Office design, fit out and furniture glossary

Confused by fit out or facilities jargon? Our glossary of common terms can help.

When buying furniture or planning an office move you may find phrases or terms which are not familiar with. Our experts have compiled the definitions below which we hope you will find useful.

Activity based working

This approach gives employees a choice about how and where they work. In the modern office, this means a variety of settings, each designed for different tasks. Activity based working came about as a result of private or executive offices being unfit for purpose in many organisations.

Agile working

A phrase that defines what is also referred to as flexible working. But agile working is about more than flexibility in hours of working it also includes location, role and style of work.

Audio-visual systems

The term audio-visual (AV, or A/V) can refer to the equipment used to present sound and visual works. Business presentations are also often audio-visual and office systems can include computers, screens and projectors.

Barcelona chair

A luxury stainless steel and leather chair designed in 1929 and manufactured by Knoll since the 1950s.

Bench desking

Bench desks are office desks that are designed to share structural components such as beams and desk legs. Sharing the components of bench desking not only reduces costs, but can also provide a smaller footprint to the office layout as the desktops can accessed from almost anywhere along the edges.

CAD drawing

Computer-Aided Design (CAD) or computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) is the production of drawings, specifications, and other design-related elements using special graphics and computer programs. May be used for creating floor plans and 3D renders of how an office design will look in practice.

Casegoods

A term used to refer to furniture made of hard materials such as wood, metal or glass. Casegoods is also used to describe quality furniture products that are often delivered already built rather than constructed on site.

Cat-A fit out

A Cat-A fit out provides a blank canvas. It will typically apply to buildings finished by a developer or before the involvement of a client or interior designer. It will include the essential infrastructure needed for the building to work effectively including lifts, raised floors, suspended ceilings, mechanical and electrical services, washrooms, kitchens, general lighting and other building systems and may also include secondary finishes and features such as window blinds.

It is also defined by what it doesn’t include; generally, the features that make a building unique to a client. So, it will not typically include an interior design, primary finishes and colours, furniture and other interior elements.

Cat-B fit out

A Cat-B fit out provides a home. It incorporates all the features of a Cat A project but includes all those features and services that reflect the specific needs of the organisation occupying the building. It will include interior architecture such as partitions and meeting rooms as well as organisational infrastructure such as IT, office furniture, storage systems and support services such as printers and copiers.

It will also include the primary finishes for the interior including carpets and flooring, fabrics, artwork, manifestations, user defined lighting and surfaces. It may also include audio-visual systems, break out space, cafes and planting.

In some cases a developer may contribute to the cost of a Cat B fit out but the main driver is invariably the needs of a specific client occupant.

Concept design

A sketch of how an office design could look

Co-working

Co-working is where the same building is shared by people who work for different companies. Co-working tenants will sometimes have designated workstations and typically share other facilities such as meeting rooms and kitchens.

Credenza

A credenza is a modern desk form usually placed next to a wall as a secondary work surface to that of another desk in a typical private office.

Dealer

A company who procures furniture from manufacturers, often with preferred terms where price savings can be passed on to the client.

Design and build

Office design and build is not based on a specific form of fit out project but does offer a uniquely effective way of delivering projects more quickly and effectively. Design and build often offers the simplest way to develop and construct a new workplace. It is based on an arrangement in which you partner with one firm to design, manage and deliver the project rather than one in which you have to manage several relationships.

Eames chair

A famous chair inspired by the traditional English club chair, which is produced by Herman Miller and Vitra and has been in continuous production since its launch in the 1950s.

Ergonomics

Describes how systems furniture should adapt to human requirements for comfort and productivity. Ergonomics is the science of making things comfy.

Ergonomic chairs

The key to an ergonomic office chair is the lumbar support. Unlike other types of chairs, the ergonomic chair offers a strong support for the lower back.

Executive office

Small self-contained workspace separated by wall panels. Cubicles can provide audio, visual, informational and territorial privacy to occupants. Also referred to as private offices.

Executive chairs

Chairs that are typically found in executive or private offices or around boardroom tables.

Facilities management

Facilities managers are usually responsible for services and processes that support the core business of an organisation. Likely areas of responsibility including buildings, space management, health and safety, security and procurement and contract management.

Fit out

An office fit out is the process of making its interiors suitable for occupation. Typically, the landlord or developer is responsible for the building and the occupant or the tenant is responsible for the fit out.

Furniture installers

Furniture expert who has been certified and/or trained to install, assemble, disassemble, reconfigure, relocate or repair all types of furniture

Height adjustable desks

A task desk which height can be altered by the user or a professional furniture installer. The height can be adjusted manually by hand or automatically by gas or electronics. Height adjustable desks are suitable for helping individuals to sit comfortably according to their height.

Installation

The process of delivering, assembling and handing over furniture, often as part of an office move or refurbishment.

Joint Contracts Tribunal (JCT)

The Joint Contracts Tribunal (JCT) produces standard contracts, guidance notes and other documentation for construction professionals.

