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Moving office can be stressful! Here is everything you need to confirm and action when securing a new office space in London.

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The Checklist

A relocation can effectively be divided into 4 main areas:


PROPERTY ASSESSMENT
The first aspect involves property selection and its assessment. We may show you several properties that are potentially suitable in terms of location, cost (rent, rates, and service charge), amenity etc. However, it is also necessary to see how suitable they are for:
Your Occupation
1. Is it good “fit”
2. Does it allow for future churn (i.e. changing the layout to allow for changes in business plan)
3. Does it allow for future expansion?
Services
1. Are the services up to scratch (lifts, air conditioning, plumbing system, heating etc)
2. Have they been serviced regularly?
3. Will they need replacement in the near future?
Fit-Out Costs
1. What will these be?
2. How do the different buildings stack up on fit-out costs? You may be surprised at the difference.
3. How it’s done
4. We can introduce you to companies who will be happy to carry out this initial assessment on a speculative basis as it is a way for them to get to know you and will offer them an opportunity to be in the running to pitch for the work. After meeting you for an initial consultation, they will do the following;
Block/Space Plans
They will inspect each property on the “shortlist” and come back with space/block plans with an explanation of the methodology behind the proposed layout/s (there may be more than one). The plans may not be detailed but in a “Block Plan” format showing the possible densities that could be achieved for offices and open plan accommodation.
Budgets
They will provide budget costs for the refurbishment works with broken-down and detailed costings for each property.
Services
They will provide a commentary on the condition of the services provided in the buildings.
DETAIL PLANNING, DESIGN & BUDGET
Once a building has been short listed, the task is now to work towards a successful exchange of contracts. During this period, it is also time to finalise the detailed layout, design and budget, choose furniture, sort out lease lines/phone lines etc and prepare to appoint a contractor. The main things to deal with at this stage are as follows:
Landlord’s Licence for Alterations
The landlord will wish to see what is proposed in order to give their consent. You must have this consent before you commence work so it is best to receive this before exchange of contracts. Some landlords are fairly relaxed and simply ask for a specification and space plan whereas others require far more detail. They will all however wish to see from the contractor, Method Statements, Risk Analysis Statements (for height work, hot works etc) Health and Safety Policies and proof of the contractor’s Insurance.
It may be necessary to apply for Planning Permissions. For instance, it may be required to put extra condensers on the roof for further comfort cooling and Planning Permission may be needed. Sometimes, Local Authorities also insist on a Noise Test Report as well (usually if residential accommodation is nearby).
Building Control Approval
Any refurbishment that involves the creation of offices, meeting rooms (i.e. anything that affects means of escape) will require Building Control Approval. It used to be that Local Authorities dealt with this but to streamline the process, we can now also use the services of Government Appointed Building Control Consultants. To achieve accreditation, Surveyors go through a rigorous approval process. The end result is that when they are appointed, they are then able to act as a “Quasi-Authority” and will actually have the ability to provide the final Certification themselves. They will be on hand to give general advice (often before appointment) and then, when appointed, will consult the Local Authority and Fire Brigade and advise on Disability compliance etc. Effectively, they act as a go-between between the various Government departments who must also consent to the proposed works.
Detailed Space Planning Guidance
All offices lend themselves to a certain ways of occupation due to their shape, position of entrance/exits routes, areas of natural light etc.
On any potential floor, different areas are naturally more suited to certain kinds of employment. For example, those locations in “dead” areas or where there is no natural light are more suited to storage, server/machine rooms or meeting/office areas. However, areas with good natural light and pleasant views from the office are (dependent on the company’s objectives and culture) more suited for open plan, senior office, boardroom or reception area locations.
The position of the water and drainage services to the floor normally dictate the location of the kitchenette. These are usually found by the WC block in the core of the building. Although the kitchen can be placed anywhere on the floor, if it is far away from these services it may be necessary to pump the waste back to the existing drainage location and run pipe work through the floor to provide water.
When looking at a plan of a floor, it is a good idea to analyse how it works by identifying the quality of the different areas. Once the floor has been analysed in this way, an occupier’s requirements can then be adapted to it.
