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Cat A vs Cat A+: Which Office Lease is Right for Me?

Updated: Nov 22, 2023

Category A and Category A Plus Fit Out

Are you planning an office relocation? Maybe are you looking at opening another office in a new location? If so, choosing your new office space is one of the most important (and expensive) decisions you will make. During your search for a new office, you’ve probably come across terms such as “Cat A” and “Cat A+”. These terms refer to different types of office leases. Understanding how they differ and which is best for you will be a crucial factor in creating a list of requirements for your new space.


At Zentura, we’ve been designing & building offices since 2008. Over that time, we’ve worked on hundreds of office fit outs, including both Cat A and Cat A+ projects. In this article, we’ll compare these lease models across 5 key criteria: lease costs, fit out costs, timeline, customisation, and company growth. But first, what exactly do Cat A and Cat A+ mean?


What is Category A Office Space?

Category A fit out is a basic level of office fit out. It typically includes essential infrastructure such as raised floors, suspended ceilings, lighting, air conditioning, and fire detection systems. Cat A fit out is typically completed by the landlord before making it available to tenants.


A Cat A fit out is not leased ready for the tenant to start using the space. It is created as a blank canvas, ready for you to design & build a workspace that meets your needs. Should you choose to lease a Cat A office space, you will need to engage an office fit out company to complete a “Category B” office fit out. This involves designing your office layout and installing finishes such as partitioning, carpets, branding, and furniture.


What is Category A+ Office Space?

Category A+ office fit out takes a space to the next level, completing more of the Cat B fit out. As well as all the essential infrastructure included as part of a typical Cat A fit out, Cat A+ includes internal partitioning, flooring, design features, and some furniture. Cat A+ spaces look much more like an office that is ready for you to move into. Most of the fit out is already done, so all you have to do is add company branding and customise the furniture.


Category A+ office fit out is a relatively new concept, having only become a common lease model in the last 5-8 years. However, it is fast growing in popularity, especially for mid-size offices. The volume of Cat A lease transactions in London doubled in 2022, according to research by Savills.


Which is Right for You?

Both the Cat A and the Cat A+ lease models have their respective advantages and disadvantages, so neither option is better than the other. However, there are 5 factors you should consider when making your choice. Here, we’ll explain each.


Lease Costs

The first thing to consider is your budget for office lease costs. This will likely be one of your biggest overheads for several years to come, so it needs careful consideration. Cat A office leases in London will usually cost between £70 and £140 per square foot per year, depending on the location. To learn more about office lease costs in London, read this article.


Cat A+ leases, on the other hand, will cost significantly more. The main reason for this is that the landlord has completed more of the fit out, reducing your fit out costs. In addition, Cat A+ leases tend to be for shorter terms of 1-3 years, rather than 5-10 years.


Fit Out Costs

Office fit out costs are the other major cost component of your office relocation. Unsurprisingly, the fit out costs for a cat A space are far higher than the costs for a Cat A+ space. There are 5 major factors that will affect the cost of your Cat B office fit out: size, specification, services, state, and setting. Most Category B office fit outs will cost between £50 and £100 per square foot. To learn more about design & build costs, download our office fit out costs guide.


The costs for fitting out a Cat A+ space, on the other hand, are minimal. All you have to do is install any branding and finalise the furniture package. The costs are highly variable, but will likely cost £5-£20 per square foot. It’s important to compare the lower upfront costs with the higher ongoing costs. You can then assess which is most cost-effective over time.


Timeline

Regardless of which lease model you choose, moving office is a big project. A successful Cat A office relocation requires months of careful planning, searching, designing, and building before you can finally move into your new office. Depending on the size and complexity of your project, you will need to allow 6-18 months to move office.


If you're in a hurry to move into your new office space, a Cat A+ lease might be more appealing. With its ready-to-use condition, it eliminates the need for extensive fit-out work. This will reduce the time it takes to get up and running.


Customisation

Brand image is one of the most important aspects of office design. As the home of your company, it has a huge role to play in your brand and culture, as well as the performance of your company and staff. Because Cat A spaces provide a blank canvas, they allow you much more flexibility in terms of both the design layout and finishes. While you do need official approval from your landlord, you can transform your office into almost any design you want.


Cat A+, on the other hand, is far more restrictive in terms of design. As most of the Cat B fit out has already been done, the layout is much more restricted, as is the finishes package. Consequently, the design may not accurately reflect your brand. Landlords also tend to be more reluctant to make changes to such a space, and alterations are more expensive.


Future Needs

While it may be tempting to focus on your current requirements when moving office, you also need to consider what your workspace needs will look like 3,5, or 10 years from now. Your company may have aggressive growth plans, or be planning to focus on international markets. Your overall company strategy will have a trickle-down effect on your working strategy. This will affect which lease model is right for you.


As mentioned, Cat A leases tend to be for longer periods than Cat A+ leases, which reduces your flexibility. It could be very costly to pay out of a lease 3 years early because you need a much larger space. However, you do have much more control over the design, so you could refurbish your office. While Cat A+ spaces have shorter lease terms, they also have less design flexibility.


Choosing Your Office Lease

It’s important to remember that your office is not merely a place where your people work. It's a strategic asset that can impact your productivity, employee morale, and business growth. While choosing the right office space doesn’t guarantee success, choosing the wrong space almost guarantees failure. A key part of this is making the right choice of office leasing model, between Cat A and Cat A+. By understanding the differences between them, you can make an informed decision.


If you have the time and resources, a Cat A lease may be the best option for you. It provides a blank canvas that allows you to design and tailor the space to your unique needs, accommodating your brand identity and future growth plans. On the other hand, if you prioritize convenience and flexibility, a Cat A+ lease might be more suitable. With its “plug and play” approach, it allows you to start operating much sooner, without the need for extensive fit-out work.


Ultimately, the choice between Cat A and Cat A+ depends on your specific circumstances, budget, timeline, and growth projections. Consider the factors that matter most to your business and evaluate the potential benefits and drawbacks of each option. Consulting with real estate and office design professionals can also provide valuable insights and guidance throughout the decision-making process.


To learn more about making your next office more the success you need it to be, download our office relocation guide. It’s your go-to guide that will help you understand everything that goes into an office fit out, what it costs, and how long it will take. We’ve included a start-to-finish relocation checklist, office relocation costs information, and approximate timeframes. Everything is broken down so that you know all you need to about your upcoming office relocation. Download your ultimate office relocation guide here.

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