Occupancy costs, including rent and maintenance, are often the second highest cost on the P&L statement and are higher still when taking on a new lease or purchasing an office. For law firms, the working environment is critical not just for the client experience but also for staff attraction and retention.
Risk profile, total investment, upfront costs, payment options, operational savings, productivity gains and timescales are all among the issues your management team needs to address. We’re here to provide insight, explain the routes available to you and hopefully save you time and money in the process, so you can have a positive experience when you move or upgrade.
Having selected the right property for your business now and in the future, one of the biggest decisions is how to design and deliver your new office space. There are two main routes: traditional delivery and ‘design and build’, also referred to as ‘D&B’.
The traditional approach involves appointing an architectural practice or design consultancy as well as a number of other advisors and consultants which could include: an interior designer, project manager, cost consultant, mechanical and electrical consultant(s), IT consultant and furniture specialist. Everyone has a specific role to play and is tasked with aiding you the client in the design of your new office. You directly set and manage the design and the budget parameters.
Contractors and sub-contractors then bid on a like-for-like basis to deliver the project. The purpose of this is to secure the lowest price but a word of warning in the current climate – beware of contractors that bid ‘unrealistically low’ to win the job and then can’t deliver the quality you demand.
Projects that are procured through a traditional process have a tendency towards escalating budgets as anything outside the tender specification is chargeable – i.e. there is no sharing of risk between contractor and client. Delivery times can also be uncertain and are usually longer, as variations to the tender specification will automatically trigger extensions to the programme.
While there is no hard and fast rule, industry trends show that the traditional procurement route is more prevalent in larger projects – typically those over 70,000 sq ft – or projects which are specialist, particularly complex, or require major structural works.
The D&B model offers clients a turnkey solution with design, specification, consultancy, project management and construction services all under one roof. As a result, procuring a project through a D&B model is more time efficient and cost effective. Industry research shows that as much as 85% of interior fit-out projects with a value of less than £5,000,000 are procured via this model.
D&B has become increasingly popular, not least because it de-risks the process for clients at a time when financial caution is the watchword. The main advantage is that it delivers 100% cost certainty as the client and contractor share the risk. It also creates a single point of contact and accountability – i.e. the contractor is responsible for the entire project, its design, delivery and all the specialists required.
D&B is a scalable procurement model which includes projects as small as 1,500 sq ft up to 70,000sqft – and sometimes even beyond this level.
Another benefit of D&B is that it lends itself well to roll-outs, great for law firms with multiple offices in the UK or internationally. Templates and cost models for office design still allow for flexibility and bespoke elements to be built in, while helping the business plan for the future. This approach delivers reduced risk, greater value for money, process efficiency, brand consistency across offices, the same quality of experience for staff and clients wherever they are based, less hassle overall and more cost and time savings. This is precisely how we worked with Kennedys.
No matter which route you choose, it is worth mentioning that dealing with your office requirements means not just a refurbishment or fit-out, it’s also an opportunity to interrogate how you work: ways of working, desk sharing, meeting room usage, collaboration versus quiet working, technology and equipment usage, storage needs, waste management and energy demand.
A considered, high performing office design can help enhance your appeal as an employer and change the working culture significantly, increasing productivity and encouraging collaboration. With an increasing number of law firms paying closer attention to clients’ experiences of their firms, it can reinforce the personality and ethos of the firm. It is also an excellent opportunity to reduce operational costs and develop cost efficiencies along the way.
Ultimately, your premises afford you the opportunity to positively contribute to your bottom line. Whichever route you choose, it’s worth taking the time to really think about what you need and want in good time, so you can get the best possible outcome for your business.