what is cat a and b fit out (2)

What Is Cat A and B Fit Out?

Navigating the fit-out world can be confusing without standard definitions, especially if you're not familiar with the commercial property industry.

A Cat A fit-out results in a space that's fully functional but empty. Cat B fit-outs leave the space tailor-made to suit the occupant, from custom features to branded finishes – down to the flowers at the reception. But to truly understand the difference between these types of projects, we need to understand what we mean by fit-out.

What is a fit-out?

A fit-out is the development of space to align its functionality with the requirements of the people who use it: it's making sure a space does what its occupants – or owners – need it to do. Different types of fit-outs reflect stages in a building's completion, with shell and core proceeding even the simplest Cat A fit-out and Cat B fit-outs producing a fully realised workplace. Cat A and Cat B are the most commonly discussed types of fit-out, but there are two additional categories with important distinctions all their own – shell and core and Cat A+.

What are Shell and Core?

While part of the fit-out spectrum, shell and core is technically the state of a building before any fit-out occurs. The space won't be usable at this stage and is the result of the initial construction of the building. The shell and core is the concrete and metal frame of a weather-proofed space. It may look complete from the outside, but the building's services (like lighting and air conditioning) aren't even installed inside.

Shell and core include things like:

  • Lobbies
  • Lift shafts
  • Concrete and metal frame
  • Loading bays

Shop Fitouts FAQs

A Category B fit-out is conducted on a space where the external walls, basic flooring, ceilings, M&E services, and shared toilets and lifts have been installed. It's like moving into a house and installing your choice of flooring, lighting and decoration to make it your own space.

There are three types of construction, namely A, B and C, determined by the building's class and rise in storeys. Type A includes buildings with a higher risk, such as high rise, high occupant buildings and is, therefore, the most fire-resistant.

Shell and core is the first stage of a building's fit-out. It refers to the installation of the basic structure of the building, which creates the 'shell'. The next stage, usually called a Cat A fit-out, brings the rentable space up to a standard ready for occupation.

"Fit-out" refers to the process of making an interior space ready for occupation. Commonly, when constructing commercial buildings, the spaces inside are left bare for the occupants to determine the level of refurbishment needed (or fitting out).

In a nutshell, office fit-out is the transformation of space so that it can be used. This comes in varying degrees, from an empty shell of a building to a blank canvas that needs personalisation in the form of things like glass walls and bespoke kitchens.

Difference Between Cat A And Cat B Fit-Out

what is cat a and b fit out

Although these terms are commonplace in our realm of commercial interiors, we understand that they can be somewhat confusing for those not working in the industry. So to help you understand the difference between a CAT A and CAT B fit-out, we've broken down the features to help you to decipher between the two and decide on the right fit out for your circumstance. 

What Is A Cat A Fit-Out?

Usually organised by landlords to make a commercial space suitable for occupation, this type of fit-out typically doesn't include the design-led features you would expect to see in a finished interior. Instead, CAT A fit-outs provide electrical and mechanical installations for general office use, and sometimes air conditioning, ventilation, suspended ceilings and raised flooring. The decoration is usually incorporated too, but in the form of simple surface finishes on walls.

Completing a CAT A fit-out produces a blank canvas ready for potential tenants to come and put their stamp on the space. Landlords often lease their property in this state to allow businesses to adapt the interior to their team and style it how they wish.

A Category A fit-out is the basic finishing of interior space. Generally commissioned by landlords, this type of fit-out includes installing a building's mechanical and electrical services. A Cat A project will also include finished internal walls, reception areas, and lift lobbies – but that's it. Apart from its most basic working elements, a Category A space will be empty, making it easy to sell to occupants who want to create their own space. With raised metal flooring, painted perimeter walls, and a grid ceiling with fitted lights, Cat A spaces are the design and build world's blank canvas.

Cat A fit-outs include things like:

  • Lighting
  • Air conditioning
  • Toilets
  • Raised access flooring
  • Grid ceilings
  • Basic fire detection systems
  • Basic mechanical and electrical services.
  • Fire detection and protection services.
  • Internal surface finishes.
  • Blinds.

You may have heard of another fit-out category called Cat A+. We have a Cat A+ programme called Built to Lease – this category is for landlords looking to let their space immediately.

You quite often find that the developer will make a contribution to the tenant for the carpets, floor boxes and grommets, which are then installed as part of the tenant's category B fit-out, rather than installing them during the category A works, as they are subject to damage and may not complement the tenants colour scheme.

What Is A Cat B Fit-Out?

Once the CAT A fit-out is complete and agreed to by the landlord, the CAT B fit-out can commence. The CAT A offers a 'line in the sand' for all parties should the space be returned to its original state at the end of a lease. 

The CAT B fit-out allows tenants to go ahead and have the space developed with bespoke design elements, allowing businesses to have a say in the interior design of their office and adapt it to their team. In many cases, a licence to alter will need to be obtained to gain consent from the landlord before changes are made.  

Included in a CAT B fit-out are the likes of partitions, furniture and branded elements. Landlords usually leave tenant businesses to organise this type of fit-out, but they might include returning the space to its original state in the contract. In such cases, businesses will need to strip the office back to the state they found it in before vacating.   

