FIS Releases New Client Guide to Office Fit Out and Refurbishment

This month the Finishes and Interiors Sector (FIS) has released a revised 48-page Client Guide to Office Fit Out and Refurbishment. The new guide is aimed at clients, contractors and architects to promote best practice in the office fit out and office refurbishment process.

FIS is the not-for-profit body, which was created, in their own words, “to draw the finishes and interiors supply chain together to improve safety and quality, minimise risk, enhance productivity and help embrace innovation.” FIS first published their Client Guide to Office Fit Out and Refurbishment in 2017. The 2023 guide has been revised to take into account “new working practices post-pandemic, the Building Safety Act such as the interaction with ‘higher risk buildings’ (as defined in the legislation), and how to consider the impact in the early stages of planning a fit-out and best practices and advances in methods of measurement regarding sustainability.”

Philip Brown FIS President says: “FIS has further developed this guide to assist clients in the sometimes-complicated process of fitting out or refurbishing their offices and premises. The situation post-Covid and Grenfell has fundamentally changed the way that business environments are used, with ever-increasing agile working and online meetings being the new norms, not the exceptions. Regulation and changing responsibilities for all involved parties can appear daunting. The authors of this guide understand that not all those involved or sanctioning projects are fully conversant with statutory rules, and may not be industry professionals. With this in mind, a step-by-step approach has been produced that clearly identifies all processes from initial concept to successful completion and handover.”

Iain McIlwee FIS CEO further explains: “The guide to office fit-out and refurbishment was developed in 2017 by FIS but since then we have seen many changes in the market including the passing of the Building Safety Act which places new emphasis on safety and digitisation of construction data to fulfil the golden thread of information. The updated and revised guide will consider these significant changes whilst at the same time assist clients with the task of fitting out or refurbishing their offices and to promote best practice in the fit-out process.”

Office Fit Out and Refurbishment Step by Step

The FIS guide sets out a process from the decision to either refurbish an existing office or move and fit out new premises, through to post-occupancy review. It’s structured into 18 key steps.

In this article we’ll give an overview of the steps highlighted by FIS as being essential to a successful fit out and refurbishment:

Creating A Statement of Need

Why are you looking to carry out an fit out? What are your objectives?

There are many reasons to carry out an office fit out e.g., make better use of your existing space, expanding or downsizing, to create a healthier workspace, make the office more sustainable, rebranding, changing workflow or processes or to simply update an old office look. Your reasons may include some of none of the above but its important to be clear in your own mind what your drivers are, why a fit out is required and what you are looking to achieve from it.

Naming A Lead Or Champion

Do you have someone who can lead or champion the fit out within your company?

It’s a good idea to appoint a project lead. Someone who will take overall responsibility for the project who has the experience and appropriate skillset to be able to act as a liaison and make decisions in a timely manner.

The ability to communicate will be vital and as a champion they should also act as an advocate for the project, bringing other staff with them and encouraging them to support the fit out. They should actively engage with staff and communicate what’s happening, keep staff informed and up to date with how the project is progressing, while making sure any potential problems or concerns are addressed.


Consulting and involving staff in the office fit out is vital. Consider how best to communicate any changes.

In a previous article “Why Collaboration Matters When It Comes To Office Design and Refurbishment” we discussed why it’s important to consult and involve staff throughout an office fit out including the consultation, planning, design and construction phases. After all its staff who are likely to be most impacted by any changes to the office. 

Think about how best to involve staff, how to get their input and feedback to ensure that the “new office” works well for everyone, that it will help improve process and workflow and has the best ROI. Doing so will help to make sure that your fit out is a positive experience for everyone.

Seeking Expert Advice

Who needs to be involved in your fit out and refurbishment?

It’s important that you seek professional advice at the beginning of your project. An office fit out is a complex process which needs professional advice and input. This can take the form of e.g., surveyors, structural engineers, architects, space planners, office designers, fit out and refurbishment experts.

Design and build elements of an office refurbishment project can be treated as separate phases of the same project which are very often taken care of by different companies or contractors. Alternatively, an office design and build company which encompasses all the required expertise can take overall responsibility for all aspects of your office refurbishment project.

Consider Your Requirements

Based on your Statement of Need can you achieve your objectives in your current building, do you have any special requirements, do you need a refresh or complete refurbishment?

There are many aspects of your current and future office that you’ll need to think about:

Will the changes you need to make be covered by a refresh or will you need a complete fit out?

Are you looking to simply rebrand your current workspace or become more sustainable or are there bigger considerations e.g., are you planning to expand and your current space won’t be able to accommodate your needs, are you changing work processes and need to change your office layout to accommodate new workflows, do you want to incorporate breakout areas or a reception desk, will you be taking on more staff or are you planning on downsizing?

Will your current building meet your current and future needs?

If you are expanding or need additional space you may find that your current building isn’t fit for your purpose. You may also decide that your current location isn’t right for your future plans. It may not provide the facilities or allow for the changes you need to make. In which case a new location and fit out may be the best decision.

Are there any landlord restrictions?

