Fit Out Projects
Fit out work has become an important part of the construction budget, but it was not always so.
The first speculative office buildings in the early 19th century were office chambers, let as rooms or suites or floors, and required little more than redecoration by an incoming or first Tenant, with perhaps a timber screen to separate the public and private areas.
These buildings were, of course, of load-bearing masonry construction with timber floors.
The introduction of iron framing in the second half of the 19th century and of structural steel and reinforced concrete at the beginning of the 20th century did not change the tendency to minimal work by incoming or new tenants, which continued through until the 1970s.
In the post war years speculative offices were generally of reinforced concrete construction, with storey heights reduced to the minimum permissible, to enable the maximum number of floors to be fitted into a height restricted by planning considerations.
Floors were screeded and finished with vinyl/asbestos tiles, and ceilings were plastered or plasterboard with a shallow void.
Conduits or ducts to floor boxes were buried in the screed and ducted skirtings were provided, wired with electrical power.
Heating was generally low-pressure hot water with radiators or concealed gilled tubes, and air-conditioning was openable windows. These minimal finishes left little scope for tenants fit our work, which was usually limited to the construction of partitions to individual offices, with local alterations to the light fittings and telephone wiring threaded through the conduits and ducts provided.
This all changed in the early 1970s when air conditioning started to be a tenant's
requirement if he was to pay the higher rents, and space for data cabling was needed. Hence increased storey heights to make space for services above suspended ceilings and raised floors to provide for all types of wiring.
In the mid 1980s Stuart Lipton and his colleagues were developing Broadgate and imported the concept of "shell and core" from the other side of the Atlantic. In those buildings the developer provided the envelope and the completed cores, leaving the tenant to fit out his space in an area with naked walls and floor structures. The developer's work included the basic services for the tenant to extend to serve his space.
Funding institutions however understandably needed completed buildings to provide security and thus required the tenant to fit out his space to at least a standard commensurate with the location and the rent. This standard, known as "category A," was specified and the tenant was provided with funds to pay for that work. Most tenants required enhanced standards, as least in some areas, and that enhancement was what is known as "category B" work, with the cost over and above category A funded by the tenant.
The tenant's fit out work therefore comprises the services and the finishes for a substantial proportion of the building and cost a substantial proportion of the total expenditure.
It is clearly desirable if the tenant can be developing the design of his works at the same time as the developer's team designs the base building, which can then incorporate the tenant's requirements. If not, the tenant may be limited by the "shell and core" works or even be faced with completed category A works to adapt and alter and extend.
Most sell and core developments are therefore pre-let, as have been the recent fit out projects on which we have been fortunate to be appointed, for Linklaters, Simmons & Simmons, Lovells, Morgan Grenfell, ABN Amro and others.
In all these projects, the tenant's team has been appointed early enough to be involved with the developer's team in the base building and the provisions for the tenant's space. Thus we have been able to assist by considering structural aspects of the tenant's architects and engineers to protect the tenant's interest and arrange for suitable details to be incorporated in the base build design.
This generally includes holes and load capacity for services, particularly UPS, load capacity for particular uses, such as catering, filing and other heavy items, solid finishes and provision for structural alterations to enable staircases, auditoria, fitness centres, moveable partitions and other requirements to be constructed as part of the fit out.
However shell and core construction and subsequent fit out work are not limited to offices. Our long-standing connection with the John Lewis Partnership has meant that we have been able to help them with the fitting out of department stores in new shopping centres, such as those at Bluewater, West Quay in Southampton, and Solihull.
For these developments we have been involved in advising the John Lewis Property, Building and Services team on their requirements for the developer's shell, for that is all he provides, leaving the Partnership to install the cores, mechanical and electrical plant and all of the interior fit out. There is thus no category A work as such since the Partnership complete the retail interior fitting out to their own high standards.
Fit out has become an important part of our work. It is similar to but not identical to work on an existing building for it generally involves the creation of a building incorporating as many as possible for the occupier's eventual requirements, even though the occupier is not sure precisely what he will want and bearing in mind that none of us is equipped with a crystal ball. The fit out includes fitting the final considered client's requirements into the straight jacket that the base building has now become. A challenge we enjoy.
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Cumberland Place, Regents's Park
Readers may be surprised to learn that demolition of the magnificent Nash terraces, which line the boundaries of Regent's Park, was considered in 1947. Such action would certainly have denied Octagon the opportunity to develop no's 2.3.4 Cumberland Place into high quality residential units, which are now being offered for a combined sales value in excess of £17m.
The former Marylebone Park reverted to the Crown in 1806 and Nash was commissioned by the Prince Regent to produce a scheme for developing the whole area as a dramatic combination of urban terraces and picturesque landscape dotted with villas. It was to be a the end of a new axis of development extending northwards from the Prince Regent's residence in Pall Mall.
The spectacular frontages with their columns, statues and pediments were merely stucco. The houses behind were of stock brickwork with timber floors like any other London terrace from this period.
Apart from their poor structural condition at the end of the War, rather than restore the buildings for the well off, there was a move to redevelop the area to serve a more 'social' purpose. The Gorell Report commissioned by Clement Atlee's government in 1947 recommended restoration, prompted not in small part by the recently formed Georgian Group. At the end of the day it would seem that only Atlee's casting vote saved them. Cumberland Place was converted into 10 flats.
Octagon have re-created three houses which have been described in recent press articles as a 'Regency's 'palace' of the new age'. Every stage of the renovation has had to be agreed with the Crown Estate which retains ownership of most of the buildings in Regent's Park.
Jonathan Wyatt, managing director of Octagon Central London, has described the work as less like a refurbishment, more like a total rebuild. Some 64,000 bricks - enough to build three detached houses from new, were need to replace parts of the brickwork, which was crumbling away.
Hurst Peirce & Malcolm have been pleased to assist Octagon, and their architects Moxley Architects in this fascinating and demanding projects.
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