Offices are certainly seeing a change with the times to what they used to be. Back in the day there was plenty of space around, particularly in urban areas, with large businesses taking chunky space by owning the property or taking long leases.
Whereas 25-year leases were the norm decades ago, they’re now very rare. After all, it’s all about flexibility and the more serviced office market.
And with such newer-ways of looking at office space, whether an occupier taking an agreement, and owner arranging to market, or a middle-man advisor helping out – you can get away from some of the nuts-and-bolts of what makes a good office space.
Talk of just the rent or price and a list of what’s on offer can seem a lot simpler. However, it’s still important to know what these mean behind the scenes, particularly when managing properties, whether you’re still dealing with more traditional methods or you need to understand what modern terms actually means.
Top Ten Specification Factors
So here are our top ten ones – those that help shape what office space is best for people.
They’re not exhaustive, but they’re certainly including the majority of issues to provide a helpful overview:
1. Location, Location, Location
It’s the age old saying in property, that the actual location of it is critical, no matter what condition or specification it’s in.
And it’s no difference with offices, both the right location for customers and clients to visit and see, but also staff and contractors to travel to. Often this is near key transport links and other similar occupiers and related businesses.
Often the best way to get this right is to apply some common senses and real-world perspective. So chatting with people actually using the building to see how it fairs, walking the streets and gauging what sort of an area it’s in, and speaking with local property agents.
2. The Presentable Space
Next up is how the office space actually looks and is laid out, which will vary depending upon the individual requirements of the occupiers.
So, maybe open plan is preferred with a modern and minimalistic feel, or on the other extreme an older character building with high ceilings and lots of separate meeting rooms and corridors.
Even when it looks right on first impressions, check that there are no columns in the way, or change in floor levels, access ways and rights, and even temporary partition walls that can’t be removed or changed to suit things.
3. What it Looks Like
Of course the actual condition of the property is key, which is worth considering on two levels.
Firstly, the true condition underneath everything to ensure there are no big or structural issues lurking away. So, roof leaks coming through, or kitchen and toilet equipment that needs changing.
Secondly, what the final finishing-touch is and needs to be, as this often makes a huge difference with office space. Letting and sales agents are often keen to get a fresh lick of paint and new carpet in there to get things looking top-dollar.
4. Vehicle Transport
All kinds of transport and vehicles will in reality need to be linked to the property, and therefore worth considering.
There’s the obvious ones direct to the property like parking spaces and bike stands, with often a certain number or ratio-to-space being offered. Even if they’re not directly at the property, maybe they’re close by as part of it or shared.
But don’t forget other needed vehicles like delivery lorries and special visit by clients and staff which may require special arrangements to not only park but then have access by foot or trollies to inside the office space.
Thinking wider afield, and linked to the first point on trains and cars, make sure you’re near bus stops, railway stations, and general roads which can also help with access both day-to-day and with special visitors.
5. Welfare Facilities
These generally help look after regular users at the office and mainly toilet areas and then kitchen and dining points. These might be part of the office space or shared and managed by other building people.
Once you know what’s there then see how this might need to change for what you need, and not forgetting that flexibility is key.
So, maybe it’s worth sacrificing normal office area for additional breakout areas and reception points, and even building in a shower for those cycling to work and wanting changing facilities.
6. Shedding Light on the Subject
This is so often missed or at least underrated, and that’s having both quality and quantity of light in the area – it makes a huge difference both in functionality and general vibe and ambience.
Ideally this is all natural light, with lots of windows and skylights, and even carefully choose blinds and curtains to help keep the sun rays off but still lots of light coming in.
But artificial lighting can also help, particularly with improved technology nowadays like LED bulbs and ambient mood lighting.
Watch out carefully for the existing specification of these and how easily and cost effectively they can be changed to what you require, with reference to things like recessed lighting to keep nice and tidy, pendant LEDs, and LG3 or LG7 lighting spec.
7. The Right Services
Services are key to office space, with people often at desks needing all kinds of other things like Internet and IT connection as well as usual services like electricity and water or gas.
This might then affect what the actual supply to the property is, with need of beefed-up electricity to phase three, or faster broadband through new cabling or even using remote technology on the roof top.
8. Hidden Services
This is linked to the previous point but worth a separate mention as this is more to do with how your services then practically run through the building and office area, with three areas often mentioned with available office space.
Firstly, suspended ceilings which not only means an often better-looking and lower-level false ceiling above, but then room above this before you meet the top solid ceiling where all kinds of cables and pipes can be run across the office area.
Secondly, a raised floor which means that the floor-level you see and walk on is a little above the solid one below with deliberate gaps underneath which again allows access for pipes and cables to easily run.
And thirdly, there can be perimeter trunking often around skirting boards and along floors towards specific desks that may be easier to add onto, but can stand out more visually.
9. Security Control
Security is certainly becoming more important on lots of levels, whether that’s people individually and Lone Working, the actual office area from break ins, and data and information under GDPR.
Therefore, note carefully what’s already there and what you may need to add, particularly the main building’s access control system and security alarms and how this is managed both within and outside the main working hours.
Controlling this is also essential, whether through a manned communal reception or an intercom into individual office areas where people can then allow access.
Plus, think of other access needs where usual security provision may in actual fact hinder this, for example disability access requirements, and needing to easily evacuate the property in the event of a fire.
10. The Right Temperature
And finally, something that may sound very simple but in reality plays a huge part of office space because of people’s needs to have it just right for working in – and that’s the temperature, and how you control heating and cooling systems.
These might already be there and even linked with the rest of the building and centrally managed, or you may need to add your own in.
Ideally this is all tucked away in say the ceiling with an easy control to adjust, but check where any hidden kit is as well and who’s responsible for, this maybe in a boiler room or outside the property on a wall.
Technie-talk wise you often hear reference to air conditioning and ventilation systems, or maybe just comfort cooling. There may be VRF or HVAC systems, and a BMS one that helps control everything.
On a related issue, check what the energy rating and efficiency is of these, and if a centrally controlled one then what obligations there are to then report these.
The Right Office Space
As you look into what office space is required at a property – whether from an occupier’s, owner’s, or advisor’s perspective – then these above issues will help cut the chase for you.
These top ten will help see what options are available in various office spaces, and compare with others in terms of preference and then rental and capital values.
Whether you’re dealing with a 10,000 sq.ft traditional office floor plate letting, or a temporary 1,000 sq.ft serviced office agreement, these will all help understand just what you’re getting with an office area.
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