Check your lease and liaise with your landlord to find out what, if any, fit out restrictions may be in place. You should also check insurance arrangements to see if there are any special conditions that contractors will need to be aware of and if any part of the proposed fit out will be affected.

Will the work you need to do require a survey or planning permission?

Depending in the age of your building you may need to carry out a survey to look for asbestos, lead pipes and paint before going any further. It’s worth checking to see if there is any information available from other recent surveys or from the Building Information Modelling (BIM) data.

Where physical changes to the building structure are required or in the case of a listed building, planning permission will be required before any work can start.

Checking building regulations

Building regulation approval is separate from planning permission. Any work needs to comply with building regulations. All plans and drawings submitted will be used to confirm that “the design works and sufficient control is in place to maintain the integrity of the design through the construction process.” You will need a licence documenting the work involved.

Preparing A Detailed Strategic Brief

Getting into the strategic details e.g., what process will be used, producing a scope outline, setting a budget and timeline, who will you use?

The information you previously gathered will feed into your strategic brief.

You will need to decide what process you will follow for your fit out. There are  a number of options including the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Plan of Work, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) runs the SKA environmental standard for fit-out, the Building Services Research and Information Association (BSRIA) Soft Landings process or The British Council for Offices Guide to Fit-out.

You should also produce an outline scope of work. The more detailed the scope the easier it will be to understand the requirements and to obtain an accurate program of works, timelines and price. With this information you can set a realistic budget.


Do you require a feasibility study to examine potential opportunities and issues?

Some projects require a feasibility study. It can be an important tool in identifying problems early on and it can also act as a way to decide what elements of your fit out are “must haves” rather than just “nice to haves”.

Deciding What To Do

Make an informed decision as to whether you do nothing, refurbish or fit out.

Based on all of the information gathered you can now make an informed decision as to what to do moving forward. This can range from doing nothing to carrying out a rebranding exercise to carrying out a refurbishment at your current office or moving to a new location and implementing a new office fit out. You’ll also need to decide what process you’ll use and who will be carrying out the work for you i.e., use multiple contractors or a design and build company to oversee the whole project.

Appointing A Fit Out Partner(s)

Decide on your fit out partner.

Once you’ve decided to move forward the next step is to find a fit out partner. It’s important to do due diligence and carry out  checks before committing. Ask if they’re qualified for the job, are they accredited with the appropriate bodies, is the organisation competent, are their staff competent, have they worked on similar projects, how easy are they to work with and how quick are they to respond? Check or ask to see testimonials from past clients.


Once your fit out partner is appointed, they will need to carry out research to decide the best design for your office. This should include staff feedback, work processes and workflow, the requirements in your Statement of Need and Strategic Brief.

Project brief

Your fit out partner will put together a detailed project brief which encompasses all they’ve learned from the research phase and brings together everything required for the project from your fit out needs; the landlord, building, legal, regulatory and contractual restrictions, staff feedback, environmental and wellbeing standards you wish to meet, what process should be followed and any procurement requirements including specifications.

Your fit out will be based on the information within the project brief so it’s vital that it’s fully scoped and accurately reflects your priorities and expectations.


Next the project brief must be turned into the design for the office fit out.

Your office fit out partner will need to visit your office and talk to the project manager, review the project brief with you to ensure everything has been covered from numbers of staff, working practices, changes to working practices, business plans, the need for individual offices, open plan, meeting rooms, break out spaces and reception. 

They’ll discuss your company culture and review your branding requirements. They’ll cover sustainability and wellbeing standards as well as process. They’ll need to understand the layout of your office space, your electrical and IT needs. They’ll also take into account whether you will be on site when refurbishment work is being carried out.

This information along with everything in your project brief will go towards preparing concept and final designs including how fixtures, fittings and furniture will look in your new office.


Specification is the final part of the process in defining the various elements and products that will be used in your fit out and will detail the entire process from stripping out the existing fit out to the final finish. Getting this right can be the make or break of your fit out so it’s important to take the time to make sure this is correct.


Handover to your fit out partner.

This is where your fit out partner takes over the project. They’ll be responsible for implementing the fit out to the project brief and specifications along with health and safety, enabling works (planning permission, building control, regulations, licence for alterations, permits, checking access and ensuring adequate power and water are available), as well as organising external and internal facilities (access, ingress and egress, parking, security, hoardings and site office).

Throughout the fit out your fit out partner should keep you informed and aware of progress or issues.


Your fit out is complete.

Once work is complete you can move in! You should spend some time verifying that everything is as you expected and there are no snag issues. You should receive all relevant documentation for your new fit out. If you discover any issues once you have moved in, your first point of contact should be you fit out contractor, to allow them to visit, assess and resolve them.

This article covers an overview of the fit out process. You can download the full FIS Client Guide to Office Fit Out and Refurbishment.

JBH Refurbishments, Experts In Office Design and Fit Out

JBH Refurbishments have over 30+ years experience in office design, design and build, office fit out and office refurbishments. From your brief, to putting together a project plan, to developing your office design and layout to delivering your office fit out JBH Refurbishments will provide piece of mind. Contact us for your Kent, Surrey, Sussex and London office fit out via our contact form or by calling us on 0333 207 0339 today for a free on site consultation.

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