Blog Post

Cat A fit out and Cat B fit out: what’s the difference?

21.01.2022 | 6 min read | Written by Alexandra Hasek

If your company is thinking about a commercial fit out, it is helpful to have an understanding of some of the essential terms. In particular, it’s important to know the difference between a Cat A fit out and a Cat B fit out.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, almost everything we thought we knew about working in offices has changed. And although predictions about the ‘death of the office’ have proven farfetched, the way these spaces are used and their floor plans laid out has shifted dramatically. To adapt to this change, many businesses are investing in commercial fit-outs so their workplaces meet current and future needs. Indeed, commercial fit out companies report that 2022 orders have now recovered to pre-pandemic levels.

A completed Cat B fit out

So, what do you need to know about your options before you can make a decision?

Why is there growing demand for commercial fit outs?

There are several reasons for the high demand for commercial fitouts we’re seeing today. The most significant is of course the pandemic, but there are other factors at play too:

  • Changing working styles: The emergence of hybrid working means many office staff use their days working from home to do focus work, while spending days at the office in meetings. This means that the traditional layout of offices needs to change so it is better suited to collaborative work.
  • Social distancing: Prior to the pandemic, the big trend in office floor management was to try and fit more people into less space. Today, concerns about health and safety mean this trend has reversed. Commercial fit outs are being used to accommodate social distancing.
  • Environmental concerns: Many companies are aware of the environmental impact of office design. A commercial fit out can make office spaces ‘greener’ and mean they utilise less energy.
  • The WeWork effect: Commercial property company WeWork introduced the world to a new idea of what the office could be like, with attractive designs, coffee bars and comfortable furnishings. Employees are increasingly attracted to working in such an environment, and this is pushing demand for commercial fit outs.

Case study: How one UK commercial fit out business uses PlanRadar

Cat A fit out vs. Cat B fit out

If your business is considering a commercial fit out, you will soon discover that there are two main kinds of fit out available: Cat A fit outs and Cat B fit outs. So, what is the difference and how should you choose between them?

Cat A fit out

You can think of Cat A fit outs as a blank canvas; it provides the ‘essentials’ of the interior of a building. They are usually commissioned by landlords, and will typically include the following features:

  • Raised access flooring
  • Suspended ceilings
  • Fire detection systems
  • Lighting
  • Air conditioning and heating
  • Toilets
  • Basic mechanical and electrical services

A Cat A fit out provides the tenant with complete flexibility to modify the space to their needs.

Cat A fit outs are right for: Companies that prefer a blank canvas to work with. For instance, if you are moving from an old office space to a new environment, you will likely already have most of the furniture and furnishings you need to make an office space your own. In this case, a Cat A fit out might be most appropriate. The same goes for larger companies that sometimes have their own internal office design service.

Cat B fit out

A Cat B fit out provides a fully furnished office completely tailored to the tenant company’s culture, working style and brand. It delivers all the services, fixtures and fittings they need to g start working from the day they move in. A Cat B fit out will typically include things like:

  • Internal partitions and doors
  • Furniture
  • Floor finishes (carpet, wooden floors, tiles)
  • Wall finishes (paint, wallpaper, exposed brick
  • Specialised lighting
  • Fully fitted kitchen areas
  • Branding
  • IT installed
  • Internet connection

A Cat B fit out naturally comes with a higher upfront cost. It also requires the tenant to work with interior designers at a fit out company. It does however make moving into the office less disruptive, as you can prepare the new space while your employees continue working in their existing office.

Cat B fit-outs are right for: Firms that don’t have existing furniture and fittings or that want a complete refresh. This option means they can really make the space their own, build their brand, and fit the layout to their exact needs.

Recommended: What makes a great commercial fit out?

The middle ground? A Cat A Plus fit out

In recent years, a growing number of commercial fit out companies have been providing so-called ‘Cat A Plus’ fit outs. Essentially, this is a middle ground between the bare bones of a Cat A fit-out and the highly personalised Cat B fit-out.

Cat A Plus fit outs provide all the essentials provided by a Cat A fit out (floors, ceilings, toilets etc.), as well as many of the features of Cat B fit outs (basic furniture, a kitchen, internet connections). You can think of A Cat A Plus fit out as a ‘generic’ fit out, providing all the essentials that any tenant needs to move in and start working. However, the result won’t have any personalised touches.

Trends in commercial fit outs

Whichever kind of fit out you choose, it is valuable to consider some of the following trends when deciding how to design your new office:

  • Go green: Besides the environmental benefits of energy-efficient lighting, air conditioning and insulation systems, green features can often make running your office space cheaper in the long run.
  • Flexibility is key: Because it is still unclear exactly how we will use offices in a post-pandemic world, flexibility is vital for commercial fit outs. Floor plans that are reconfigurable, and features such as desks with wheels, make it much easier to adapt the space.
  • Smart technology ready: Innovations in office technology are emerging all the time – from smart lighting that dims or brightens depending on the time of day to sensors that can monitor for occupancy levels. Make sure your commercial fit out can take advantage of the latest technology trends.
  • The rise of video calls: Video calls will almost certainly become a permanent feature of office life. When designing their commercial fit outs, many companies are investing in smart meeting rooms with large TV screens where in-office and remote staff can collaborate and communicate efficiently.

Related reading: Find out more about what PlanRadar can do for snagging

More efficient commercial fit outs with PlanRadar

PlanRadar is used by commercial fit out companies for everything from task management to snagging and reporting, as well as facility managers who oversee fit outs in their office spaces. The mobile based app allows users to inspect sites, take photos and share these with project managers. It also lets fit out companies generate task lists for subcontractors, and ensures more efficient, productive and higher quality projects.

To learn more about how PlanRadar can support Cat A and Cat B fit outs, contact us for a demo today.

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