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Blog: Sarah-Jane Osborne, design director, Claremont Group Interiors, Bristol 16th October 2012

Sarah-Jane Osborne, director, Claremont Group Interiors
Bristol is internationally recognised as a premier UK city-region and Claremont has been proud to design and fit out many office interiors for the region’s leading businesses.

During the past 20 years we’ve definitely enjoyed the prestige and pride that comes from helping clients move into high profile accommodation and BDO’s move into Finzel’s Reach, Bristol’s latest mixed-use scheme, which comprises Grade A office space, is a case in point. However as Grade A office space is universally acknowledged as in in short supply, lettings like this are increasingly few and far between. Instead, the spotlight is now on secondary space and refurbishment.

According to figures collated by Bristol’s commercial property agents, take-up of new office space was significantly down in the last quarter. In part this is explained by the lack of prime Grade A space, but also by the trend for occupiers to capitalise on what they already have, choosing to stay put or invest in lesser quality space and then bring it up to contemporary standards instead. So refurbishment it is. But refurbishment shouldn’t be confused with just sprucing up spaces and most certainly is not limited to redecoration and new signage. In today’s market, where businesses have fewer options, refurbishment is often a complete overhaul.

Refurbishment pays
In the past year alone we’ve seen a huge trend towards refurbishment, helping several large law firms substantially refurbish existing offices or in some cases reinvigorate former public sector buildings to make them home (complete with the challenges older properties bring). These spaces have been turned into modern and flexible environments that support the work they do very effectively. The message is clear; staying put doesn’t have to mean putting up with tired workspaces that don’t deliver and old offices can be given a new lease of life.

In a bid to compete with other office space deals, some landlords are presenting compelling financial arguments for occupiers to stay and in some cases substantial refurbishment can be achieved cost neutrally. Offers like this are incredibly attractive and provide a great way to refurbish space without bearing the full force of the cost.

Regardless of the motivation, refurbishment projects are no small undertaking and professional help is invaluable in order to make every square foot of your investment work hard. Workplace consultancy, office space planning and new interior concepts can be used to unlock the full potential of an office, starting with taking a fresh look at how work is done, how space is used and the messages a workplace delivers to staff and visitors alike. The key is to identify the improvements that deliver most value to the business. In today’s economic climate working to value engineer schemes and solutions really does pay.

Breathing new life
The outcome can breathe new life into previously forgotten or under-utilised spaces, identify ways to maximise space through changes in working practices, accommodate teams more comfortably and free up square footage for growth or sub-letting. As part of the process it’s worth reviewing furniture in order to make floor space work harder and consider new technologies to support remote working and hot-desking.
We’re unlikely to see speculative office development return to the UK for another 18-24 months if not longer, so for now, secondary office space is enjoying pole position. In a market of limited options and tight budgets, office refurbishment is a very viable option. 

Claremont Group Interiors

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