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How to Plan Your London Office Refurbishment: Step-by-Step Guide

Workspace Renovation Planning

Are you thinking of renovating your London office to help attract staff back into the office? Perhaps you have high staff turnover so you're considering an office refurbishment to help improve the employee experience. Whatever your situation, you're planning an office refurbishment. However, you're not entirely sure what a good refurbishment plan includes, let alone how to create one.


If so, you're in the right place. Over the last 16 years, we've worked with thousands of companies to plan, design, and deliver their office refurbishments across London. We've worked on a huge range of projects from churn works to multi-floor full refurbishments. In this article, we'll go through the 10-step process we use with our clients to help them plan their projects. By the end, you'll know how to apply this process to your own company, helping you create a great office refurbishment plan.


For a more in-depth look at planning your project, download How to Plan an Office Refurbishment. You’ll get a better understanding of what will be involved in your office refurbishment, where you need to start, and where you need to learn more.


1.      Build Your Brief

Your project brief is the starting point for your office refurbishment. It contains the key project information that your design & build company need to know to get started on your project. It's also important that your internal team are aligned on the content of your project brief.


The brief is often done superficially, but a great brief is crucial to a successful refurbishment. Your design & build company need to know what is wrong with your office at the moment, what you are trying to achieve, and any key requirements or constraints that you have. Otherwise, they will produce design packages that are misguided and/ or ineffective.


You may not know what you need in exact detail, and your design and build company can work with you later to define that. However, being as detailed as possible at this stage will make your project a lot smoother and more effective. To learn more about what needs to be in your brief and how to create it, read this article.


2.     Contact Design & Build Companies

The next step in planning your refurbishment is to start working with potential design & build companies. We recommend you shortlist and speak to 2-5 refurbishment companies. From there, you can proceed to the next stage with 1-3 of those.


Exactly what this next stage looks like will vary depending on your process. With the managed design process, you pay one design & build company to create a detailed design & build package, which you can then tender the construction package separately to other companies. With a pitch design process, you work with multiple companies on initial designs & costings. You then choose your preferred company and proceed with one integrated contract for design & build. To learn more about which is best for you, read this article.


There are many different office design & build companies, and they all have different processes, specialities, and pricing structures. Your chosen company will be doing all the design and/ or delivery of your refurbishment, so it's crucial to shortlist and work with the best companies. Learn about the best refurbishment companies and how to find a great fit out company.


3.     Brief Design & Build Companies

Once you have selected your refurbishment company (or companies), you need to brief them in more detail. This involves discussing your brief in detail, making sure they understand it, and answering their questions. This will likely involve refining your brief further. Using all this information, they can get started on the next step.


This step is important because they need to understand the content and context of your brief, as well as fill in any gaps that there are. They may also want to learn more about the thinking behind your brief. All this knowledge is crucial to be able to produce effective concept designs.


4.     Concept Design

The next step in preparing for your refurbishment is the initial design phase. Concept design involves several key stages. First, your refurbishment company's design team will ideate 3-5 design concepts. With you, they will then choose the best and translate that into an initial office layout. This will then be developed into sketches and visuals. This should be accompanied by initial budget costings. Now is also the time to start planning and preparing for the necessary approvals and licenses.


Your concept design will likely require time and iteration to complete, but this is the building block of your final design, so it's important to get it right. The concept design is about much more than what your space looks like. The most important part is the thinking behind the design and how your people will use the space. This stage must be fully aligned with your brief.


5.     Choose Design & Build Company

If you are managing your project using a pitch design process, this is the point at which you will need to choose your design & build company. By this step of the planning process, you should have concept designs and budget costings from each company, as well as a good understanding of their capabilities. You don't sign anything contractual at this stage, but it's not practical to proceed beyond this stage with more than one company.


This is probably the most important decision you make when planning your office refurbishment. It's crucial to get it right, because the success of your entire proejct depends on it. Choosing the right refurbishment company is about more than be more impressive design or the lowest cost. Design relevance, track record, delivery expertise and client experience are all other crucial factors in your decision. To learn more, read to Choose an Office Refurbishment Company: 11 Key Criteria.


6.     Detailed Design

The next planning phase is to turn your design concept into a fully deliverable design package. Detailed design includes 2 key elements: the drawing pack and the specification. The full drawing pack involves building on the agreed space plan to detail every element. Along with the drawing pack, your full project quotation should detail the specification of every item. This includes everything, from the acoustic rating of the walls to the task chair manufacturer and model.


This is a crucial part of planning your refurbishment. Often, it's overlooked, or not done in enough detail. However, it's absolutely crucial that before you sign the contract, your design package contains everything you, your design & build company, and other stakeholders need to know for the project to be delivered successfully.


7.     Delivery Planning

Another oft-overlooked part of planning for your office refurbishment is a comprehensive delivery plan. Your design & build company should provide you with a programme of works that details what will happen when. You also need to establish how you will communicate with them during the project, including a regular cadence of meetings and site reports.


A comprehensive and effective delivery plan is absolutely essential. An amazing refurbishment design is worthless if it can't be delivered effectively. For your refurbishment to be a success, the project needs to be delivered on time, on brief, and on budget. Not achieving any one of these will mean your project is not a success. To learn more, read 5 Steps to Office Refurbishment Success.


8.     Cost Finalisation & Value Engineering

Once you have a comprehensive design package and delivery plan, you need to finalise the cost. There are several costing models for your office refurbishment, including open-book and fixed cost. We recommend fixed cost, because it is much easier to manage and gives you much more cost certainty. If your quote is over budget, you will also need to work with your refurbishment company to value engineer the package.


Construction is notorious for cost overruns, with 2 in 3 going over budget by more than 10%. You can't let cost overruns derail your project, so a finalised scope and fixed-cost contract are essential.


9.     Procure Necessary Approvals

Before you finalise and sign the contract, you need to ensure you have all the approvals and licenses you need. You should begin the process in the design phases, but it should be checked and finalised at this point. The most important is the LTA (license to alter) from your landlord. Your design also needs to comply with building regulations and any other voluntary standards such as BREEAM or SKA.


Many companies are not aware of all the different approvals that are relevant and/or necessary. While they should be managed by your refurbishment partner, you could be exposed depending on the terms of your contract.


10. Finalise Contract

The last step of planning your office refurbishment is signing the contract for the works. However, before you do this you need to ensure the contract is suitable and fair, as well as minimising your risks. Once you have negotiated and amended the terms, you can sign the contract and the project can begin.


There are several options for your contract. Your refurbishment company will normally have a template contract, but there are third-party options such as JCT or NEC. The key areas of the contract to consider are payment terms, insurance & liability, changes & modifications, quality control, and dispute resolution. Depending on the size of the project, we recommend getting advice from a contract lawyer.


Planning Your Office Refurbishment

A comprehensive, effective, and agreed-upon plan is crucial to the success of your office refurbishment. It will save time, cost, and stress, as well as improving the quality of the refurbished office.


A great briefing process will give your design & build company all the background they need to create a relevant and appropriate design package. Shortlisting and choosing the right contractors will ensure your project is in safe hands. Finally, ensuring everything is finalised and secure will minimise confusion, delay, and stress during your office refurbishment.


Now you know about the 10 stages of planning your London office refurbishment, you're ready to apply them to your own project, setting you up for success. To take the next step, download How to Plan an Office Refurbishment. You’ll get a better understanding of what will be involved in your own office refurbishment, where you need to start, and where you need to learn more. Download your Refurbishment Planning Guide here. For more help on the early planning stages, read've Been Asked to Manage Your Office Refurbishment: What Next?



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