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Office Renovation/ Fit Out: A Guide to Realise Your Ideal Workplace Easily

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You finally have a new office space picked out, and you thought that was the hard part. In many cases, office search can be a hassle. Yet it’s nothing like office renovation. This process is so meticulous and time-bearing that it can make or break your new office space. Don’t get too comfortable after you’ve selected an office space; you have a long road ahead.

However, spaceSense is here to make your office renovation or refurbishment process go smoothly without you pulling your hair.

The Typical Office Renovation Timeline

Typical Office Renovation period takes about 3-4 months from seeking office design proposals to actualising the fit-out in Singapore. The same process may take up to 6 months in other cities due to constraints like labour, time and legal.

The office fit out tasks and schedule will vary from time to time and from one company to another.

Based on our experience, we generally advise clients to cater more time if

  • you have more decision-makers or stakeholders in your company
  • your key decision-makers or stakeholders are based overseas, especially in a different time zone
  • your office fit-out period coincides with major festive seasons like Chinese New Year or Christmas/ Europe’s Summer Break (if your furniture, materials come from Europe/ USA)
  • you have complex IT requirements
  • you have complex security requirements
  • you are also undergoing rebranding exercise
  • you didn’t appoint qualified and professionals in execution. You shouldn’t do this by the way.
  • you think you simply need more time to consider proposals; not an easy task to begin with!

If you need a checklist with defined dates to meet your office move-in date, get your custom office relocation timeline here.

Get a custom office relocation schedule plan

Start with Clearly Set Goals for Office Renovation

The best way to get through the chaos of office renovation is to make sure the goals are clearly set from the beginning before engaging any designer or contractor. Most of the delays and major variation costs in the office renovation are due to design deviating from the initial agreed proposal, worst at the later construction stage. Changes can be inevitable for the office design, but it is good to clearly define goals to keep these changes down to the minimum.

Some possible goals for office renovation:

For corporate rebranding purpose

The new office design should articulate the new corporate branding, values and mission to both employees and visitors. It could be a new business focus or offerings to be incorporated in the rebranding efforts for workplace design.

For office relocation

The office renovation needs to be timely completed for the current office space to be reinstated and returned to landlord.

To keep up with times

The current office has not been renovated for ages and the renovation serves to modernise the office to attract new talents and business. First impression counts!

To boost team productivity and collaboration

The current office setup is filled cubicles with high partition. You want to bring down these barriers and get your team work together more closely in an open office layout.

To create better work experiences

Gensler's Workplace Survey showing how great work experiences can lead to better business performance like higher customer loyalty.

Workplace surveys have shown that great work experiences lead to better business performance. You want your new workplace design to satisfy the needs of your team and to empower them to do their best work. This could mean the a good workplace has to offer a combination of private space for individual focus work and an engaging shared space for team collaboration.

To make room for growth

The current office layout is not optimised and the project is to make space utilization more efficient in order to accommodate future business needs like headcount growth or addition of new equipment or common space.

For environment sustainability

You may want to update your office with more durable, “green” furniture or new technology like sensor-controlled lighting, LED lighting. The latter helps to reduce the office operating cost. Also, to place emphasis on the company’s commitment to environment sustainability.

Clearly defining the office renovation goals help you create a realistic office renovation budget and scope of work, making the renovation as cost efficient as possible. 

Create a List of Needs and Wants

As mentioned earlier, the predefined goals should help you to create a list of needs and wants for your office renovation scope of work. Clearly writing down and separating the needs and wants will help to communicate with the contractor or designer so they could work towards prioritising your needs before the wants.

For example, having a redundancy support for connectivity and their own secured data server is an important must-have for a trading company. While some company preferred an impressive client-facing frontage and hosting area.

Other needs may also include:

  • Number of data and power points per desk.
  • Number and size of desks
  • Number and size of private rooms
  • Number and size of meeting rooms
  • Dry or wet pantry
  • Reception area with number of seating
  • Size of IT server room, if any

Download a free office fit out checklist to organise your requirements.

Set a Realistic Office Renovation Budget for Your Requirement

Doing an office renovation is unlike buying a commodity item where the lowest bid will win. It is important to set and communicate the office renovation budget upfront to the shortlisted designers or contractors. Without communicating the renovation budget, the cost proposals submitted could differ tremendously in terms of the materials, quality, look and feel of the office design. It will make it very difficult for a fair tender evaluation.

Separately, you may wish to keep at least 5% contingency sum to manage any change request raised by your team later. For instance, your overall office renovation budget could be $100 psf and you could award the project based on $95 psf, keeping $5 psf for future change in scope of work.

Office fit out cost will vary cities to cities due to difference in labour, materials and taxes.

The current standard of fit out in Singapore is $40 psf for Basic standard, $ 80 psf for Average standard and $120 psf for Premium standard. The pricing guide includes the following:

  • system furniture
  • construction materials and labour cost
  • mechanical, electrical and plumbing services
  • professional consultant’s fee, authority submission fees.
  • Excludes IT, security, AV. These costs are heavily dependent on the requirement. You are advised to seek customised quotation from the IT, security and AV vendors to get clarity in cost.
office fit out cost in Singapore based on 3 standards.

