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How Long Does an Office Refurbishment Take?

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

Office Refurbishment Timeline

Do you need an office refurbishment? Are you carrying out initial research to understand what is involved? If so, one of your biggest questions is probably “How long will my office refurbishment take?”


It’s a question we get asked a lot here at Zentura. Unfortunately, our answer is always “it depends”. Office refurbishment covers a huge spectrum, from minor changes to full strip out and fit out. Your refurbishment could take anything from 1 evening to 18 months or more!


In this article, we’ll go through the 3 main categories of office refurbishment, and explain how long they each normally take. We'll also cover the factors that affect your refurbishment timeframe. By the end, you’ll have an approximate understanding of how long your refurbishment might take. You’ll be ready to start learning about office refurbishment costs.


Considering how long your project might take is just one part of preparing for your office refurbishment. To learn more about the entire process, download How to Plan Your Office Refurbishment. It’s a 7-step guide to help you plan your project, from defining your brief right through to signing your contract.


Reconfiguration

The quickest form of office refurbishment is reconfiguration. Reconfiguration does not involve major changes to your space – it resolves minor issues. It can cover anything from adding an extra private office to replacing elements like flooring. A common example is refreshing breakout areas or teapoints.


Planning: 1-2 Weeks

The planning process for a reconfiguration is very short. Deciding that you need another executive office or that your carpet needs replacing is not complex. Getting your internal team to agree on what needs to happen and get provisional signoff should be relatively quick.


However, you do need to make sure you are solving the right problem. If your breakout area is tired and overused because there’s no collaboration space, then you will need to add a collaboration zone rather than just refresh your breakout space. Depending on the complexity of the works, deciding on the scope should only take a few days, though this may stretch to 2 weeks.


Design: 2-4 Weeks

The design for a light-touch reconfiguration is also very quick. Usually, you are looking to maintain the design of your existing office. You will be using the same specification materials and features as the rest of your office.


The detailed design process is also very simple. Rather than needing a full drawing pack, you will only need the drawings for the relevant works. Specification packs and quotes will also be much quicker to create. Usually, the design for a reconfiguration will take 2-4 weeks, depending on how many revisions are required.


Licenses & Approvals: 1-12 Weeks

For reconfigurations, some of the approvals required for larger projects are not necessary. Building control regulations will still apply, so this will need to be catered for in the design. If your office is listed, you will probably need listed building consent (LBC), even for minor reconfigurations. If you are changing the layout of partitions or systems, you may need formal approval from your landlord.


Despite the works being minor, getting formal approval can take time. If your works are very minor, you may not even need formal approval from your landlord. on the other hand, getting LBC requires a formal application to the local council, so approval will take around 3 months.


Works: 1-3 Weeks

The works are the most changeable phase of a reconfiguration because the scope is so variable. To relocate a few floorboxes and desks could be done in an evening, while to refresh a breakout area could take 2 or 3 weeks. If your reconfiguration involves changes to the layouts of partitions or systems, then the works will take longer.


An important consideration is whether the works should be done during or outside of normal working hours. To do the works during normal working hours means disruption is minimised and your people can continue working in the space. However, the works will take longer as a result.


Refurbishment

Mid-touch office refurbishment is what most people think of as office refurbishment. Needed changes to your space are made while using as much as possible of your existing space. Mid-touch refurbishment is a lot less disruptive and complex than full strip out & fit out. A reasonable amount of your office will stay the same (or similar). However, areas of your office that are worn out, unsuitable, or under-used are replaced.


Planning: 3-5 Weeks

Planning a mid-touch office refurbishment will take longer than a reconfiguration. It may involve changing the way your people work, which requires careful preparation. Mid-touch refurbishments are generally required every 3 or 4 years to bring your office in line with your changing company and culture.


These projects will generally work off a pre-existing workspace strategy, so you don’t need to analyse your workspace needs in great detail. It’s important that this stage is not rushed, as setting the right foundations for your project is crucial to overall project success.


Design: 4-12 Weeks

For a mid-touch office renovation, a full design process is required. This involves creating several options for layouts and design concepts, as well as rough costings and, in some cases, CGIs. For mid-touch refurbishments, this can take some time, as your workspace designer hasn’t got a blank canvas. They have to combine what will remain with new elements to create a cohesive new design concept.


Once you are happy with the concept, your design & build company will create the detailed design. This will include a full drawing pack with layouts, finishes, and utilities. It will also include finishes and furniture schedules, as well as specification packs and detailed costings. This stage requires almost as much work as a full strip out & fit out, so will take at least a month. Depending on the complexity of your project, it may be up to 3 months.