Category B fit-outs shape interior spaces, involving everything from building different rooms to choosing the art on the walls. Floorplans materialise, finishes are chosen, and branding is pumped into the space, giving clients an end product all their own. If Cat A is a blank canvas, Cat B is a finished work of art. These fit outs incorporate the things that make a space functional, but they also provide the opportunity to bring an occupant's company to life. Cat B projects are great for clients who want a space tailored to their people and their requirements, as these spaces are the result of working closely with a fit-out partner to identify and understand the company culture and plans for the future.

Cat B fit-outs include things like:

  • Floor finishes
  • Specialist lighting and facilities
  • Cafés, tea points and kitchen areas
  • Furniture
  • Branded material and décor
  • Partitioning.
  • Finishes and branding.
  • Carpeting.
  • Meeting rooms, conference rooms and break-out rooms.
  • Reception area.
  • Lighting.
  • Kitchen facilities.
  • IT is and audiovisual equipment.
  • Office furniture.

Is A Refurbishment The Same As A Cat B Fit-Out?

The terms refurbishment and fit-out are often used interchangeably. However, a refurbishment refers specifically to an existing office space that's being re-done. For example, a refurbishment project may include stripping out an existing Cat B fit-out before replacing it with a new and improved Cat B that works better for the new tenant.

If you're moving to new development, it's most likely that you'll be leasing either a Shell and Core or Cat A space and so this wouldn't be classed as a refurbishment. On the other hand, if you're renovating your existing office space, this would be classed as a Cat B refurbishment.

Essential Tips For Choosing The Right Builder

what is cat a and b fit out (3)

Making the wrong move could have drastic outcomes for your project and business.

Quality Is Essential When Choosing Your Office Fit Out Company

Most office fit out companies display their previous projects on their website or social media.

It's a good idea to look through their latest projects as it allows you to gain a sense of their quality of work, the complexities of their jobs and whether you like their style.

Some office fit out companies also provide information on the duration of each project and the office fit-out costs.

This will help give you a well-rounded view of the fit-out company and whether you would want to work with them or not.

Do Your Research On All Shortlisted Office Fit Out Companies

Practice makes perfect. No one hops on a bike for the very first time and can ride it like a professional. The same principle applies to picking an amazing office fit-out company.

Although a shopfitter may have extensive experience creating fit-outs in one industry, they may not have attempted any projects similar to yours.

This is not the end of the world, but there are several perks in choosing a builder who is an expert in your field.

Having created amazing office fit-out projects similar to yours in the past, they will be able to provide you better advice on interior design decisions, how to save on costs, and get your job completed at a faster pace.

By choosing an experienced office fit-out company, you can rest assured you will receive a smooth and stress-free construction experience.

Transparency Is Key When Dealing With An Office Fit Out Company

Brand new office fit-outs or office refurbishments are a big investment; therefore, you must choose someone you trust to be fair, honest and deliver a high-quality result.

Pay close attention to your initial interactions. For example, is the builder polite, interested and engaged? are they easily accessible and happy to answer all your questions or is it difficult to get a hold of them?

Make sure to check out their reviews and references on Google; this is a great indication of whether they have made happy and satisfied customers in the past.

Lastly, a great shopfitter will always have your best interest at heart and make the best choices to ensure they stick within your office fit-out budget.

Triple Check Quotes From All Office Fit Out Companies

Be very wary of falling into the trap of choosing the contractor who provides the cheapest quote.

Firstly, Before deciding which fit out company you choose to award your project to, It is crucial to go through each quote you received with a fine-tooth-comb.

Cross-check each quote with your office design plans to ensure nothing was left out. The more detailed the quote, the better!

One reason why a quote may be significantly cheaper than another is because a builder has left an item out; this could lead to variation claims in the future, and you might end up spending more.

Does The Office Fit Out Company Offer Design?

As you are probably aware, there are a lot of offices fit out companies in Sydney and the greater region.

If you have finally narrowed down your search and are tossing up between two or three companies, one way that could help you make your final decision is by examining each company's unique qualities.

Which company offers a service that meets your company's specific needs?

If you are after an office fit-out company that will take almost everything off your hands, then it's important to pick a specialist office fit out company that can not only build your project but design it too.

A fit-out company with extensive experience in designing amazing offices should be able to take your thoughts and ideas and reflect them in a unique design space that not only looks good but is durable and practical as well.

Choosing an office fit-out company that offers an end-to-end solution eliminates the stress of dealing with multiple contacts.

It becomes easier for you to stay on top of how the project is progressing, and if any issues arise, you know straight who to contact.

Is Your Office Fit Out Company Insured?

Lastly, don't be afraid to ask an office fit-out company for copies of their insurance policies.

All commercial builders are required to have public liability insurance, all risk insurance, and workers compensation.

If your builder is hesitant to share these documents with you, take this as a major red flag.

To eliminate any of your concerns, it's a good idea to cross-check with the insurance companies to determine if their policy is still valid or if they've expired. It's better to be safe than sorry!

Scroll to Top