When formulating an occupational strategy, it is always best to try and keep it simple. Do bear in mind that a complex space plan designed specifically to suit the peculiar needs of one occupier may, when the occupier finally moves on, make the space difficult to let and also possibly increase the cost of dilapidations work.
The structure of any space plan should incorporate a “Primary Circulation” route that provides a clear 1.2m wide route between the main entrance/s to the fire escape/s.
It is important to bear in mind that predominantly open plan space provides for more flexible accommodation if and when the occupier needs to re-organise their space.
The policy of fixing desk positions and moving people offers a low cost of future “churn” in the space. As soon as desks are moved and offices knocked down, the costs of re-organisation goes up.
IT and Telecoms
“You can work without an office, but you cannot work without IT”.
This is important. Remember, that in any move, there will very likely be a downtime so planning is critical. Remember to order your telephone, ISDN and broadband lines and ALLOW AT LEAST 4 WEEKS FOR DELIVERY. Remember that you need a telephone line (with number) installed before you can order broadband.
Common Problems
If the same telephone number is being transferred to the new space, BT (or whichever supplier is being used) will need to visit and install the lines on the same day as the move. This usually results in problems when the companies fail to make the installation because they find that there are not enough lines available…
When the servers have been moved from the client site to the new premises, there have been times where the servers have been affected by the move and consequently failed to boot up. It is vital therefore that all information/software is backed up before relocation.
It is important to ensure that maintenance contracts are in place to cover damage to critical IT components before the move takes place.
It is crucial to involve a responsible IT person (preferably an internal member of the company), or a suitably experienced and qualified sub-contractor, to manage the move of the IT kit. This is a specialist’s job!
If moving lots of kit, produce a RISK ANALYSIS before the relocation to determine whether the move should be staged i.e. so that not all the eggs are in one basket should there be an accident during transit.
Define the critical needs from the IT system. Does the company have an emphasis on using email, an accounting system, a sales ordering system, or an in house data processing system etc? If so, it would be sensible to relocate this first so that there is a longer time on the new site to ensure it is set up properly once the job goes live.
More and more companies are “future proofing” their data cabling installations by using Cat 6 cabling (these have a 100 Gb bandwidth) although many are still happy with Cat 5e cabling (1 Gb bandwidth). Seek advice on this from your own IT department or from the IT representatives of your chosen Design and Build contractor.
Try to plan in a “dummy run” of all your IT and telecoms kit before you move in and go live. This is rarely possible but does give a chance for the systems to be tested before they “go live”.
Air Conditioning
If the preferred space has existing comfort cooling or air conditioning, it is likely that the system will need to be re-balanced, added to or adjusted. If there is no cooling system in the space, the occupier may wish to install a new system throughout or merely cool certain areas such as the comms room, boardroom etc.
Most clients require a separate independent comfort cooling system for their comms room. This provides two things:
1. A back up to the landlord’s system (if there is one)
2. A system that will work over the weekends and evenings when the landlord’s system shuts down.
There may be planning permission needed to position the system’s condensers to the outside of the premises (such as on an external wall, in a light well or on the roof). One needs to allow at least 2 months for this. “Sometimes the Local Authority will ask for an “Acoustic report” of the proposed location of the condensers. Acoustic equipment has to remain on site for one week to gather relevant acoustic measurements, so this adds extra time and cost on the Planning process.
Furniture Procurement
Some furniture can be delivered within one week of order, but most companies quote between 4 to 8 weeks delivery from order.
Chose an established manufacturer who can provide a continuity of service in the future.
A desk’s a desk, but chairs are important for posture and back issues, so do not skimp on the budget for these.
THE FIT OUT
It is best to appoint a “turnkey” design and build company to carry out the work. This means that all the necessary elements of the work are being managed by one contractor.
Sometimes clients will ask the IT and cabling element of the works are carried out by their own preferred suppliers and a reasonable D&B provider should not object to this or insist on charging any onerous or extra costs to allow this to take place. In fairness to them though, they will be the “main contractor” which means that they will be responsible for Health and Safety on site and more often than not, will have to clear up and dispose of the rubbish after these external contractors have finished their work (they are notorious for not doing so). It is therefore reasonable for them to charge a management fee for this.
