Understanding the various types of commercial building fit outs

Knowing your Cat A from Cat B or Shell & Core

The term fit-out describes the process of making the interior of a building look and feel more complete, so that one may start to occupy it. In the case of commercial fit-outs this involves completing the inside of a building to use it as an office, retail outlet, or factory. Whatever type of commercial purpose the building is going to serve, there are various things that need to be installed, such as machines, equipment, computers, audio visual equipment, facilities and so much more. Therefore, when a future occupant tries to reach an agreement with a developer, it is important that the various factors are taken into account. This is even more important when considering that there are varying degrees of fit-outs, and since there is no specific or standard definition of the terms, it is critical to draw up a contract which clearly stipulates what shall be seen to and what shall not be handled by the developer.

There are three main types of fit-outs, and they vary from Shell and Core which is the most basic, to Category B fit-outs where the degree of completion of the building is practically completed from A to Z. As a sort of average type of fit-out in between these two, there is the Category A fit-out. Let us discuss each one of them in some more detail.

Tenants should only expect the bare bones structure when occupying a Shell & Core premises. Image credit: Locanto

Shell & Core Fit-out

Shell and Core consists of a fit-out where, as the name implies, all the shell and core works are seen to by the developer. This includes the basic structure of the building, cladding, base plant and the completion of the exterior of the building, and any common areas. This type of fit-out will make any building look quite sparse from the inside. The main reception or lobby, any staircases, basements, lift shafts and toilets will have been seen to, but there is so much more to be done until the building can be occupied. Hence the shell and core fit-out is the most basic type of fit-out, where there is no time and effort spent on the interior design or brand image of the company that will be operating from this building. It is basically all about completing the skeleton of the building, and any flesh, so to speak, will be added later on.

Category A Fit-out

In this type of fit-out, there are some more works carried out inside the building. So there will be the installation and distribution of electrical and mechanical services, as well as any raised floors and suspended ceilings. Internal surface finishings will also be carried out. This type of fit-out is ideal for those tenants who are not going to have high-end specifications for the interior design and décor of their offices. As long as there are not complex fit-out requirements, this type of fit-out is often considered to be the most practical type of fit-out.

Tenants can expect a fully fitted, bespoke interior branded to their company style with a Cat B fit out. Image credit: Price Compare

Category B Fit-out

This is the other end of the spectrum in the range of fit-outs. This is where a lot of emphasis is placed on how the finished building is going to look like from the inside. Not every commercial development company offers this type of fit-out as in most cases these clients will have very specific requirements which are best taken care of by a professional office interior design or refurbishment company. As there will be a lot of emphasis placed on the final touches and finishes, so as to bring out the branding element of the company that will be based in the building, this type of fit-out will involve more time and expense to be completed.

In a Category B fit-out there will be the installation of the offices themselves, as well as any specialist facilities like conference rooms, meeting rooms, board rooms, reception areas and kitchen areas. All equipment will be installed, as well as the furniture and fittings. A Category B fit-out is one where the design elements of the office are seen to in a detailed manner, up until the office is not only functional but also aesthetically pleasing.

Agreements & Contracts

It is very important that prior to starting any work or making any payments, there is an agreement between the parties. The developer will need to know what the client wants so as to be able to fulfil his expectations and any specific requirements. Negotiations may need to be carried out especially when there is a lack of agreement of what shall be seen to and what will not be completed by the developer. This may include the provision of certain equipment in common areas such as standby generators, and the level of completion of certain facilities which may fall between a Category A and a Category B fit-out. Therefore everything should be clearly described in a contract.

Each commercial property and landlord agreement is unique. One agreement will be different from another not only as one building differs from another, but also because each developer and client is going to have different boundaries, expectations and specifications respectively.