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It’s very important at the outset of your relationship with your chosen designer to agree on the construction budget. 

But how do you know the costs? You have not completed an office fitout before. Where do you start?

A typical scenario: the property leasing agent said about $600 m2, yet the three builders you speak to give prices ranging from $800 m2 to $2,200 m2 and a couple of designers started at $1,500 m2 up to $2,400 m2. So who is telling the truth and how do you really know what this is going to cost?

That’s the question I always get asked and it really becomes a bit of a chicken and egg situation. Which comes first? The design, so it can be priced exactly? Or the budget, so you can design to the anticipated and required cost? Tricky.




Well I like to see the site that the client currently is in, to gauge the level of fitout that they are used to – I evaluate if there is anything they can salvage and bring across to the new premises, and I get a feel for how they work at the moment.

I then have a look at the new site to assess any unique building elements such as bad access into the building, extra tall ceiling heights, painted ceiling grid and ceiling tiles (keep away from these if you can), existing services such as air conditioning and fire services, condition of carpets and switchboard capacity.

Finally, I have a conversation around what they are expecting from their new premises. What is on their wish list? You know, the wish list you started to write down when you were big picture thinking. What are the key outcomes they want to achieve? Is it larger functional workstations for all the staff or soundproof meeting rooms for confidential client meetings? Maybe it’s a ‘knock your socks off ’ reception area to impress clients and make a corporate statement. Whatever it might be I need to know, because all of these things will affect the budget.

Once I can develop this picture I then review recent projects that fall within a similar level of finish and area of space. I use this to define an approximate m2 rate and “wha-la” you have a budget to work from.


PRO TIP: You should always allow a contingency sum in your budgeting procedure for all those unknown items that will pop up. I think 10 per cent is a reasonable amount. Depending on how much homework you have done in your planning process, you may want to allow a bit more, if your current thinking is not that exact. 

Just because you have a contingency, does not mean you have to spend it. It is rainy day money just in case something comes up that would make a significant impact on the business in a positive sense. 



Because without a budget they will apply all their skills and design an absolutely fantastic fitout for the space you have leased. They will plan for the very best finishes available: stone reception desktops; solid timber cladding feature walls; top of the line workstations for everyone (multiply that by 40 people and you get a surprise); soundproof glass and slab to slab walls for optimum silence within the meeting rooms. Plus $1,000 chairs for all and top of the line appliances for your staff kitchen including a $4,500 dishwasher. Yes, it’s very easy to spend up big if the budget has no restraints.

Designers spend a lot of time reviewing new products and are constantly bombarded with manufacturers wanting to sell their goods.

They usually have large libraries of available products that they can choose from and will tailor your design to meet your budget. With such a wide range of choice designers can provide all sorts of options and knowing the budget lets them opt for different manufacturers and models to suit the client’s brief.

Knowing the level of finish and the areas where the client wants to create the most impact is essential. A clever designer can introduce costly finishes to these impact areas and suggest a lower level of finish to other spaces within the fitout.


PRO TIP: Areas that can get out of hand would include spending on furniture such as high-end chairs and workstations plus all the workstation accessories. Audiovisual can also get out of hand quickly along with light fittings. 




  • ƒ Give your designer the budget.

  • If you’re inexperienced with construction, allow for a 10 per cent contingency.

  • ƒTell your designer where you want impact and where it’s not so important – they will tailor the design impact to suit and make sure it’s all within budget.