CAT A+ | The Future of Office Fit Out

How many times have we been told that we live in unprecedented times and that innovation can be a consequence of necessity? Traditionally, Office Fit Out projects were one of two types, CAT A or CAT B, but over the past 12 months, those lines have become blurred and a new concept known as CAT A+ has gained traction.

Now, before we delve into what is CAT A+? And what the difference is between CAT A and CAT A+? we must first define what CAT A and CAT B mean.

What is a CAT A Office Fit Out?

A CAT A office fit-out is typically a project commissioned by a landlord who wants to fit out and market space to prospective tenants. The CAT A Fit Out entails works to create a blank canvas for prospective occupiers to design to their taste and needs and generally includes a floor and ceiling finished to an industrial standard, painted walls, toilet facilities, fire detection, mechanical and electrical services.

CAT A Fit Out London
A typical CAT A Office Fit Out

The CAT A fit out is completed by a Fit Out contractor whose aim is to ensure the space is ready for office designers to configure to tenant needs and requirements.

What is a CAT B Office Fit Out?

A CAT B office fit-out is then commissioned by the tenant moving into the space, which will generally have been fitted out to a CAT A standard as outlined above. It can sometimes involve a refurbishment of an existing space but primarily it involves transforming an empty CAT A space into a workplace ready for staff occupation.

The CAT B fit out will include floor finishes, ceiling and wall treatments, lighting, internal doors, partitions, cabling (telephone + fibre), AV and the creation of defined spaces such as offices, meeting rooms, reception areas and breakout areas. It essentially involves the creation of a workplace to meet the tenant (client) specification, and can range from widely elaborate and aesthetic to basic and functional.

Workplace strategists can also be involved as part of a CAT B project to interpret client needs and to ensure the design is reflective of what the company actually requires. They gather qualitative and quantitative data to deduce how companies and their staff work and how any future space should be designed to best meet these needs, so productivity, wellbeing and brand culture/identity are all embodied within a new workplace.

CAT B Office Fit Out
A typical CAT B Office Fit

Furniture also plays a key role within a CAT B fit out and office design & build companies work closely with clients to select furniture that meets their requirements ergonomically and aesthetically, as well as their budget. The vast majority of CAT B Office Fit Out contractors will have a dedicated furniture team who will work closely with clients and office designers to select the right office furniture for each space – the reception, the meeting rooms, the collaboration hub, the workstations and seating etc…

A CAT B office fit out is all about creating a space to meet tenant requirements and where the staff can move in and work effectively.

What is Cat A+?

Up until fairly recently, the demarcation was clear – landlords offered space fit out to a CAT A standard and then tenants who let this space would fit out the space to a CAT B standard. So what exactly is CAT A+ and where does it fit in the office fit out equation?

In reality, it sits somewhere in between CAT A and CAT B, as a CAT A+ project combines all elements of a CAT A plus the added features of a practical CAT B fit-out. The completed CAT A+ space represents a ‘plug and play’ ready to work concept which consequently makes it an enticing option for tenants, who can benefit by moving straight in without delay and starting work.

There are also numerous benefits for landlords who can for a relatively modest investment quickly attract tenants, decrease vacancy rates and in some cases charge a premium rent rate. Tenants also benefit from not just the ability to occupy quickly but also the reduced burden of otherwise prohibitive CAT B fit out costs and increased flexibility in relation to lease terms and lengths.

Coworking Office Design
A CAT A+ Space fitted out by K2 Space

The CAT A+ office has steadily been rising in popularity as it matches the requirements of many SMEs and start-up enterprises whose desire is to occupy a space that is plug and play with the ability to add flashes of their brand personality and identity without breaking the budget.

Cat A+ “vs” Co-Working Spaces

Threats from coworking operators have awakened landlords and willed them to provide options for tenants who don’t want the cost or hassle of creating their own workplace, and directly pits CAT A+ spaces “vs” Co-Working Spaces.

CAT A+ is a viable alternative for many companies to co-working spaces, as they offer the chance to have an independent space with its own ‘front door’ which is still extremely important for some companies. While Co-Working spaces have risen hugely in popularity, CAT A+ offers an alternative and a flexibility to express a brand identity which would simply not be possible within a Co-Working space.

Of course, both options have their merits, but choice and providing different options to prospective occupiers is paramount and helps create a truly competitive marketplace for commercial property to let where the ultimate beneficiaries are the tenants and their staff.

Is CAT A+ a fad or here to stay?

It is worth noting that JLL predict that over 10m sq. ft of flexible space will be added to major cities across the UK in the next 5 years. It’s worth noting that this prediction was made pre-Covid and while this may have accelerated the evolution of the workplace in many respects (you can read more about that acceleration here), we feel at K2 Space that the office is still an integral manifestation of brand and culture, and going nowhere anytime soon. Our team also firmly believe that CAT A+ is no longer a fad or passing trend but a concept that is here to stay, owing to the numerous benefits it offers to all parties – tenants, companies and also office design and build contractors like us.

If you are a landlord looking for a company to fit out a space or spaces to a CAT A+ standard, or a company looking to adapt a CAT A+ space to meet your needs, K2 Space can help and you can contact us at [email protected]

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