Workspace Design & Construction: integrated vs separate
I have been designing and constructing workplaces since the early 90's, at a time when a D&C model was unfashionable, workplace design usually consisted of lots of offices and meeting rooms, open plan was nearly non-existent and the Architect reigned supreme!
The changes that have occurred over the last 20-odd years are significant. The Design & Construct model is now popular for fit outs under about 3000m2, traditional workplace design moved to open plan, then hot desking was the go and now the buzz words are 'activity based workplace' (ABW).
The Architect is no longer the head of the design team. In fact, most workplaces are designed by interior designers – and quite rightly too (although that’s an argument for another day...)! The build is managed by project and construction managers, and as a result we’ve seen the introduction of the integrated fit out. We've noted that quite often, it’s offered to an incoming tenant as a condition, rather than a choice.
The integrated fit out has been 'sold' to tenants on the premise that it’s cheaper and the delivery is seamless, but not all of us in the fit out design and construction industry agree.
Traditionally, the fit out design and construction process that has evolved over many years has separated the base building contracts from the fit out contract, and for good reason. There are several factors that have persuaded me that an integrated fit out model is far inferior to the traditional route:
Project program - if the development build has not commenced
The timing uncertainty involved for the fit out team – if the base building works are delayed
Unknown costs relating to changes that occur to the base building during construction
Design development pressure – if the base building works are accelerated
Lengthy approvals processes
Elevated costs due to the non-competitive nature of the tender process
Proponents of the integrated fit out argue that keeping the fit out separate is wasteful and time consuming process, and that integrated fit outs can save money and time by circumventing the need to move things twice such as ceiling tiles, light fittings, sprinkler heads and air conditioning outlets to suit the layout. This can easily be avoided by a simple arrangement between the landlord and the tenant, where an agreed scope is withheld from the base building contractors and awarded to the fit out contractor.
In either scenario – integrated or not, the decision on fit out delivery method should be the right of the tenant’s to make.