When it comes to office fit-outs, it would be beneficial to know the lingo so that what is needed can be clearly outlined to a fit-out contractor.

Since the pandemic, many businesses have found themselves having to adapt to the new style of working by investing in a commercial fit-out to ensure their workspaces meet the current and future demands of their workforce. Before beginning, knowing the differences between fit-out options is important as they are both very different.

Within this article, discover the answers to the following questions:

Office fit-outs

  • What is an office fit-out?
  • What does a shell and core office fit-out mean?

Cat A fit-outs

  • What is a Cat A office fit-out?
  • What does a typical Cat A layout include?
  • What are the benefits of a Cat A space?

Cat B fit-outs

  • What is a Cat B office fit-out?
  • What does a typical Cat B office layout include?
  • What are the benefits of a Cat B space?

Cat A+ fit-outs

  • What is a Cat A+ office fit-out?
  • What does a Cat A+ office layout include?
  • What are the benefits of a Cat A+ office space?
office working

What is an office fit-out?

Before we start, we will outline what an office fit-out is. An office fit-out is an act of making a space suitable for occupation by businesses, including all the necessary structures, electrics, furnishings, and decorations.

It usually starts with an empty and inhabitable space. The building’s developer will complete the base construction, with the landlord being responsible for a certain amount of the interior layout. Following this, the final office design and fit-out are then up to the occupant.

Sometimes the term ‘office fit-out’ can be confused with office refurbishment, which is the process of refurbishing an office space that already exists. However, it actually means developing and transforming a new space completely from scratch.

What does a Shell and Core office fit-out mean?

A Shell and Core office fit-out takes place before a CAT A and Cat B layout as it involves installing or updating the infrastructure of the building. ‘Shell and Core’ describes the state of a building before the new design occurs, with the space not being usable as it most likely has only just been constructed.

This means that while it may look complete on the outside, on the inside, lighting, flooring, and air-conditioning will not yet be installed.


office fitout

What is a CAT A office fit-out?

A Cat A (short for Category A) office fit-out is the basic finishing of an interior space and it is one that a landlord will usually order. While it involves installing a building’s mechanical and electrical systems, a Cat A office layout will resemble more of a blank canvas. This means that while the building will have lighting, floors, and walls, it will otherwise be empty and will need furnishing with office furniture before it can be used as a workspace.

Cat A is best suited for those who are moving from one setting to another as most of the furniture will already have been bought.

What does a typical Cat A office layout include?

A Cat A office fit-out will usually include the following:

  • Raised access floors and suspended ceilings.
  • Electrical services like lighting, power etc
  • Mechanical services like basic air conditioning and ventilation.
  • Fire detection and protection services in line with building regulations. This will include smoke detectors and fire alarms.
  • Internal surface finishes done to industrial standards. For example, walls that are ready for decoration.
  • Refurbishment of common areas including toilets, shower facilities, lifts, lobbies, breakout areas and more. (However, this is only if it hasn’t already been completed in the Shell and Core fit-out).

What are the benefits of a Cat A space?

It was identified that there was a 25% increase in Cat A commercial projects. The growing popularity is largely down to a shift in attitudes, behaviours, and requirements in recent years.

This is because people are looking for increased flexibility more than ever before, with workers no longer glued to their desks and businesses no longer seeing the appeal in long leases with workspaces that might not suit them in the future. The solution to this is a flexible middle ground that does not need total commitment or a total transformation.

One of the biggest benefits of a Cat A layout is that it is cheaper and is less work for a contractor. It also offers users a temporary workspace that can be easily changed to suit the needs of a business, which is great for these current times where flexibility is preferred.

Woodbridge office space

What is a Cat B office fit-out?

Cat B office layouts differ from Cat A as a finished space is provided that can be moved into and used straight away. Similar to Cat A, a Cat B layout will have lighting, flooring, and walls.

However, there's a key difference - a Cat B fit-out involves collaborating with architects and specialists to design the space to meet specific requirements. This includes everything from interior partitions, ceiling design, staircase installation, and furniture selection, to choosing the final design for floors, walls, and doors that aligns with the business's corporate culture and branding.

What does a typical Cat B office layout include?

A Cat B layout will typically include the following:

  • Air conditioning, heating, and power points
  • Fully fitted kitchens and non-communal office amenities
  • Partitioning includes meeting rooms, offices, break-out spaces, and reception area.
  • Office furniture such as desks, workstations, chairs, and meeting booths are all fitted.
  • IT installation and infrastructure
  • Design and brand detailing

What are the benefits of a Cat B office space?

As evident from the information provided earlier, a significant advantage of a Cat B office fit-out is its readiness for immediate occupancy. This feature allows companies to commence their business operations without any delay.

As the company is involved in the plan of designing the space, they have the advantage of having incorporated purpose-built areas that have been installed to suit specific tasks unique to the company. This of course means that no space will be wasted or deemed unusable as it will all be designed with a purpose.

Another benefit of the Cat B is that there will be a greater brand identity within the design as ideas would have been put forward to the architects or fit-out specialist. In turn, it will lead to increased productivity, respect, and a feeling better connected with the company brand.

office setting

What is a Cat A+ office fit-out?

The term "Cat A+ fit out" refers to a concept that falls between Cat A and Cat B, offering a higher level of completion that better meets modern market requirements. This type of fit-out provides a building layout similar to Cat A, but with additional basic design features to prepare it for occupancy. A Cat A+ fit-out is considered a good alternative for landlords and tenants of co-working spaces, as it offers a space for businesses that are unable to commit to a full Cat B space.

What does a Cat A+ office layout include?

A Cat A+ office fit-out will typically include:

  • Furniture and workspaces
  • Partitioning including meeting rooms, offices, and breakout spaces
  • Kitchens and toilets already fitted.
  • IT installation and infrastructure
  • Air conditioning and required power points.

What are the benefits of a Cat A+ space?

The main benefits are that a CAT A+ office fit-out allows tenants to move into a space that is needing hardly any adjustments or investment. It means upfront costs are reduced and provides the ability to move in quickly and easily with limited fuss.

A Cat A+ is also a great option for landlords as it allows them to attract a wide range of prospective tenants than a Cat A space would, due to it being available for immediate occupation. Cat A+ offices equal higher profitability in the long term thanks to the higher rates and shorter rent-free periods.

With high flexibility comes more benefits, CAT A+ spaces will largely stay the same from one tenant to the next, so landlords experience quicker turnaround whilst tenants no longer have to worry about signing up for long-term leases.

office interior design

Cat A vs Cat B office spaces

Having gained knowledge of Cat A and Cat B spaces, it's now possible to summarize the best office fit-out option depending on the type of company.

Cat A layouts are best for companies that like to work with a completely blank canvas. For example, as we have discussed already, if a company is moving from an old office space, most of the furniture and furnishings needed will already have been purchased.

Whereas Cat B layouts are best for businesses that do not have existing furniture and fittings. As a Cat B space means a firm can make the space completely its own, building on its brand, and ensuring the layout fits to requirements.

Alternatively, if neither option sounds quite right, then there is always the Cat A+. Cat A+ fitouts are an excellent option for anyone who would rather not deal with extra costs and work that is often linked with a Cat B, whilst still wishing for the privacy of their own office space.

Office fit-out spaces from Haiken.

At Haiken, we provide a variety of office furniture from height-adjustable desks to ergonomic task chairs and soft seating to ensure that your new workspace is as comfortable as possible.

Please contact us today to find out more about how we can help.