What is an Office Fit Out?

Jul 1, 2019

You’ve certainly heard the term ‘office fit out’, but what exactly does it mean and how does it differ from a refurbishment or redesign? Let’s explain.

What is an office fit out?

An office fit out is the act of making an interior space suitable for occupation by businesses.  

The building’s developer will complete the base construction, the landlord’s responsible for a certain amount of the interior layout, but the final office design and fit out is undertaken by the occupant. 

As the tenant, you’ll need to finish the space to suit the particular needs of your organisation. This typically includes making alterations to lighting and air conditioning, installing partitions, adjusting the space to be more agile, and more.  

Before you start these works, it’s important you understand what level of finish you should expect from your landlord or the developer.

If it’s a new build, the space may be provided by the developer with a ‘shell and core’ fit out. If it’s a refurbished space, you can expect the landlord to have completed a ‘Category A’ fit out.

We’ve outlined what you should generally expect to be included in each of these packages below. However, we always advise confirming with your landlord or workplace consultants specifically what’ll be included prior to signing any legal documentation.

Top Tip: If you’re viewing a space and it’s just as the last company left it, it’s possible to negotiate for a ‘Landlord’s Capital Contribution’ – a cash incentive that’ll help you reshape the space to suit you.

Explore all the key components of a successful office move in our ebook. 

Shell and core fit out

A shell and core fit out provides you with the bare essentials. It’s the minimum required from the developer to achieve building regulations approval.

The office building will appear complete from the outside, but the space inside will just be an empty shell. Works generally included are the structure, external cladding, base plant, completed common areas and external works like hard landscaping, planting, etc.

If a developer is planning to hand over a project in this state, expect to see only raw finishes like concrete floors and exposed ceilings.

A shell and core fit out may also have shared areas completed:

  • Doors & Ironmongery
  • Lobbies
  • Stairwells
  • Lifts
  • Washrooms (to basic spec)

However, it’s always wise to check with the developer specifically what’ll be included.

Category A fit out


A category A (Cat A) fit out is usually undertaken by the landlord or building owner.

The main objective for this type of fit out is to fix any issues left by a previous occupant and prepare the space for market – increasing its appeal to prospective tenants.

Planning and environmental legislation requires Cat A fit outs to generally include:

  • The installation of mechanical and electrical services to current standards (but only to a basic level)
  • New air conditioning systems (but not always fresh air systems)
  • Raised access floors and ceilings
  • Basic decoration and interior design

The building’s common areas like stairs and lobbies, lifts, washroom/shower facilities, and the main entrance/reception area will also be updated as part of a Cat A fit-out.

For an example of a Cat A fit out, take a look at the work we did in Birmingham’s Cobolt Square.

Category B fit out


A category B (Cat B) fit out describes all the works required to take the blank canvas of any prospective space and make it fit the needs, aspirations, and personality of the tenant’s organisation.

A successful Cat B fit out will accommodate the tenant’s current needs and reflect the culture of your organisation, creating a fresh, invigorating working environment.

Staff well-being facilities, areas and office furniture suited to collaborative work, and design that improves productivity all fall within the Cat B scope of works. The end result will deliver a working environment which is functional, unique, and supports your needs and future goals. 

A Cat B fit out includes:

  • Installation of partitioning, glazing, and internal joinery
  • Adjustments to mechanical and electrical services to suit layout changes (e.g. air conditioning, lighting and switches)
  • Installation of data cabling and floorboxes
  • Ceiling details / bulkhead designs
  • Feature lighting
  • Custom decorations
  • Graphics for walls, ceilings, floors, and glazing
  • Floor coverings
  • IT and audio visual equipment
  • Window blinds
  • Custom joinery like reception desks, kitchens, break-out bars etc.
  • Storage walls and lockers
  • All loose furniture
  • Illuminated signage

For examples of Cat B fit outs, take a look at some of our case studies.

Bear in mind that none of these categories have standard definitions. One developer’s interpretation of a shell and core fit out will differ to another’s. One landlord might provide a completely different Cat A fit out to another landlord. It’s critical, then, that if you’re preparing to sign a lease for a new office with either of these finishes that all parties are in agreement as to exactly what will be included.

Preparing for a Cat B Fit out

If you’re planning a Cat B fit out, you’ll need to have a license of alteration granted by the landlord. We strongly advise that early in negotiation you ask for the Operation and Maintenance Manual (commonly referred to as the O+M Manual) for the proposed space. This is where all information relating to the construction of, and on-going maintenance of, the building is compiled. While it’s not a legal requirement, it is generally included in the Health & Safety File which is a legal requirement.

The O+M Manual will give you an insight into the quality of the fit and finish of the workspace, and will confirm details such as whether you’ll be obliged to use a particular contractor for alterations to air conditioning, fire alarm systems, etc.

We also advise requesting the CAD plans for the building as your fit out contractors will need these.

Are you in need of an office fit out?

Now you know the ins and outs of office fit outs, have you considered what a Cat B fit out could do for your workspace? Talk to Rhino today for expert guidance on making your office stand out from the crowd and helping your people work smarter. 

For more information on office fit outs, check out our latest guide.

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