So, for average renovation for an office size of 3,000 sqft in Singapore, the estimated fit-out cost is about $80 x 3000 = $240,000. The actual cost may vary based on actual site condition and requirement. The cost also excludes AV, IT and Security.

Read more on How to keep Office Renovation Cost Low in Singapore?

Should I Get Workplace designer or Contractor for Office Renovation?

Get interior designer or contractor? This is a similar question like what you may face in your own residential fit out after knowing your budget and requirement. However, it can be very challenging for a contractor to give you design inputs for office space. It is also challenging for you to understand the followings:

  • State of the art for office equipment
  • Good design practice for handicapped, signage, acoustic, ergonomic etc
  • Acoustic materials
  • Office furnishings
  • Durable materials
  • Good system furniture available in the commercial office
  • Efficient workplace layout design
  • Workplace strategy for future growth, collaborative, sustainable design and many more

Commercial office design is vastly different from a residential design. More design considerations are required for a usually bare office space with no clearly defined functional space, unlike a typical residential apartment which comes with defined bedroom, living room and kitchen.

If your business is leasing bare space for typical 3 years or longer and you like to reap long term benefits from good office design, you should consider hiring commercial qualified designers.

If you are seeking short term solution to fit your team, getting contractor or minor A&A vendors might be good enough. You could then focus on getting good ergonomic furniture which you can bring along in your next office move.

Read more on Should I Get a Workplace Designer or Renovation Contractor?

Procurement model- Design & Build or Design-Bid-Build

The most common procurement model for a small office renovation is design and build, where you could appoint a single entity- designer who will get builder/contractor to execute the project on site. Great for project size up to 20,000 sq ft with quick turnaround time needed. A standard form of contract could be used for this project- REDAS (Real Estate Developers’ Association of Singapore) conditions of contract.

Alternative traditional model, design-bid-build delivery model works better where client appoint a designer to firm up the design requirements and drawing before releasing  tender to award a contractor. This approach works better for bigger companies with bigger office space and longer delivery timeline. Client has more control over the design and construction process. Best for client who has expertise in executing more than 1 contracts and managing the various designers, contractors and vendors.

For either procurement model, you could consider purchasing the list below, such as system furniture and loose furniture directly or through novation under the designer/contractor.

For the latter case, there is usually a mark-up cost/ profit and attendance fee of 3-5%. If there is less liaison work required on site, for example, loose furniture purchase, it is ideal for you to purchase direct to save money.

Engage Professional Designer

If you have chosen the path to engage a workplace designer, do note that they are not the same as your home Interior Designer. They need to be familiar in working with building management, performing more authority submission to get your office done up according to local regulations.

We understand it is not easy to find the designers with good track records and whom have delivered workplace design according to your preferred style. Henceforth, we have curated a portfolio of workplace designs completed by designers, most we have personally worked with, and we simplify the search for workplace designers in 3 steps.

Step 1: Browse completed office project portfolio

Step 2: Enquire your preferred design

Step 3: Submit an enquiry form with your fit-out budget per square foot, office size and move in date.

During the call-back, you may reiterate or clarify your key requirements over the phone with the designer directly, follow by an email with documentation of your needs/ requirements and wants. A 2D-scaled floor plan (preferably in AUTOCAD format which you can obtain from your landlord/building management) could be shared with the designer.

You may need to arrange site viewings for shortlisted designers, perhaps 2 to 3 designers, to take site measurement before they produce the preliminary design and cost proposal for evaluation. The proposal submission may take about 2 weeks or longer. Do set a tender submission date for all shortlisted designers.

Evaluate & Award Designer

After receiving the proposals, it is time to evaluate and make sure that everything could be compared apples to apples, in a fair manner.

Do share the proposals with the key decision makers and get a consensus to shortlist, at least 2 final designers for a quick 30-minute tender interview.

The key objective for the tender interview is for your key decision makers get to know the designers:

  • Understand how they intend to deliver your office, their process, planned schedule to meet your move in date, team, and most importantly, if they can meet your budget.
  • Know who in their team will be the point of contact in your project, if they are awarded
  • Find out their current workload so you can assess if they could deliver your project without stretching their resources. 
  • Know the designer’s past experience in delivering your kind of project (style, IT requirement, similar floor size, best if in the same building as yours and with good past client testimonials)

Read more tips on What to do After Getting Office Renovation Quotation?

Get your team’s consensus on which designer they preferred at the end of the tender interview. Finally, do get the preferred designer to make the necessary revision and submit their best and final offer before you award.

What should be included in the Contract of Award

You should award the designer or contractor based on the agreed office layout, renovation standard like slab to slab partition for good acoustic in meeting or private rooms, finishes- wall painted or laminated or veener or glass finishes and other scope of work required. Some documentations to be included are:

  • Contract Value, which states the site possession date, project completion date and payment milestones
  • Bill of Quantities, which states the finishes and material used
  • Office Layout/ Floor Plan
  • Sometimes, 3D perspective will be required as part of the reference documents to award.

