Completing an office fit-out is no easy task, but like most things, the devil’s in the detail and a clear planning process is key to ensure budgets and time frames are met. We increasingly see more and more clients in the region leaving this until the last minute when acquiring new office space.
Time, client expectations and budget should be considered when planning a new office fit-out.
Take into account time frames and the following essentials, which can “make or break” a project:
Long lead items. Due to the majority of materials and products being sourced outside the UAE, delivery of certain products are on long lead times as they need to be shipped in. Items such as furniture need to be approved and procured 12 weeks prior the final installation date. Architects and contractors are more frequently opting for local suppliers to meet tight installation dates.
Local authority approvals. This is a huge factor to take into account when planning an office move. Before commencing any on-site work, there are statutory approvals that involve a number of local governing bodies reviewing drawing submissions for proposed projects. The sectors vary based on location such as on-shore, off-shore or free zone, but they all require the same level of detail from the design/contracting team. These hurdles are enforced to ensure that the necessary regulations on fire and safety, natural day light and general tenant space requirements are being met.
We are here to ensure the project is handed over successfully and to a high standard, however, as project managers we need to be realistic with the customer from our appointment through to completion and provide them with accurate, up-to-date realistic work schedules based on our inherent market knowledge.
We will strive to meet the clients’ needs, but there has to be a level of honesty and transparency so that they are aware of not only accurate milestone dates against their expected occupancy date, but also project costs.
Cost expectations are vital to manage when planning a new fit-out. This is linked with project time frames. If we are clear on a client’s budget from the outset, we can then plan for an appropriate level of specification and finishing. This cuts out the subsequent back and forth between the client and project team having to go through value engineering exercises to reduce the level of finish or quality to meet their budget.
Challenges in the office fit-out market
Managing client expectations is a major challenge to overcome throughout the duration of a project. It is key for us as consultants to have a contractor that can carry out the actual fit-out to not only a high standard and within the agreed time frames, but who is also honest and transparent throughout. One of the main challenges encountered throughout a project is not only managing the client but the contractor too.
With the high number of contracting firms in the UAE fit-out market, it is key to establish who the appropriate teams are for certain projects.
We are finding that projects between 5,000-15,000 sq ft tend to go the design and build route as opposed to the traditional procurement method. The main reason for this goes back to time. The speed at which a project can be delivered from concept to completion is higher. This method allows work to commence a lot earlier on-site due to the design control given to the contractor.
One of the main trends we are seeing slowly filter through to the UAE corporate fit-out sector is wellness in the work place. Companies are looking to implement new workplace strategies to enhance staff wellbeing and create an environment for a more efficient workforce.
The trend of a more flexible, healthier workplace is becoming more and more evident with companies taking staff wellbeing into account. This in turn encourages new recruits that can bring key skills to the business. A CoreNet survey stated that 80 per cent of employees say wellness programs would be crucial to attracting and keeping them over the next 10 years.