Relocating or redesigning a simple office space? Fit outs are great for improving company culture and ensuring your office is a safe and inspiring environment to work in. You may come across terms like Cat A and Cat B fit outs during your search for a fit out contractor – but what do they really mean?
These terms are used to differentiate the elements included in each type of office fit out. By understanding the differences between Cat A and Cat B fit outs, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about which type of fit out is best (or whether both are required) when consulting with your office fit out contractor.
Ready to get started? Read on to explore the differences between these two types of fit outs and help you determine which one is better suited for your specific office needs.
What is a Cat A fit out?
When it comes to office fit outs, a Cat A fit out refers to the basic finishing of an interior space. It provides you with a functional office space that is ready for a company to move in and get working. Typically, Cat A fit outs are commissioned by landlords to make the building suitable for commercial renting. This type of fit out includes the installation of things like:
- Mechanical and electrical services
- Lighting and HVAC
- Basic fire detection systems
- Suspended ceilings
- Raised flooring
- Basic carpeting
- Blinds and shutters
- Toilets and other basic amenities
However, a Cat A fit out does not include the final specifications that make a workspace fully personalised and functional. In a way, you can think of it as a blank canvas that allows you and your contractor to build upon. Raised access flooring, grid ceilings, and other essential elements are in place, but the space lacks the secondary elements of office design that make a workspace a comfortable, motivating and productive place to work.
What are the features of a Cat A fit out?
When looking for a contractor, or you’re wanting to ask for specific services, these all fall under Cat A:
1. Basic services
Cat A fit outs include the installation of basic services such as:
- HVAC systems
These services are typically installed up to a specified point, but may not be tailored to the specific needs of the tenant. So if you want specific types of lighting, a Cat B fit out may also be required.
2. Office structure and integrity
Typically, an office space will have raised flooring and a suspended ceiling grid, providing flexibility for future fit outs, office refurbishments and more. However, the walls are usually left unfinished or are painted in a basic neutral colour.
3. Common and access areas
Common areas such as hallways, staircases, lifts, and toilets are part of a Cat A fit out.
4. Fire safety
Fire detection, smoke alarms, and suppression systems are installed to meet building regulations.
As you can see, a Cat A fit out provides a functional space, but lacks the specific design and finishes that make it personalised and tailored to your business This is where a Cat B fit out comes in.
What is a Cat B fit out?
A Cat B fit out takes a Cat A space and transforms it into a fully functional workplace that’s tailored to your unique specifications, including the incorporation of accessible office design, break-out areas, meeting pods, office furniture and much more. Essentially, Cat B is a type of fit out involves the installation of all the elements that are not included in a Cat A fit out. This is what a Cat B fit out includes in a nutshell:
- Fully-fitted kitchens and non-communal office amenities
- Partitioning, including meeting rooms, offices and breakout spaces
- Workstations and furniture
- Re-routing air conditioning and power points to specific areas of an office
- IT installation and infrastructure
- Design and brand detailing
Essentially, a Cat B fit out is the process of bringing all the design elements together to create a functional and personalised workspace that aligns with your brand and vision. It allows you to customise the office according to your company’s specific needs, and we can help you incorporate home comforts in an office too for that personalised feel.
What are the features of a Cat B fit out?
If you’re looking to kit out your office with the finer details that don’t come with a Cat A fit out, here’s what to expect when getting a Cat B:
1. A customised space
A Cat B fit out allows for the design and installation of various elements, including internal partitions, individual offices, meeting rooms, breakout spaces, reception areas, and more. This level of fit out focuses on creating a functional and aesthetically pleasing workspace for people to work in.
2. Services and infrastructure
There are occasions when a contractor may be commissioned to make changes to specific elements of an office space (with the landlord’s permission). This involves modifying or expanding the space to align with the specific needs of the client, such as amended electrical layouts, data cabling, HVAC zoning, and other services required for the tenant’s operations.
Cat B fit outs include a wide range of finishes, such as flooring materials, wall finishes, ceiling treatments, lighting fixtures, and other fixtures and fittings. This level of fit out allows for the incorporation of branding elements to reinforce the company’s identity.
4. Placing furniture and equipment
A client will come to a fit out contractor for help on furniture, workstations, office equipment, and any other items required for their day-to-day operations. This ensures that the office space is tailored to the specific needs of the company and its employees. We believe ergonomic furniture is key for maximum comfort, which can help safeguard your employees from any workplace-related physical injury.
As you can see, a Cat B fit out offers a higher level of customisation and attention to detail in comparison to Cat A, resulting in a workspace that is tailored to your specific requirements. It allows for the creation of a functional, aesthetically pleasing, and branded office environment.
What is a Shell and Core fit out?
Another term you may come across is something known as a Shell and Core fit out. Shell and Core and Cat A fit outs are often used to denote the degree of readiness an office space has for a business to use. However, they represent different milestones in the journey of a commercial building, from structure to an operational workspace.
