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How Long Does an Office Fit Out Take?

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

Office Fit Out Timelines

Are you taking on another floor within your current office, and needing to fit it out? Perhaps you’ve found a new office to move into, and are now considering the design & build?

Whatever your situation, if you’re in the early stages of planning your office fit out, you likely have 2 main questions:

- What will my office fit out cost?

- How long will it take?

As office fit outs are complex and completely bespoke projects, the answers will be different for every company and project. In another article, we wrote about office fit out costs – major factors affecting the cost of your office fit out, and rough square foot costs.

In this article, we’ll focus on the timeframes. We'll explain approximate timeframes, as well as what will affect those in your case. By the end, you’ll know roughly how long your fit out will take, and what will affect that timeline.

Project Planning: 4-8 Weeks

A comprehensive plan is essential to a successful office fit out. This plan will be your go-to guide over the next 12 months, keeping your project on track and making sure it is a success. This plan needs to include 5 key items: overall workspace strategy, project objectives, key deadlines, new space requirements, and budget.

If you already have a well-defined workplace strategy in place, then this stage can take as little as 2 weeks. However, for more complex projects, or starting the planning phase from scratch, then this can take 2 months or more. It’s important that this stage is not rushed though, as setting the right foundations for your project is crucial to overall project success.

Concept Design: 2-8 Weeks

Once you have finalised your workspace strategy and project objectives, concept office design can begin. This phase overlaps with deadlines, space requirements and budget, as they are interconnected. Concept design involves creating several options for layouts and design concepts. It also covers rough costings and sometimes CGIs.

If you already have concept designs as part of a workspace strategy, or are replicating the design of an existing office, then the design concept only needs to be adapted to the constraints of the space. this could take as little as 2 or 3 weeks. However, if you're looking to completely change the way your staff work, then the concept design will need a lot more work. The amount of time a concept design takes is dependent on how many revisions are required. The speed of communication between you and your designer is also important.

Detailed Design: 4-12 Weeks

Once you have chosen a design concept, it's time for your design & build company to turn that into a comprehensive design package that can be delivered. This stage will include a full drawing pack with layouts, finishes, and utilities. It will also include specification packs and detailed costings. The purpose of this phase is to detail exactly what your new office will look like so that it can be accurately costed. It can then be adjusted as necessary and all the information finalised. Your design and build company will then have all the information they need to bring your project to life.

A lot of work is required to take a design concept to a deliverable design pack. The major factor that will affect the time required for detailed office design is the complexity of your project. If your project requires structural alterations or extensive modifications to the mechanical and electrical systems, then this will have to be planned. However, if your space only requires cosmetic fit out, then the detailed design package will be a lot quicker to create.

Licenses & Approvals: 4-16 Weeks

Whilst the design is being finalised, you will need to make sure all necessary licenses and approvals are sorted. The key approvals are the license to alter (LTA) from the landlord and signoff from a building control consultant. If your building is listed, then you will need listed building consent (LBC) from your local council. If your project requires planning permission, then this will also need to be sorted at this stage.

Good communication with your landlord is essential to minimise the amount of time it takes for them to formally approve your project. If you have been updating them as the concept and detailed design progresses, then they will be able to advise you of their requirements for any designs. You will be able to factor these into the design. If your project requires permission from your local council, then forward planning is even more important. Council approvals can often take 3 months or more.

Site Set-up & Preliminary Works: 1-2 Weeks

Site setup involves health & safety preparation, installing worker welfare facilities, protecting the parts of the building/ office not being altered, and preparing the space for the works to begin.

It is essential to make sure staircases, lifts, etc., are properly protected. This will prevent expensive damage to the rest of the building during the works. Making sure the space is as ready as possible is also necessary to ensure the works can begin on time.

Strip Out: 1-4 Weeks

Once preliminary works are complete, the full fit out works can begin. The first part of this is known as strip out or demolition. This involves the removal of anything in your space that won’t be a part of the final design. This commonly covers partitions, flooring, ceilings, lighting, and fitted furniture.

This phase will take from 1-4 weeks, depending on the extent of the strip out required, and the size of your office. If your existing office is in a Cat A state, then very little strip out will be required. However, if you have leased a floor that has not had dilapidation works, then more strip out will be required.