Elements that a competent turnkey D&B contractor will carry out are:
Compliance
1. Health and Safety
2. Method Statements
4. Risk Analysis appraisals
5. Building Control Approval Certification
6. Fire Escape and Detection Systems
7. DDA compliance (Disable Discrimination Act)
8. Planning Permissions
9. CDM regulations (to ensure the client has a Safety Supervisor acting for them)
10. OMM annual (post site file containing details of all materials used and kit installed along with operational manuals, plans etc)
Building Work
1. Partitioning, doors, glass etc
2. Electrical installations
3. Data cabling installations
4. Raised floors/ceilings
5. Carpets/flooring
6. Plumbing
7. Lighting
Appointing a Fit-Out Contractor
The vast majority of sub 10,000 sq ft fit-outs are via the “Design and Build Route” Very simply, there are two main ways to carry out the works (with many variations of these!) but very basically, these are:
1. The Traditional Method
2. The Design and Build Route
The Traditional Method
Here, one appoints an Architect or Building Surveyor (for a non- recoverable fee) to carry out the space plans and specification of the works. Once these have been finalised, they will be tendered out to contractors. This takes many weeks to do. On appointment of a contractor, a JCT or similar contract will be used which specifies stage payments (sometime with and sometimes without a deposit) based on valuations of the progress of the job. The job is managed throughout by the appointed professional (again, for a fee).
The Design and Build Method
Here, the D&B Company carry out the initial inspections, space plans and costings for free (usually unless very detailed plans are needed). They will offer a “fixed price” and often use their own simple contract with tranche payments system with a deposit and fortnightly/monthly payments (or whatever is agreed) throughout the project based on a % of the total contract price. REMEMBER! Incorporate a “retention” of the contract price (say 2.5%) which you retain for a period of say 3 months after practical completion of the project.
Pros and Cons
The traditional method is slower as the specification has to be completed in its entirety and then tendered out to various contractors.
Should negotiations on the premises fall through, the client will have incurred abortive costs for the design and specification which are non-recoverable.
In fast track schemes where there is limited time to carry out the project, work can actually commence with a D&B company before agreement on some aspects of design as these can be carried out in parallel with the initial works.
The traditional method is very much based on choosing the cheapest tender price. Contractors are wise to this and therefore go in hard with a view to “ramping” the cost during the work. The JCT is a highly detailed and lengthy document full of legalise and this means that the contract can be highly paper-driven. The relationship between Contract Administrator and contractor can be highly adversarial as contractors try to increase their profits and the Architects or Building Surveyors try to keep the variations and extras down.
The Traditional Method is slow and cumbersome and is not necessarily cheaper than the Turnkey Design and Build Method.
Managing the Fit Out
1. Agree a “DMU” (Decision Making Unit) and a strict line of communication between individual from both the contractor and your company.
2. Have weekly on site meetings to note the progress of the work.
3. Ensure that there is a system for ensuring that any additions or variations to the contract are confirmed in writing.
4. Ensure that you have a pre-snagging meeting a few days before completions.
5. Ensure a final snagging meeting where all faults are agreed and recorded. Agree a strict timetable for completion of these.
6. Always have contractors onsite when the furniture is being fitted so that floor boxes, data and electrical points can be moved or adjusted to suite the desking layout. Previous space plans showing these locations are never 100% accurate.
AFTER CARE
O&M Manual
The Operations and Maintenance Manual is typically a giant set of documents relating to the fit out that contains all the information that future facilities managers will need – everything from the recommended cleaning fluids for the carpets, to the CAD drawings for the wiring ducts; from spare parts lists for the lifts to recommended maintenance procedures for the security system.
In most cases the manual is actually hundreds of pages of documents, all painstakingly indexed and copied and filed in one massive set of folders that everybody hopes will be kept safe for the times when they are needed. Make sure this is supplied as it is a legal requirement.
Maintenance Contracts
Ensure that you take those out on new a/c kit or other relevant systems you have installed.