A Shell and Core fit out gives you just that: the outer ‘shell’ of the building, including exterior walls, and ‘core’ components like elevators and stairwells. It’s almost like a blank slate, allowing tenants the maximum level of customisation they need. However, this also means that significant investment in time and resources will be needed to transform it into a functional office.
On the other hand, Cat A fit outs are more “tenant-ready”. This stage typically follows the Shell and Core phase and involves adding critical systems and features that make the space more habitable. These enhancements include fundamental electrical work, HVAC systems, raised floors for cabling, suspended ceilings, and even some basic amenities like toilets. Even though it still presents itself as a generic space that lacks an individual company’s branding, a Cat A space is one step closer to being a functional office environment.
What is a Cat A+ fit out?
A Cat A+ fit out serves as a middle ground between Cat A and Cat B fit outs, offering a unique blend of features that cater to a tenant’s needs. They go beyond the basic infrastructure provided in Cat A, by allowing landlords to attract new tenants who may be looking for a space that requires minimal customisation.
Unlike a full Cat B fit out, which would include specific branding and customised features, a Cat A+ fit out keeps things more generic as well as still offering a higher level of functionality. This makes it an attractive option for tenants looking for flexible spaces where they can begin working immediately upon moving in, yet still have the freedom to add their branding and make minor adjustments to the space.
This approach meets the needs of modern tenants and landlords alike. It’s particularly suitable for co-working spaces and businesses that aren’t yet ready to commit to the expense and permanence of a Cat B fit out but still want something more complete than a basic Cat A space.
The difference between Cat A and Cat B fit outs – in a nutshell
The main difference between Cat A and Cat B fit outs lies in the level of customisation your office space can have. Even though both types of fit outs provide functional office spaces, Cat B fit outs go a step further by allowing you to create a workspace that reflects your company’s unique culture and requirements.
Here is a breakdown of the key differences between Cat A and Cat B fit outs:
|Category||Cat A Fit Out||Cat B Fit Out|
|Purpose||To provide a functional office space that is ready for occupancy.||To create a fully operational workplace that is tailored to the client’s unique requirements.|
|Installation||Basic mechanical and electrical services, finished internal walls, reception areas, and basic fire detection systems.||Partitions, doors, floor finishes, specialist lighting and facilities, cafés, tea points and kitchen areas, furniture, branded material, and décor.|
|Customisation||Limited customisation options. The space is a blank canvas for the client to build upon.||Extensive customisation options. The client can design the office space according to their specific needs and brand identity.|
|Implementation||Often carried out by the commercial landlords to make the building suitable for commercial renting.||Usually carried out by a fit out company before they move into a new office with the help of a design and build company.|
|Functionality||Basic functionality with essential services and finishes.||Enhanced functionality with a complete set of services, finishes, and design elements that enhance working practices.|
|Brand identity||Limited branding options are provided by the landlord.||Extensive branding options to reflect the client’s brand identity by the fit out company.|
|Timeframe||Generally completed by landlords before a business moves in.||Completed before occupation by the client, usually with the help of a design and build company.|
|Cost||Typically lower cost compared to Cat B fit outs.||Generally higher cost due to the level of customisation and additional design elements.|
|Client involvement||Less involvement is required from the client as most of the work is done by the landlord.||More involvement is required from the client as they work closely with the fit out company to create the desired workspace.|
Which is better – Cat A or Cat B fit outs?
The choice between a Cat A and Cat B fit out depends on your specific office needs and preferences, meaning one type of fit out isn’t necessarily “better”. Here are some factors to consider when deciding which type of fit out is better for your office:
If you have a limited budget and require a functional office space without personalisation to your brand’s spec, a Cat A fit out may be the more cost-effective option for you.
2. Branding and identity
Do you prioritise brand identity? Then you’ll want to create a workspace that reflects your company’s culture, values, and brand image. In this case, a Cat B fit out provides you with the flexibility to customise every aspect of the office’s design with the help of a fit out contractor to advise on the best possible course of action. This is especially true if you’re looking to give your office a total refresh, such as an injection of colour to really help uplift the office with the help of some colour psychology.
If you anticipate future growth or changes in your office layout, a Cat B fit out allows for greater flexibility in adjusting the space to accommodate your evolving needs.
If time is of the essence and you need a quick solution, a Cat A fit out provided by the landlord may be more suitable. However, if you have the time and resources to invest in a customised workspace, a Cat B fit out offers a higher level of personalisation. This can have a huge positive effect on you and your employees.
5. Your level of involvement
Consider the level of involvement you want in the fit out process. A Cat A fit out requires less tenant involvement, as most of the work is done by the landlord. However, a Cat B fit out requires more collaboration with a design and build company to create the desired workspace in accordance with your needs.
Ultimately, the choice between a Cat A and Cat B fit out depends on your specific requirements, budget, and long-term goals for your office space. Consulting with an experienced workplace interior design and build company like us can help you make an informed decision and guide you through the fit out process.And there you have it – the difference between a Cat A and Cat B fit out! Need help on your office fit out? Contact Diamond Interiors – leading experts in office interior design who can help make your new office space a great place to work. We’ll be with you every step of the way – just look at our interior design projects and customer testimonials!