Build Out: 2-4 Weeks

Build out is the part most people think of as fit out. Build out is the core construction of the space, including partitions, ceilings, and initial decoration. It may also include the installation of teapoints and fixed joinery features such as bleacher seating.

The length of time your build out phase will take depends primarily on your space plan and the size of your space. If you have an open-plan design that uses zoning furniture and flooring to break up environments, then very little partitioning will be needed. However, if you require a lot of meeting rooms or executive offices, then the build out phase may take 4 weeks or more.

Mechanical & Electrical: 4-6 Weeks

Overlapping with the build out phase is the mechanical and electrical works. This involves adaptations to air conditioning, power & data, and lighting, as well as life systems such as fire alarms & sprinklers.

This phase requires a lot more work than most people would think. Nearly all the ducting, wiring, and pipework is hidden, which is very labour intensive to adapt. Some systems such as sprinklers have to be completely drained before any alterations can take place. As a result, mechanical and electrical works are one of the longest and most complex phases of your office fit out.

Finishes: 2-6 Weeks

Once the base build and systems adaptions are nearly complete, the finishes phase can begin. This phase involves all the visible finishes and design elements throughout your space including flooring, decoration, signage, and any design features. Audio-visual equipment is also installed in this phase, from TV screens to hybrid meeting suites.

The time required to complete this phase is highly variable, as it depends a lot on the complexity and specification level of your design. If you have a relatively simple design, with simple decoration and few design features, then it may be completed in as little as two weeks. On the other hand, a complex design with feature flooring, wall graphics, and numerous design features could take 6 weeks or more to complete.

Furniture: 1-2 Weeks

Furniture is the stage at which your new office really comes to life. It includes all furniture, from task chairs and desks to pods and breakout seating. It may also include other non-fixed elements such as acoustic screens.

This stage is a lot less complex than other stages. However, if your space is very large or you have complex furniture such as trading desks, it can take more time to install. Unless your project is very large, all furniture installation should be complete within two weeks. Most office furniture is manufactured to order on lead times of 4-16 weeks. As a result, it’s crucial to finalise and order your furniture package in good time to avoid project delays.

Snagging & Handover: 1-2 Weeks

Before your people can move into your new office and start using it, there has to be a formal snagging and handover process. This involves you and the project manager of your design & build company carefully checking all the works completed, and correcting any defects. Once that is done, there is a formal handover process, to show you how everything works in your new office and finalise the project.

The length of this phase will depend on the quality of work by your design & build company. The project manager should have been carrying out their own snagging throughout the project to keep the final snag check to a minimum. If there are only a few minor defects, then these can usually be fixed within a few days.

Planning Your Office Fit Out

Your project timeframe is a crucial aspect of your office fit out. If your project takes too long, you may incur charges for overstaying in your current space. Projects running behind schedule also often suffer budget overruns as you try to speed up project progress. Worst of all, your company is missing out on the performance benefits of your new space.

On the other hand, rushing your project unnecessarily increases the chances of mistakes, both in design and delivery. To make sure your office fit out is a success, you need to allow enough time, plan comprehensively, and choose the right team.

Because there are so many variables, there isn't a simple formula to calculate how long your office fit out will take. Depending on the size and complexity of your office, as well as lead times and communication, your office fit out could take anything from 4-18 months. For very large projects over 50,000sq/ft or particularly complex projects, it may take even longer.

Now you know how long a typical office fit out takes and what affects the time required, you’re able to roughly calculate how long you need to allow for your office fit out. As a result, you know if you need to start planning now, if you have time to spare, or if you are already short on time.

To learn more about your next major question, download your office fit out cost guide. In detail, it breaks down office fit out costs per sq/ft, what affects office fit out costs, how to choose your specification level, why some companies are more expensive than others, and how to define your office fit out needs.

Your next step will be to choose an office fit out company. You can find an article about how to do that here, as well as a list of the best office fit out companies here. You’ll also want to know about crucial mistakes to avoid when selecting your design and build company, and who you need to involve in your office fit out. All the best with your project!



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