The JCT Design and Build Contract is designed for construction projects where the contractor carries out the design and the construction work. Design and build projects can vary in scale, but the Design and Build Contract is usually appropriate where detailed provisions are required.

Linear office layout

A linear office layout is a more traditional structure with areas and departments arranged in sequence, often in straight lines.

Licence to Alter

If you want to make changes to your office as part of a refurbishment you will need to get consent from your landlord. You will need to apply for a Licence to Alter and provide them with plans and drawings of the proposed works.

Loose furniture

A term to describe furniture that can be moved such as lightweight chairs and tables.

Lumbar support

Chairs with lumbar support provide additional reinforcement for the lower back.

Manifestations

Manifestations are graphics that are added to internal glass for safety purposes. Manifestations to office glass partitions can be in frost, etched, dusted or crystal effects. They can be simple DDA compliant dots, squares, a solid band or corporate logos and other motifs.

Method statement

A detailed document that enables everyone involved in a furniture installation or a fit out to have a thorough understanding of everything that needs to be done on site and how it will be achieved.

Mobilisation period

This is the period between signing a contract and the build starting on site.

Modular office furniture

Office furniture units that can be rearranged or combined in different configurations.

Monitor arms

Monitor arms and stands provide ergonomic and space saving items which mount computer screens in a safe and practical way.

Multifunctional devices (MFDs)

MFDs are integrated devices that can provide printing, scanning, faxing and photocopying.

Open plan office

Open plan office layouts make use of large, open spaces and minimises the use of enclosed rooms such as executive offices and meeting rooms.

Operation & Maintenance (O&M) manuals

After an office fit out or refurbishment is completed, you are legally required in the UK to produce an O&M manual. This forms part of a Health & Safety document for the building.

The manual is a comprehensive guide to the property with details on everything from the correct way to clean your furniture to the right way to maintain your air conditioning.

Organic office layout

This layout is fluid and more flexible than other layouts such as linear or radial structures. An organic office layout reflect the people who use the space and how they use it as opposed to the building itself or a company structure.

Ottoman

An Ottoman is a padded, upholstered seat or bench. An Ottoman can be used as a stool or footstool and are often sold with matching chairs.

Plan

A technically drawn office plan, produced to scale and showing the spatial relationship between all functions and elements in the office design.

Pods

Office furniture pods are flexible furniture items that offer partial sound and visual privacy. Pods are flexible in that they don’t require any related build work and can be moved around an office relatively easily.

Private office

Small self-contained workspace separated by wall panels. Cubicles can provide audio, visual, informational and territorial privacy to occupants. Also referred to as executive offices.

Public areas

Often refer to parts of an office that are available to everyone including lifts, stairs and corridors.

Radial office layout

A more modern structure with areas and departments arranged in a circle from a central point of focus. For example, publishers may choose to organise their office in this way so the editor or editors are the nucleus of the layout.

Refurbishment

An office refurbishment is the process of renovating a space to improve its appearance and in some cases, restoring an office to its former condition.

Risk assessment and method statement (RAMS)

See risk assessment and method statement

Risk assessment

A review of hazards and analysing the risks involved with a furniture installation or fit out, reducing their impact wherever possible and creating a plan for managing any remaining risks.

Sit-stand desks

Sit-stand adjustable desks are widely used in parts of Europe, particularly Scandinavia. Users can enjoy the health benefits of being able to easily switch between sitting and standing.

Slab to slab

Relates to the complete internal area of a space: wall-to-wall and true ceiling to true floor. True ceiling height doesn’t include suspended ceilings. Similarly, true floor is the lowest structural element, which can be the floor itself or the concrete slab under the floor.

Snagging

The process of documenting minor defects with new furniture following an installation.

Swing space

A space temporarily occupied by people away from areas that are undergoing refurbishment. Swing space can be new space built before refurbishment or existing space that has already been refurbished.

Systems furniture

Systems furniture is a generic term for bundles of panels, desking, shelves, and other items sold by a single manufacturer as a package for furnishing offices.

Test fit

A quick space plan that tests a building’s floor plate against plans for the space. A preliminary budget can also be applied to two or more test fits to enable a prospective tenant to compare the cost of occupation of several locations.

The initial costs can also be used to determine what level of contribution a landlord is willing to make towards a tenant moving into their property.

Task chairs

Task chairs are commonly used in conjunction with office desks. These chairs are generally quite basic in design and created specifically to be used by many different users. Task chairs are a flexible option for use in offices, because they are adjustable in many ways.

Third space

Traditionally the third place was defined as a place between home (personal) – first place and office (work) – second place.

A modern-day example is a coffee shop where people can comfortably work from their lap top, access the web via Wi-Fi and socialise.

The social space between home and the office is now brought inside the office and is generally an area between workstations and formal meeting rooms. This area is known as the third space and is often represented by breakout areas.

Turnkey

A turnkey fit out provides the tenant with spaces that are fitted out by the developer or landlord so that they are ready for use.

Workstation

An area in an office where work gets done. Typically, it refers to a computer and the surrounding area that has been configured to perform a certain set of tasks. Additional elements to a workstation can include a desk, a chair, storage and other accessories.


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