Licenses & Approvals: 4-12 weeks

For a mid-touch refurbishment project, you will need more licenses and approvals. They will also be more complex to obtain due to the increased complexity of the works. You will definitely need 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.


Depending on the complexity of the works and your relationship with your landlord, this phase should take about 4 weeks, though it can largely overlap with the design phase. If your refurbishment requires planning permission or LBC from your local council, then this phase will take 3 months or more.


Works: 4-8 Weeks

Again, the timeframe for the works can vary a lot, simply because the scope can be so varied. Typically with mid-touch refurbishments, there will be a significant quantity of strip-out and build-out works. There may also be adaptions to systems such as lighting and HVAC. This is very labour intensive and increases the time needed for your office refurbishment.


Not every office relocation will require each phase, and the length of each phase will vary a lot depending on the size of the office and the design style of your office. However, for a 5,000 sq/ft mid-touch refurbishment the works will take around 4-8 weeks. This will increase if the works are more extensive or your space is larger.


Strip Out & Fit Out

Strip out & fit out involves stripping your existing office back to its Cat A state, and then creating an entirely new workspace. Every element of your existing workspace will be removed and disposed of. While it may be the same floor in the same building, your new office will be almost unrecognisable- a completely new workspace, but in the same location.


Planning: 4-8 Weeks

A detailed plan is essential to a successful strip-out & fit out office refurbishment. This plan includes 5 key items: overall workspace strategy, project objectives, key deadlines, new space requirements, and budget. As full strip out & fit-outs are rarely the cheapest option, careful planning is necessary to maximise your return on investment.


For a complete strip-out & fit out, starting the planning phase from scratch can take 2 months or more. However, if you’ve already got a workspace strategy in place, the planning phase can take 4-6 weeks. For a project of this size, careful planning is essential to make a successful project.


Design: 10-16 Weeks

Designing your new workspace for a full strip out & fit out project is very different to mid-touch or light-touch projects because you are working with a blank canvas. Design concepts are especially important because this is a big investment for your company. You need to create a culture-based, productive workspace design.


While designing with a blank canvas provides a lot more opportunities, it can take longer to create a design that matches your needs. Detailed design can also be complex, because of the amount of strip-out required. We recommend you allow at least 3 months for the design phase, though this will be partially overlapped by the planning and approvals phases.


Licenses & Approvals: 6-12 Weeks

The licenses and approvals you will need will be the same as you would need for a mid-touch refurbishment. They may take longer to obtain as the projects are more complex. The building control signoff especially may take longer, as there can be significant changes to the building systems, all of which need to be carefully reviewed.


The landlord will likely have input on the technical design as it will affect the utilities within nth building. Reviewing the design and granting the LTA will also take longerIf required, planning permission can take 3 months or more. For a full strip-out and fit out refurbishment, you should allow 6-8 weeks, and 16-20 weeks if you need planning permission.


Works:12-24 Weeks

The works include 8 main phases: site preparation, strip out, build out, utilities, electrics, finishes, furniture, and snagging. Most of these overlap with the consecutive phases, which speeds up the project delivery. The works for a full strip out and fit out take significantly longer than a similar size office fit out, because of the amount of strip out & systems adaptions needed.


Unlike a mid-touch fit out, all of these phases will definitely be required in your project. Some items, such as furniture, also have long lead times of up to 8 weeks, which will extend the delivery phase. A full strip out & fit out for a 5,000 sq/ft office would take about 16 weeks, depending on the complexity of the project and the state of the building.


How Long Will It Take to Refurbish Your Office?

Your project timeframe is a crucial aspect of your office refurbishment. If you don’t allow enough time, you will be forced to rush the project, which increases the chance of making expensive and time-consuming mistakes. On the other hand, if you allow too long, you will have to cope with a substandard office for much longer.


Because there are so many variables, there is no formula to calculate how long your office refurbishment will take. Depending on the size of your office and the scope of your project, your refurbishment could take anything from 1 evening to 18 months or more!


Now that you know how long the 3 categories of office refurbishment take and what affects the timeframe, you can estimate how long your project will take. 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.


Considering how long your project might take is just one part of preparing for your office refurbishment. To find out more about what is included in your office refurbishment, read the step-by-step office refurbishment process. To learn more about the entire process, download How to Plan Your Office Refurbishment. It’s a 7-step guide to help you plan your project, from defining your brief right through to signing your contract! Download your copy here.


Along with timeframe, your other major office refurbishment question is probably “How much will my office refurbishment cost?” If so, you’ll want to read this article. It explains indicative office refurbishment costs per sq ft, as well as the 5 key factors that will affect how much your office refurbishment will cost.

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