What is Cat A+ and why is it a game-changer?
A new concept in design & build, coined Cat A+, is being pioneered by The ThirdWay Group alongside several major players in the property industry. In order to define this new model, we should first clarify what is meant by Cat A and Cat B – two firmly established terminologies that describe the design and build work that takes place in a commercial building.
A Category A fit-out is typically implemented for a landlord who wants to market a blank canvas space to a broad range of prospective clients. It usually includes a floor and ceiling finished to industry standard, painted walls, toilet facilities, fire detection, mechanical and electrical services. It is essentially an empty space finished to an industrial standard ready for a tenant to move into and an interior designer to transform into an office.
A Category B fit-out is instructed by the tenant. It comprises a refurbishment of an existing workspace or turns an empty space into an office environment ready for staff to move into. Key features of a Cat B fit out include floor finishes, ceiling and wall treatments, a personalised lighting scheme, internal doors and partitions/dividers, cabling including telephone, data and fibre, AV equipment, various defined zones such as private offices, meeting rooms, reception, kitchen and breakout areas, furniture throughout, and bespoke branding detail such as signage, art and graphic manifestations.
Workplace consultancy and space planning are paramount with a Cat B fit-out, to fully optimise the space and functions for the specific business it is designed for. Aesthetics and details can then be refined by selecting colour schemes and furniture and ensuring the office look and style is reflective of the occupier’s brand.
A Cat A+ fit-out is positioned between these two– requested by a landlord but almost as comprehensive in design as a tenant’s instruction.
Renovating empty office space is becoming increasingly popular amongst building owners looking to offer prospective tenants a ready to use, ‘plug and play’ workplace. This makes the property more attractive to new occupiers which in turn ensures that a tenant can be secured quickly and profitably.
Why is Cat A+ making waves?
Since it’s conception, the Cat A+ model has been implemented on several ThirdWay projects in London to appeal to tenants who struggle to see beyond a standard Cat A finish and wish for their own, private space but with the flexibility co-working offices provide.
There is a lot of noise around the speed of growth of co-working and though the biggest provider only caters for about 1% of London's working population, there is scope for them to gain much more. Traditional landlords are looking for new ways to market their properties to challenge the co-working phenomenon. The threat of losing tenants to these providers has highlighted a change in the market, driven by a younger generation with a more entrepreneurial spirit than previous generations. Traditional Cat A space is often not what future occupiers want, but Cat A+ is a solution that seems to meet their demands.
Cat A+ makes it possible for small businesses, that might have struggled to fund their own refurbishment and whose only other option would previously have been to share space in a co-working environment, to move into their own fully finished and functioning office.
Thirdway Group owner Ben Gillam explains “This move to offer a white-label space provides a great solution for growing businesses. Not only do they have the luxury of a brand-new environment without having to invest in its design and build, but they don’t have to share common areas with multiple companies. Coworking spaces can be really inspirational but they’re not aspirational. Most start-up businesses in there are expanding, they’re run by entrepreneurs, and entrepreneurs want their own front door. Cat A+ achieves this”