Office Infrastructure Considerations
When you’re moving office, there is a lot to think about. From workspace strategy to change management, there are thousands of decisions. One of the most important is choosing your new office. This will be the single biggest expense of your relocation project. It is also one of the biggest investments your company will make in the next 10 years. It’s crucial that you get it right. Otherwise, you will struggle to attract and retain talent, and staff productivity will fall.
One often overlooked aspect of choosing a new office is the building infrastructure. It's easy to forget about because it isn't visible. However, they are the systems and features that keep your office running. Without them, adapting your office could be difficult and expensive. Even worse, the performance of your people may be limited by your building’s infrastructure.
At Zentura, we’ve been helping companies plan and deliver their office relocations since 2008. As a design and build company, we often find that many companies don’t pay enough attention to the infrastructure of the building when choosing their new office. While things like cost and location are important, you also need to consider the quality of the building itself. Today, we’ll go through 8 of the most important building features to look for when choosing your new office.
A building’s Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating is a measure of how energy efficient a building is. Rankings go from G (very inefficient) to A (very efficient). Currently, leased commercial buildings must have a rating of E or higher. However, by 2027, all leased offices will require a C rating. This will further increase to B by 2030. It is estimated that 90% of commercial buildings in London are currently C or below.
Given that your lease term will probably be between 5 and 10 years, it's essential that you consider the EPC rating. Otherwise, you may have to move out while the landlord conducts lengthy and disruptive upgrades. Selecting a building with a high EPC rating will also be much more cost-effective and environmentally friendly to run.
Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) is another building rating that focusses on the environmental friendliness of a building. BREEAM assesses the performances of buildings over a wide range of environmental issues. The final result is a rating of unclassified, pass, good, very good, excellent, or outstanding. Unlike EPC, it is not government created and is not a legal requirement. However, it is becoming ever more important as a universal sustainability rating for buildings.
Sustainability is becoming increasingly important to staff, clients, and investors alike. You need to assess the environmental impacts of every aspect of your company. Given that bBarly 40% of global carbon emissions, so your office has an important role to play. By selecting an office with a high BREEAM rating, you are reducing one of the major sources of carbon emissions at your company.
Listed buildings are structures of particular architectural or historical interest. There are 3 grades of listing (I, II, and II*). Higher grades have more restrictions on development or adaption. Nearly all buildings built before 1840 are listed. Buildings built between 1840 and 1914 of definite quality and character are also listed, as well as important buildings built since 1914. To check if any offices you are considering are listed, check the Historic England website.
While uncommon across most of the country, listed buildings are very common in older areas of London. Many buildings in areas such as Mayfair and Knightsbridge are listed. If your building is listed, you will need listed building consent (LBC) from your local planning authority for any adaptions. You shouldn’t necessarily discount any building that is listed. However, you should consider the impact this will have on your office fit-out design and costs.
Raised Access Flooring
A raised access floor is an elevated floor above the solid concrete structural floor of an office. It consists of removable floor panels supported by pedestals. This creates a void for power and data services to be run to different areas of the office. Most modern offices and those in major commercial centres have raised access flooring. Offices in buildings over 50 years old are less likely to.
Buildings with raised access floors are much simpler and quicker to fit out or refurbish. The void means power and data can easily be routed to wherever needed in your office without having to run conduit around the walls or chase out the floors. If any of your shortlisted offices do not have a raised access floor, you should allow extra budget for power and data works or installation.
It is no surprise that the speed and security of your office internet connection are crucial to the success of your company. If your internet is slow or unreliable, The productivity of your people will be limited.
To make sure the offices you’re considering have suitable internet speed, you need to consider how many staff you have and how intensive their internet usage is. We recommend a minimum of 1,000Mbps. For large offices or those with specialist requirements, the requirements will be much higher. While slower internet speeds don’t automatically disqualify a property, you should consider the costs of upgrading and the impact on staff productivity.
The one capacity that is more important than internet connection is power. Without it, your people will be almost completely unproductive. If your building has too little power capacity or is in an unreliable area, you are at an increased risk of power outages. These can be very disruptive for your people, especially in external facing departments such as customer service.
Much like internet connection, you should consider your current power usage to ensure your new office has enough power. You should also consider how this will change in the future – both with increased staff and increased usage per person. The normal requirements are about 6Kw per person, plus common areas and comms rooms. However, your requirements may be much higher than this. It’s important you estimate your power requirements and choose an office with sufficient power capacity.
One of the most common staff complaints about the office is the air conditioning. While it’s impossible to please everyone with one office temperature, you should ensure the HVAC system is suitable for your needs. Once again, capacity is crucial, both in terms of heating and cooling. The system may have been designed for a lower staff density than you are planning, so it won't have sufficient capacity to keep the temperature stable. You should also consider the fresh air provision, as many systems rely on recycled air with little fresh air added.
The age of the existing system is also an important consideration. Most HVAC systems are designed to last 10-20 years. If your system is more than 10 years old, it may soon need significant refurbishment or even replacement. Older systems are also less environmentally friendly and energy efficient. Ensuring your new office can maintain high air quality and a good temperature will ensure your people are as healthy and productive as possible.
Whether or not a potential office has sprinklers is one of the most forgotten criteria when choosing a new office. A sprinkler system can detect and suppress a fire. This would allow your staff to exit the building safely and prevent widespread fire damage. Currently, sprinklers are not a legal requirement in commercial buildings, though they are included in most large and modern offices.
However, it’s worth noting that sprinkler systems are expensive to maintain and adapt. Any partition layout changes in your new office will require labour-intensive changes to the sprinkler system. This will increase the costs of your project. However, you should balance the increased build-out costs against the lower insurance costs as a result of having sprinklers. The safety of your staff is also paramount.
Choosing Your Office
Choosing the best office for your next office relocation requires careful consideration of many different factors, from cost to transport links to internet speed. However, it's important you compare the infrastructure characteristics of the different buildings you are considering against your requirements. This will enable you to disqualify any buildings that do not meet your needs. You can then compare them to see which is best not only from an infrastructure perspective but from an overall standpoint.
Ensuring the final building you choose has suitable ratings, facilities and systems is essential to making your office relocation a success. You are unlikely to get everything you want at your budget. However, ensuring all your minimum requirements are met will ensure you do not have significant infrastructure problems in the months and years to come.
To help make sure your office relocation is the success it needs to be, download our ultimate office relocation guide. There, we’ve explained everything you need to know about what office relocation involves, what it costs, and how long it will take. We’ve also included an office relocation checklist, so you can ensure you haven't missed anything important. Download your copy here.