level of hygiene and other health-related factors


The interior design of every company should be created in such a way that it matches the needs of the customers, employees, and the brand itself. Commercial fit-out makes this possible by allowing you to build a space following the style of your choice. There are three main stages of commercial fit-outs, and you can choose one that meets your needs and budget.  

Shell and core, for one, involve the inclusion of basic structures of the building without most features of office space. Whereas, Cat A and Cat B have some of these features already installed, with Cat B being somewhat more advanced in that regard. As you begin your fit-out program, it’s also essential to consider a few factors like expenses, branding features, communications system migration, and the legal compliance of your new space. With all these in place, you can be sure of a successful commercial fit-out process.