Do include important terms like payment milestone, defect liability period (typically 6-12 months). For sizable project (value at least SGD400k and above), the last payment of 5% is usually withhold till the end of defect liability period, to ensure the designer performs the required rectification works during this period. Do note that any change request on design will be subjected to additional cost.

What to do During Renovation

Finally, you have awarded the renovation project and progress is taking place on site. You will need to be involved to some extent to make sure the 2-3 months of site work goes well according to plan.

  • Relocate Office phone lines, set up fibre broadband and other utility accounts
  • Verify with Designer that proper permits and Authority Approvals are obtained prior to construction
  • Get weekly (at least) progress update from Designer, making sure all required decisions from you are made timely and work is done according to the planned schedule.
  • Verify with Designer that relevant Authority Approvals (for an example, RI inspection and approval) and Permits (ie. Temporary Occupation Permit) are obtained prior to move-in
  • Do defect check prior to move-in (check for defects)

In the event of design changes, do agree on the variation scope, cost and schedule delays with Designer prior to execution.

How to select Furniture to furnish up the office space

Designer may propose furniture or you maybe looking for furniture to spruce up your office space. Here’s 4 tips to make sure you do it right from the start:

Try before buying

If you are planning to get good quality chairs which typically cost more than $400, you could request chair samples to be loan for testing (you have to buy more than a few chairs, of course for the supplier to entertain this request). This allows you to test few chair models side by side, by all your staff of different builds. Remember to get your staff, the smallest and biggest to try out, moving left to right, front to back on the chair. Get your staff to vote!

Read more on What makes a good Office Chair

Invest in what matters most

Invest in What you sit on, see and touch all the time during office hours. If you look at multiple screens for day trading or data analysis etc purpose, get good monitor arm which could take on the weight of all your monitors. Go for supplier who can tailor to your staff needs – some may want 4 screens and some maybe 6!! Some arms even come with sleek power dock for your phone charging, laptop projection etc

If you work long hours, consider a standing desk or a good chair to ease off that back and neck pain.

Beware of lead time!

Most quality office products are made to order unless you are lucky enough to get those showroom pieces. Do cater at least 8-12 weeks for foreign made. Malaysian made products come in 6-8 weeks typically. Cater at least 2-4 weeks more if you hit their major festive seasons when factories closed. Make sure your critical furniture like chair, table get delivered before move in.

Get warranty

Cheap products fail quickly and it is therefore unlikely the warranty will be more than a year. Typical warranty for a good quality chair can be 3-5years. Some very confident supplier who design their products, could give up to or more than 10years!! Of course, typical wear and tear will not be covered. Do ensure your warranty can outlast your lease period! And keep your warranty details and contact details to claim warranty.

Post Office Renovation & move-in

Well done! The new office space is ready to move in. These are some loose ends to tidy up as you call for a new office move-in celebration:

  • Get Designer to furnish the complete Operation and Maintenance Manual (OMM). The OMM serves to provide guidance on the specifications of materials or parts used in office fit-out, records all Authority Submission, Approvals and Permit. Most importantly, the OMM should include the contact person details for support within the defect liability period.
  • Get Designer to clear all defects as soon as possible
  • Close up financial accounting with Designer, like payment and variation orders
  • Remember to thank your Employees for supporting the office relocation!
  • Settle payments, defects if any, and complete the Operation and Maintenance Manual (OMM). It provides guidelines on specifications of what was used in the office fit-out, records all Authority Submission, Approvals and permit. It also includes the contact for support within the defect liability period.

Communicate and engage Your Employees

Throughout the entire renovation process, try not to ignore the act.  Speak to your employees about what’s being done, why it’s being done, and current status of your renovation plan.  This will help make the process easier on them, especially since it is likely interrupting their usual flow.  Try to provide them with details about the renovations that may help give them something to look forward to in the finished product. 

Share details about the overall vision and if possible, maybe even be open to suggestions or feedback.  Being interactive with your employees will help give them positive feelings regarding the office renovation and some of them may even wish to help. 

Now that the renovation is completed, consider doing a big reveal to get everyone excited and inspired.  Provide a little tour of the new office space.  If there are any software or hardware upgrades that employees will have a difficult time jumping into, consider doing a few training sessions to help get everyone on the same page. 

A newly renovated office, while of course exciting, can be stressful to some employees, especially if there are new elements. Communication is never enough to manage the change employees will have to go through.

Cut a majority of the office renovation hassle by using spaceSense’s all-in-one office solutions. It’s free, it’s easy, and it’s designed to save you time and effort.

Best of all, we guarantee the service you received from our handpicked designers to make your ideal workplace come true. Try spaceSense for yourself.  


About the writer

Eunice Ooi, Co-founder of spaceSense, Leed AP, NAFA-Certified Interior Designer

Eunice Ooi, cofounder of spaceSense.co

With 10 years of project management experience, Eunice has delivered workplace fit-out projects for MNCs like GIC, Google, Experian, Visa University and Visa Innovation Center. More than 100 million project value was executed and many clients satisfied with budget and timeline met. She hopes to share her hands-on experience to help SMEs and growing company in securing and building their ideal workplace for their employees and business.

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