Jargon Buster - Making sense of London offices
If you are an occupier looking for London offices, you will hopefully be helped by our guide to the range of descriptions of offices and specifications.
Usually the highest specification new buildings or refurbishments (with a rental price tag to match) prevalent in most London locations (and provincial city centres/out of town business parks). Expect:
- Energy efficient air conditioning
- Raised floors
- Good levels of natural light
- Potential for high occupation densities
- Impressive sustainability credentials (C+ Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) and Very Good/Outstanding BREEAM ratings) to help occupier’s Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) principles
- Smart, contemporary entrance hall
- Generous common parts with high-speed passenger lifts, bicycle spaces and showers
Falling short in some of the Grade A features, these buildings may be older or un-refurbished with less contemporary style or WOW factor. However, these offices appeal to more cost-sensitive occupiers on account of their lower rent profile and, usually, lower rates. Expect:
- Lower grade comfort cooling or central heating
- Under-floor or perimeter trunking
- Poorer energy efficiency ratings
- Less natural light
- Less adaptability for flexible fit out layouts
- May lack amenities such as bike parking or shower facilities.
- May suffer from higher service charges
The most common standard in new or refurbished London offices. Expect:
- Services installed by developer
- Ceiling and wall finishes ready for the occupier to carry out its Category B fit-out
- Finished entrance hall and common parts
The occupier’s fit out carried out by its in house or external fit out team probably under either a design and build, traditional tendered or hybrid design and build contract.
The developer undertakes the fit out, saving the occupier time and potential expense (‘potential’ as some developers will seek to reduce the incentive package by an equivalent sum to their expenditure, though other developers use it as a marketing hook).
More developers have resorted to CAT A+ offerings as a result of the pandemic to attract occupiers and give the potential for an earlier letting.
Usually provided fully fitted, furnished and cabled and available for shorter commitment periods than conventional leases. Building types and specifications vary from low grade basic offices to top end best quality with over 700 providers and 3500 centres across London
Serviced /Flex offices are usually more densely occupied than traditional offices whilst Co-Working offers limited privacy but can have hub appeal for tech and creative occupiers, free beer and table tennis! Occupiers can usually elect for their preferred desk sizes(1200mm/1400mm are most popular). The lower the density the higher the psf cost. The fit-out expenditure is reflected within an all-embracing monthly licence fee (covering all outgoings, broadband, cleaning)which for occupation periods beyond 12 months are usually higher than the costs for conventional leased offices
Most buildings have meeting rooms available for hire with business lounges/breakout areas but with limited possibilities for branding and personalisation.
More typical in larger scale buildings, where the likely occupier has fit out expertise. The developer finishes the entrance hall, lifts and common parts but leaves the offices as a bare shell, giving the occupier a contribution to complete the works themselves. It can be time and cost efficient for savvy occupiers with the imagination to see the end product. The level of developer/landlord contribution needs careful checking to ensure no shortfall.
This can either be where a landlord markets the space with a full fitout in-situ, ready for the tenant to plug in and use.
Alternatively, it can describe where the previous occupier has left a re-usable fit out and cabling/IT in situ. Can be great value where the incoming occupier saves the time and expense of re-fitting and with less waste and therefore ESG benefits. Older or heavily be-spoked fit outs may require strip out and adaptation costs which outweigh some or all of the savings. Plug and play offerings have become very common from those occupiers downsizing as a result of the pandemic.
This “industrial style “specification has become dominant in creative locations such as Farringdon, Clerkenwell, Shoreditch and Aldgate and in demand from TMT (Tech, Media and Telecoms) occupiers, particularly to attract a younger staff demographic. Often attracting higher rents than more conventional offerings. Yet to be widely seen in more core London locations. Defined by absence of suspended ceilings, with visible air conditioning ductwork and drop lighting. This is often accompanied by bare concrete finishes to walls and columns in the offices and common parts.
Exposed services can be more expensive to install and can result in a noisier office environment for the occupier due to poorer acoustics.