At a time when the debate around the ‘future of the office’ rages on and Government guidance on whether and how occupiers should use their workplaces, it’s reassuring to see many office fit-outs continue.

As Matt Osborne highlighted in Occupier Trends and COVID 19 current circumstances are accelerating existing trends in occupier requirements for smaller floor plates and the need for speculative CAT A+/CAT B fit-outs to help leasing.

Given that current restrictions are going to be in place for some time, there are a number of design and project management considerations to ensure those fit-outs have the flexibility required. The fit-out design needs to be sufficiently adaptable to incorporate social distancing measures and provide sufficient occupancy.

One recently completed project required an initial ‘pre-COVID’ design to be creatively adapted, by reducing workstations, including screens and hand sanitizer stations but still enable 60% occupancy. Procurement processes also had to adapt. It was decided to fully furnish the suite to pre-empt any future supply issues and the whole supply chain was reviewed to mitigate potential delays from European destinations caused by COVID restrictions.

Managing the construction phase also had to be done through a ‘COVID lens’. Detailed procedures were agreed with the contractor to ensure; social distancing on site, enhanced hygiene measures, strict access/egress procedures, remote project meetings and rigorous on-site enforcement. Despite the extent of these measures, collaborating with the contractor to agree and implement these meant the project completed within the programme and budget agreed pre-COVID.

Leasing office space to new occupiers is clearly going to be a challenge for some time. However, this project has shown that with a creative and flexible approach, quality workspaces of this type and scale can be delivered despite the current restrictions.

By Ed Moore

Partner, Building Consultancy