Creating a new workplace for your business is a team effort. You will need to enlist the expertise and know-how of a wide variety of people to ensure that you invest your time, energy and money in an outcome that will work for your business.
Often clients can get swept up in the excitement and want to dive right, on, in, or feel that by going the DIY version they’re going to save themselves a few dollars. In my experience, this is not going to end well. There are reasons why these professions exist and depending on the scale and size of your business, you may not require their entire suite of services, but their advice is likely to see you create an outcome that you couldn’t, had you gone it alone.
You are going to require different people along this journey, each with their own specialties, and super powers, all adding value to the end product, a workplace that performs. These people may be within your own organization or the same set of consultants, not necessarily individual entities. Use this as a guide to ensure that you have all the roles needed covered in order to set your project up for success.
The diagram below outlines visually the key consultants along the journey.
The first people you need on your team are your workplace strategists. Now, you might be wondering why they are the first people you need to be engaging with, and the answer is simple, because they are the people who are going to help you work out what your business needs in order to go to the market. Going out and starting to look at properties without a clear understanding of what your business needs, is like going to the store to buy a suit and not knowing what size you need, let alone the colour, style, or brand. Sure, you can spend a lot of time visiting different stores, trying on a range of suits, working out what fits best and then having it altered to suit your unique body shape, or you can go direct to the tailor and have them custom a suit, just, for you.
When working with your strategist they are going to support you in unpacking what your organization needs to move you forward into the future, and that includes considering the best location, floor plate size for your required team dynamics and surrounding amenities. Without this informed shopping list, you will have a raft of options presented to you, with no clear criteria from which to make your decision.
Armed with this clearly defined scope of requirements, its time to engage with a Tenant Advocate/Representative. The role of the Tenant Rep is to do exactly that, represent the tenant, you, in identifying a property in the market and negotiating the best deal. They facilitate the conversation between the landlords and real estate agents, cutting out all the properties that don’t meet your requirements so that you can focus your attention on those that do meet your brief, saving you valuable time and energy.
The difference between a Tenant Rep and a Real Estate Agent is who they represent. A Tenant Rep’s role is to represent your best interests as an incoming tenant, whilst a Real Estate Agent works on behalf of the landlord, their role is to lease the premises so that the landlord starts to see a return on their investment. The Tenant Rep is engaged and paid by the Tenant, whereas the Real Estate Agent is engaged and paid for by the Landlord. The risk of engaging directly with a Real Estate Agent and not engaging the services of a Tenant Rep is that the structure of the incentivization is not in the tenant’s best interests and may lead them to securing a tenancy that does not service your needs adequately.
With your shortlist of suitable properties, it’s now time to engage with your design team. Often when clients begin this process, their first thought is that they need an Architect. Whilst there are many skilled architects that can create a workplace, an Interior Designer is likely to be more adept at creating a place for people. Traditionally Architects design buildings and structures, outside in. Whereas an interior designer creates from the inside out, working with the flow and interaction of people within the space.
Whichever direction you chose to go in, the next step is to overlay your unique requirements developed by your Workplace Strategist onto the floor plans of the shortlisted properties. This process is often referring to as a “Test Fit”; testing to see if you fit into the premises and how this looks and works with the shape and constraints of the building.
Your test fits will enable you to make an informed decision on your selected property and for the supporting team to begin to negotiate the commercials of your leasing deal.
Establishing a good relationship with your designer is critical to the success of the project, as they are involved for the entirety of the project and 95% of your project budget is determined in these first initial phases of the project.
Your designer will then support you throughout the process of concept design, design development and documentation to prepare a set of working drawings from which your space can be constructed.
Having someone on the team that is responsible for managing the program, budget and construction negotiations is an absolute necessity for any project, however dependent on the size and scope of the project, your architect or designer may be suitably experienced to provide this service.
The role of the project manager is to support the delivery of the project from inception right through to handing over the keys and managing the close out of the project. It is a wide ranging role with a number of key deliverables covering; cost management, program management, contract negotiations, construction & delivery quality, health & safety, risk management and general team coordination.
The term “project management” is used across a number of industries, what’s important to understand is that in the case of your build project, you require a project manager with construction experience and knowledge. An experienced project manager in a software company, may be have a firm handle on managing the milestones of a program and budget, however their experience in the process of building a workplace is likely to be limited. Without a firm grasp on the established steps of delivery, the project is fraught with danger, so ensure that the person responsible for this role is experienced in all facets of project management, relevant to the construction of your workplace.
Your project manager will be your eyes and ears throughout the progression of the project, they are also your industry conduit, introducing you to the right builders, suppliers and consultant team you’ll need to deliver your project. They know how much things are going to cost and negotiate fees and contracts on your behalf to get you the most competitive market rate, whilst balancing this against quality of delivery and finished product satisfaction.
Engaging with your project manager as early as your design team, is a great step in ensuring a smooth and well planned project delivery.
Aside from your Designer and Project Manager, there are a number of specialist consultants that may be required to support the delivery of the project;
Your Project Manager will be able to advise you of the required consultant mix for your project, dependent on the scope and connect you with those who specialize in the field of workplace.
