Changing places

Successful relocation from one building to another can be a complex exercise, requiring careful management and planning by chartered surveyors.

For the preliminary stages of the fitting out process, a space audit of existing accommodation, detailing specific requirements, should be prepared.

Following this, the links between departments can be reviewed to establish which need to be relocated, and this will assist in consideration of building types – whether the office should be on one floor or separate floors. Dependent upon the type of property and the lease structure, a schedule of conditions may have to be prepared to reflect the state of the accommodation. It is important that the accommodation is designed to be flexible to meet anticipated requirements over a five to 10-year period.

Trends are moving towards a partially cellular office layout, providing both shared meeting rooms and open plan areas to offer a “hot desk” environment. While this is not necessarily suited to the legal profession, the progress being achieved in the storage of information will undoubtedly percolate through to accommodation strategies in all the professions in the next few years

Consideration should be given to “long lead” items, such as special furniture and air conditioning when the outline programme is being compiled. Current European directives and legislation require lighting to be carefully designed to suit occupational and individual PC users' needs. It is probable the existing light cannot be converted, and this will significantly affect the budget.

As part of preliminary building assessments, the implication of any fitting out should be carefully reviewed against the existing services installations. Following relocation, the most common cause of complaints is that heating, cooling or ventilation are unsatisfactory.

Consideration should be given to the use of a modular and flexible furniture system, particularly in an open plan environment, to ensure optimum utilisation of space. Legislation requires that all work stations are ergonomically designed to provide a minimum standard, and this may not be achieved by retaining existing furniture.

A detailed review of all your IT and telecommunications

strategy should be considered.

Cableless systems are coming on to the market and in the next five years more relocating companies will probably switch to this type.

Once the design is near completion, consent should be obtained, if appropriate, from the local authority and all immediate and superior landlords. The time periods required to obtain these consents should not be under-estimated and should be reviewed with each party as early as possible.

And the experience required to fit out a listed building such as Gray's Inn is very different from that of a modern office such as Thomas More Square. The fitting out and relocation costs will vary according to building type, scope of works, quality and programme. Planning can reduce costs.

Typical relocation costs, where refurbishment is not

required vary between £200 per sq metre and £600 per sq

metre. Of equal importance to the fitting out is the actual move as the success or failure of the relocation depends upon careful planning.

Anthony Burgess is an associate at Grimley, international property advisers.