Designing sustainable office space

Designing sustainable office space

Over the past 20 years we have seen the trends for ‘shell and core’ v/s ‘Category A’ office fit-outs shift one way and then the other. so is the most recent move towards ‘shell and core’ (or ‘shell and floor’ including the installation of a raised floor see boxout) a returning trend or a shift driven by changing attitudes towards waste and sustainability? Matt Wilderspin reports …


The question being asked then is ‘when a landlord installs a raised floor, suspended ceilings and mechanical installations, is this efficient if the tenant then removes or changes them?’ When I first started project managing office fit outs, shell and core was the new trend but we didn’t much consider sustainable design. Now we do and sustainability is increasingly important to all of us, owners, developers and occupiers alike. Should we be moving towards a more collaborative, and less wasteful, approach between the landlord and tenant for office fit out? This makes sense not only from a sustainability point of view but from a cost reduction perspective for both parties.


Types of fit-out for commercial office space

Shell and core
Shell-and-core developments include fully finished landlord areas comprising main entrance and reception, lift and stair cores, lobbies and toilets. These areas are not part of the space rented to the tenant. The office floor areas are left as a shell ready for category A fit-out.


Category A fit-out
There is no standard definition for category A fit-out – it can vary between owners/developers but typically, category A is what the developer provides as part of the rentable office space and usually comprises the following: raised floors, floor coverings, suspended ceilings etc.


Category B fit-out
Category B completes the fit-out to the occupier/users’ specific requirements. It can typically comprise the following: installation of cellular offices, enhanced finishes , conference/meeting room facilities etc.


When the tenant removes the ceiling to create an open/industrial feel or the ‘middle spaces’ in the new workplace trends, what happens to the redundant ceiling tiles? Waste isn’t just the tiles being thrown away, but the carbon footprint of their manufacture and delivery in the first place. Leaving the landlord’s base build as shell and floor reduces this waste, reduces double handling and reduces the carbon footprint of companies, including the contractor, sub-contractors, suppliers and manufacturers. It also allows the tenant’s team more flexibility in their office space design; creating a win win situation – flexible design, cost savings and sustainability benefits at no extra cost.


This is all good news, but what happens when the tenant’s lease expires and they have to reinstate the premises to an open plan ‘Category A’ office specification? However, what can be done to reduce the waste of stripping out the previous tenant’s fit out to reinstate a ceiling and raised floor that will then be stripped out and changed by the next tenant? We need to find a way to be more sustainable rather than throwing everything in the skip at the end of the lease.


Matt Wilderspin


Matt Wilderspin is Head of the Projects Group within CBRE’s Building Consultancy division. Matt has a broad spectrum of experience focussed on delivering extra value to clients across a number of sectors, to both occupier and landlord clients, on complex and challenging projects. Matt’s primary interests include the provision of strategic and executive project management, working closely with clients providing professional solutions to the clients’ needs.



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