Reconfiguration of the services on your floor are triggered with the addition or removal of any walls. Without the appropriate documentation and certificates from licensed consultants, your Building Approval [required before you do most building work] cannot be issued.
Dependent on the existing services within the tenancy you lease, the required consultants required include; Mechanical [Air Con], Hydraulic [Plumbing], Electrical [Power & Lighting], Data, Fire
In days gone by, you submitted your request to do building works to the local council for their approval. Today this service has been replaced by Private Certifiers, expediting the approval process and providing you with a single point of contact for enquiries and explanations.
You might think of structural engineers only being required to construct a new building, bridge or road way, however the structural integrity of the building can be impacted by the design of you fitout. Floor penetrations for plumbing pipes, floor boxes and cabling all require holes to be created in the slab of your premises, which can impact the structural integrity of the slab, so for your own piece of mind as well as to meet your landlords and certification requirements this will be needed.
If you are looking to introduce an operable wall to divide larger spaces into smaller ones, the structure required to support the wall requires the advice and design of a structural engineer to ensure its adequate construction and fixing to the existing building.
Seismic design is also a consideration for your fitout. Whilst the existing building is not part of your scope, the fitout works also require to be constructed in accordance with construction codes for seismic activity, impacting the installation and fixing of air conditioning ducts, sprinkler pipes, suspended ceilings, wall construction etc.
Not required on every project, you may have more particular needs around sound proofing, reverberation or even the desire for “white noise” in the work zones. An acoustic engineer can provide scientific advice specific to your project needs and the design of the project to ensure the adequate execution of materiality and construction methods to achieve the desired outcome.
Getting a firm grip on the cost of your proposed project is no doubt front of mind for you, and whilst your team will be highly experienced in delivering projects, having an independent assessment of the financial investment is critical in the design process. Getting an early assessment of the project cost can avoid disappointment and the need for value engineering to occur at the last minute, also impacting on program and the finished product.
Whether you choose to engage with a Quantity Surveyor or liaise with a “friendly builder” to prepare your cost plan it’s advisable to do this at the concept stage of the project and reassess at key milestones, prior to going to tender.
If you haven’t moved office for a while, are a paper heavy organization or are looking to modernize your filing practices, you might need to enlist the services of a storage consultant. They can assess your existing situation and use their knowledge and experience to advise on practical ways for you to digitize and reduce the physical footprint of your paper storage, saving you on valuable real estate costs.
Creating an equally accessible workplace is a key consideration for every organization and dependent on your workplace design, alternative means of assessment may be required to fulfil your accessibility requirements. Your project manager will be able to advise if your specific project requires their engagement.
This may sound like an odd one, given the fact that we are talking about fitting out a workspace inside an existing building, however there are a couple of scenarios, that I have encountered in which a Town Planner may be relevant to your project.
Often with the creation of a new workplace, there is a significant shift in the way the space operates in comparison to the previous work environment. As with everything, things change, evolve and improve over time and the creation of a new work environment is a milestone opportunity to reassess the continuous improvements the busines has made over the past 5-10 years and preempt the further improvements and efficiencies required in the next 10 years.
Essentially, we are moving people along a continuum in a 20 year leap. When you think about it like this, it’s a pretty dramatic and tumultuous shift in the way we work. Adequately preparing, supporting and training people for the new workplace is a fundamental requirement to see its success.
Just as you would onboard a new employee into your business, you will need to onboard people into the new workplace, setting out guidelines, expectations and ground rules for the use and operation of the space. This will cover everything from ways of working, communication & collaboration methods, technology use and storage of personal effects.
Engaging people in the process supports buy in and the successful execution of the project, so whether you execute this internally or with the support of an external professional, its highly recommended that this role is supported in the project team.
This is where it all starts to become real! Appointing a builder to deliver your project is a critical step. Whether you choose to do a market tender or negotiate with a preferred builder, your project manager will guide you through the process and assist you in identifying suitably qualified contractors for the project.
Your builder will be responsible for the engaging and managing all the subtrades under a head contractor arrangement, providing you with a single point of accountability for the project [for more information on the various contracting models see blog, ‘Choosing a contracting model: Traditional vs negotiated tendering’]. They will also purchase all the furniture, appliances and equipment required to complete the entire project.
Establishing a good report with your builder is important as they are with you long after the project is finished. Whilst they might be intently building your dream office for a solid 8-14week plus period, the relationship extends beyond you moving in, with a 12mth defects liability period where they are required to attend to anything that’s not quite right.
Whether you are staying put and upgrading your current facility or moving to a new shiny home, the logistics require some careful planning to ensure that Karen doesn’t lose her keyboard.
Packing, moving and storing equipment, furniture, files and personal effects is, in my opinion, one of the lesser enjoyable aspects of the process. Having someone who specializes in this space is a beautiful asset to a project, removing any of the stress and concern associated with damage and lose in the process, especially if you are relocating across multiple floors with hundreds of people.
As you can see there are a number of people invested in seeing your project become an outstanding success. As the saying goes “many hands make light work”. So trust in the process and the expertise to ensure that you are maximizing your return on investment and optimizing this opportunity.