What is a CAT A+ fitout and why might you want one?

CAT A+ or plug and play’, is a flexible lease offering, but unlike serviced offices has a single occupier. In common with serviced offices, the space is fully furnished, fitted out and has connectivity in place making it ready for business. For SMEs and start-ups there is no large outlay of finance needed to fit-out the space and the lease is shorter and more flexible. In periods of uncertainty and where sufficient CAPEX is not available, this is a low-risk, time-saving alternative for occupants.

CAT A+ fit out soft seating

What is the difference between CAT A, CAT B and CAT A+?

Traditionally, Property Developers finish communal areas of a building e.g., foyers to a high specification standard to attract occupants. However, the space available for offices will generally be in an unfinished, open plan condition. Landlords will often add suspended ceilings and raised floors to create a CAT A, functional space in which a designer can create a personalised workspace.

Interior Designers work with occupants to design a branded workspace that meets the client’s specifications. This finished space, including furniture, meeting rooms, IT infrastructure and branding is known as a CAT B finish.

CAT A+, sometimes called landlord fitted space, is an alternative solution for landlords and occupants. In this case, landlords work with a designer to provide a furnished plug and play’ space ready for immediate occupation. Typically, this would be available in a smaller office space of 2000 – 8000 ft².

For landlords, they have had to evolve in a market where a rapidly expanding flexible workspace has gained momentum. Coworking/​Serviced office space has given businesses of all sizes an attractive alternative to the traditional lease, but it’s a shared space and that isn’t the right fit for everyone.

What are the pros and cons for landlords?

With a landlord fitted space, vacancy rates can reduce significantly. Potential tenants can visualise themselves in a finished space, which is difficult with a blank floorplate.

CAT A+ fitout will increase the initial outlay for the landlord, and this of course carries risk. This could be recouped with an increased rent depending on market conditions. The main benefit is that landlords can significantly reduce void periods with a stronger offer. Clients can hit the ground running in this user-friendly, fully fitted space which reduces any rent-free offer. Since a space can be fitted to CAT A+ standard in as little as eight weeks it’s an attractive solution for a landlord.

What are the pros and cons for occupants?

Risk is significantly reduced for occupants with this flexible option. Few SME businesses could realistically predict their status and requirements in ten years’ time. With this option they avoid the initial financial outlay of refitting an office space and being tied to a ten-year lease. Previously smaller offices would’ve had a lease agreement of five years with a break at three years. With an increased need for flexibility and a market wary of an oncoming recession, clients may request a two-year break.

However, unlike serviced offices the occupant is responsible for their own space and its maintenance including services such as cleaning. There can also be a higher monthly rent for a fully fitted space and they may have to compromise on décor.

What factors influence the design of CAT A+ fitout?

Designing speculatively on behalf of the landlord, interior designers will consider the target customer and their requirements. Location, building type and floorplate will all influence the design style too. Without the occupier involved in the design process the challenge is to create a space that appeals to a wide audience but also has some character and personality.

What is the most suitable furniture for CAT A+ space?

Specifiers experienced in CAT A+ and the target market, elevate the design and offer a diverse range of solutions to fit a wide range of budgets. With more businesses embracing hybrid-working, the office is often a space that brings the team together for collaboration. Including touchdown areas with modular furniture and soft seating to encourage interaction will be important to incoming tenants.

Flexible solutions such as office call pods, flip-top meeting tables and multi-functional shelving to delineate space all keep the space versatile without having to add any fixings or causing damage to walls.

Reducing carbon footprint is increasingly important to clients and a knowledgeable furniture consultant will advise on the most sustainable options within the budget. It’s beneficial to involve a consultancy who can provide asset management services, look after warranties, and deal with repairs and replacements to extend the lifetime of furniture.

What else should be included?

Good connectivity is essential with this model so IT solutions must be up and running immediately.

Would you like to find out more about CAT A+ including information from industry experts? Download our comprehensive report here

CAT A Report