Cat A – The Useless industry Habit?

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After a successful seven years at Como, Zoe Moss – friend of Mix and all-round person with an opinion – is now Divisional Director at Charles Edward Limited. Recently, Zoe sent us an email to say she had written a piece on LinkedIn and we felt it worthwhile repeating in printed form!

Ok so raise your hand if you’ve ever ripped out a perfectly, if not over engineered Cat A to make way for an end user’s Cat B fit-out that was designed in, at least part, absenteeism of the Cat A? I doubt there are many of you with your hands left in your pockets. The market is seemingly happy to spend time and money installing a Cat A only to have a contractor come in and take most of the high level out while still having to make a contribution to a rent free period or the end user’s fit-out costs.
The ultimate goal of any landlord has to be ‘floorplate occupation’, but we must change the way we think.
I challenge the market – both client and contractor side – to think differently and come up with a less wasteful, more innovative and smarter way of getting office space occupied! ‘Voids’ is a dirty word in those circles and yet the answer, to me, seems so obvious. Let me elaborate…
Who has filled the ‘Voids’ well thus far? Well, WeWork were ultimately the first to capitalise on a solution for the dreaded ‘void’ – only not within their own buildings but preying instead upon the notable empty spaces, often in prestige buildings in and around London and filling them with collaborative, well designed and thought out office space.  They doubled down by ensuring that the SME’s could acquire this funky workspace through a quick and easy to read/sign contract on an entirely flexible basis. It made complete sense and so we now see the domination of their brand in a serviced office market that Regus, by age alone, should really own had they innovated; but instead has seen WeWork revel in their style of cool. Now the corporates use WeWork as an overflow – as the SME’s do to grow.
Shouldn’t all landlord’s attempt to emulate a level of this success and tailor a solution to their own buildings?

The forgotten ‘Middle’ (SME)
There are some  4.5 million SME’s across all industries in the UK and whilst the obvious ‘fit-out contractor’ prize would be the 500,000 sq ft office fit-out, haven’t we forgotten about the ‘Middle’ – given the proportion of the market these businesses take up? They invariably move every 3-5 years, grow when successful and don’t have the internal resources it takes to manage the design and delivery of a workspace. Aren’t these our best customers?! This is repeat business epitomised.

Building owners be bold – really bold!
I call upon building owners to forget the concept of total Cat A Buildings. Of course I am not suggesting you don’t complete your common parts and shared spaces – bicycle racks and showers a plenty. Wow the world with your entrance by all means but be daring enough to not fit out your floorplates from top to bottom with a Cat A – hold your nerve, try something different!

How different, you say?
Fully appreciating that shell and core is an agent’s nightmare to market; let’s consider fitting out a single floor out to Cat A and use it as a demonstration of a blank canvas for the more discerning and larger incoming tenant with more time on their hands to make the move – but let’s offset that for the ‘forgotten middle’ and fit a floor/half floor out to a fully furnished Cat B space in real ‘Plug and Play’ terms and use it as a speculative platform. We have, for years, targeted a one-size-fits-all solution to a totally variable challenge.
It may appear that I am doing myself out of work by promoting such a bold market change as a contractor, but I feel the opposite – we cannot talk endlessly about reducing waste and then bin a brand new Cat A, we cannot talk about collaboration between contractor and landlord and instigate a Cat A fit-out that we know will never be utilised and we cannot talk about our clients without appreciating the ‘middle’ position. w

My thought of the day: Make way for ‘Plug & Play’!