An office fitout is the process of designing and arranging the interior space of an office or commercial building to meet the needs of the business tenant.
The first stage is planning and configuring the layout, as well as selecting and installing various elements such as furniture, fixtures, equipment, partitions, lighting, and other amenities.
There are different office fitout levels. A “cold shell” fitout involves only the basic structures of the property, without any of the interiors. It starts from the bare concrete, with no ceilings or services.
A “warm shell” means a completely empty space with flooring, ceilings, lighting and air-conditioning. This level means businesses can move into what is a functional space; however, additional fitout work will likely be required to customise the space.
An effective office fitout will create an efficient, functional, and practical workspace.
A range of specialist professionals and tradespeople are involved in office fitouts. So the job title of a person involved in office fitouts varies. However, onsite there are a few common jobs.
An office fitout project manager oversees the entire project, coordinating and managing various aspects such as budgeting, scheduling, procurement, and communication. They are tasked with making sure the project is completed on time, within budget, and according to the design specifications.
An interior designer works to create functional and aesthetically pleasing spaces within the property. They work closely with clients to understand their requirements and preferences, develop design concepts, select materials and finishes, and create detailed plans and drawings for the office fitout. They also select and source furniture, fixtures and fittings.
The cost of an office fitout varies based on factors and the budget.
The size of the space, design complexity, level of customisation, location, and specific requirements all go into the cost mix.
Given the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the construction industry – cruelling supply chains and reducing the number of workers available – costs have also increased during the past few years.
Quantity surveyors Mitchell Brandtman have recorded cost changes of 33 per cent since 2021, in their latest southeast Queensland report.
That is why it is important to work with a professional, who can provide accurate cost estimates based on your specific needs and budget.
Accounting for an office fitout in Australia typically involves considering it as a capital expense and applying relevant accounting standards.
According to the Australian Taxation Office, the capital works can be depreciated over the period of the lease.
Items such as furniture and fittings have to be depreciated over their effective life, for example over 10 years, and claimed accordingly.
It is important to consult with an accountant well versed in the tax requirements in Australia, such as the Australian Accounting Standards (AASB). They can provide guidance for the fitout costs and accounting.
There are a number of codes and regulations that apply to office fitout construction.
Office fitouts must comply with applicable building codes and regulations, notably the National Construction Code and the Queensland Development Code. There are also specific regulations for Queensland Government public service offices.
These include various aspects such as fire safety, accessibility, sustainability requirements, structural integrity, electrical and plumbing systems, ventilation, and occupancy limits.
There are also requirements under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to ensure a healthy and safe working environment. This goes to the choice of furniture and workstations, as well as making sure there is adequate ventilation and lighting. Noise controls are also important, especially for medical or allied health clinics.
Office fitouts should comply with disability access requirements. This includes provisions for accessible entrances, ramps or lifts, door widths, accessible toilets, and appropriate signage.
Increasingly, companies are seeking energy efficiency and sustainability features. Emissions can be reduced through the use of energy-efficient lighting systems, HVAC systems, insulation, and water-saving fixtures.
An office fitout design often starts with an assessment of the space and the business requirements.
An interior designer will determine a proposed layout with concept floor plans, furniture arrangements, and an indicative colour palette. The efficient use of space is important to make sure workers are comfortable, have access to the right equipment they need for their jobs, and there is sufficient space for any growth requirements.
Since the rise of remote working, there has also been a greater focus on designing collaborative spaces in the office where people can congregate and share knowledge and ideas.
Fitout also includes lighting, acoustic treatments and data infrastructure. Given workplace health and safety factors, businesses should provide adjustable desks, ergonomic chairs, and proper lighting and noise controls to create a comfortable and healthy work environment.
RAW Commercial Projects Interior Designer Henna Viikari says the fitout should reflect human-centric design to meet the needs of the people using the space.
“It prioritises the requirements, wellbeing and productivity of the people who will be using the space – the employees,” she says.
“An effective fitout design acknowledges that the way the workplace looks and feels has a significant impact on the overall experience and performance of individuals within it.”