Difference Between Office Fitout vs Office Refurbishment

Office fitout and office refurbishment

As office leasing activity picks up and we welcome a ‘COVID normal’, landlords looking to attract and retain quality tenants are turning to fitouts and refurbishment.

With businesses moving to a hybrid model of working, tenants and their employees now expect the office commute to be worth making a trip. Health and wellbeing amenities, social spaces that encourage teamwork and collaboration, smart technology, end of trip facilities, clean air and high hygiene standards are among some of the expectations today.

A fit for purpose office space is key to remaining competitive especially in a soft leasing market. For landlords looking to update their offices, should you get a fitout or refurbishment? What’s the difference anyway?

You’ll often see the terms ‘office fitout’ and ‘office refurbishment’ used interchangeably. Although they both involve changing the interior, the services and purposes they serve are quite different. To help you know when you need what, here’s a breakdown of the differences and what type of office fitout or office refurbishment is desirable in today’s commercial property market.



Commercial Office Fitout - Collective Capital

Essentially, an office fitout is the process of making an interior space fit for purpose and suitable for occupant activities. It aligns the needs of the occupier to the functionality of the space. This can involve ensuring sufficient airflow, lighting, heating, cooling and amenities that enable a safe and comfortable work environment.

Fitouts prepare what is a blank, empty building structure into what will eventually be a fully functioning office. Things like stairways, lifts, carparks and end of trip facilities can also be included as part of the fitout.


Different types of office fitout

Fitouts can be further broken down into three categories:

  1. Cold Shell
  2. Warm Shell
  3. Tenant Installed Fitout


  1. Cold Shell

A cold shell is the most fundamental of office fitouts. It is typically a base concrete structure with a floor, walls and a roof but generally lacks any internal walls or partitions, fixtures or finishes. The space is an empty box, ready to be fitted according to tenant requirements and often seen in new buildings.

Generally, cold shells do not have heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) installed hence why the space is termed ‘cold’.


  1. Warm Shell

A warm shell involves fitting out the space as ready as possible without interior design or furniture considerations. Electrical and mechanical works, fire protection systems, toilets and plumbing are common elements during this type of office fitout. The space will basically have everything needed for the tenant to do a final fitout to suit their needs.

The term ‘warm’ refers to the space having an HVAC system installed and can be heated and/or cooled .


  1. Tenant Installed Fitout

Lastly, a tenant installed fitout is where the final touches are added to the workspace to get it ready for a tenant to move straight in. This type of office fitout is where you can get creative with the design and really add character to the space.

Furniture, appliances, plants, paintwork, technology and room layout can be tailored to reflect a tenant’s taste, style and brand.


When to get an office fitout?

Office fitouts are best suited for brand new buildings or when a tenant relocates to a new space.

In a soft market with high vacancy, landlords are using fitouts as a differentiator to entice tenants to return to the office space after months of remote working. Savvy landlords are also investing in amenities like green space, cafes, dry-cleaning, modern end of trip facilities and their lobbies and foyers as part of fitout works to attract commercial tenants and bring people back into the office.

By offering quality amenities and building a positive user experience as soon as they enter the building, landlords can create an appealing environment that will get people wanting to get in the car and travel to work.





An office refurbishment is where renovations are done to an existing space that has already been fitted out in the past.

While the initial office fitout might have been appropriate at the time, business requirements are constantly evolving. Tenants may find the need to update their workspace to accommodate growth or changes to the business.

This is where an office refurbishment can come in. A fresh coat of paint and new furniture and finishes can bring new life to a space. The workplace design and functionality can also be updated to enable new technology or encourage different models of working.


Why opt for an office refurbishment?

According to JLL research, even highly desirable office buildings in Australia are expecting a 4 – 7% decrease in value, with up to 20% decline for older buildings.

Older buildings are competing against newer buildings with modern foyers, lobbies, infrastructure and end of trip facilities – amenities that are becoming standard requirements for commercial tenants. Cleanliness, safety and presentation are also top considerations for businesses right now which newer buildings are perceived to offer.

Amenities that promote health and wellbeing are also in high demand amongst tenants. The positive benefits of nature, fresh air, plants and sunshine on productivity and stress levels is well documented. Adding rooftop lounges, terraces, green spaces or even just renovating the office space to introduce more natural light and plants can give building owners a little more competitive edge.

Furthermore, employers are now looking to reduce their office space in favour of – more ‘we’ and less ‘me’ –  workspaces where employees can connect and collaborate in a more informal and relaxed setting.

Undertaking an office refurbishment is a great way to modernise these older, outdated buildings so it reflects the changes to workplace needs and remains competitive and relevant to the market.



Commercial Office Fitout

A good office fitout or refurbishment is determined by the employee experience. Key to attracting and securing a tenant is refurbishing or building a fitout with the employee experience in mind.


The importance of office design and layout

Office design and layout speaks volumes about a brand and has a direct impact on employee productivity and business performance. With current trends towards hybrid working, tenants now want fewer workstations and more collaborative spaces that enhance innovation and connection. Take advantage of Agero’s award-winning, architect-led design team for a stunning office fitout or refurbishment that tenants are after.


Why you need a sustainable office space

Many businesses are taking steps towards net zero, making sustainability a strategic priority for occupiers. Going green with your office fitout or office refurbishment might just push larger blue chip tenants – who have environmental and sustainability targets to meet – to sign the lease.

Our sister business, Sustainable Stripout can help landlords and tenants reduce waste during the fitout and refurbishment process while supporting and building circular economies. Credits gained from resource recovery activities can also contribute towards a Green Star – Interiors Rating.

Any profits from the resource recovery activities are also donated to charity enabling landlords to do good for the community, avoid landfills and take pride in their environmental credentials.


Workplace strategy for a successful office space

Workplace strategy is about aligning business objectives to employee needs and then providing a workplace where they’ll perform their best.

COVID-19 has dramatically changed the way we work, with workplace design and fitouts now factoring in wellbeing. Employers need to understand what employees want in order for their office fitout or office refurbishment to enhance employee experience and attract top talent.

An effective workplace strategy considers how space is used, the different environments for employees to do work e.g. workstations, meeting rooms, quiet rooms, breakout spaces etc. as well as the impacts of the office layout on employee work.

Agero runs workplace strategy workshops to help businesses identify any gaps between employee experience and business objectives. This better determines whether an office fitout or office refurbishment is more suitable.




Office Fitout or Office Refurbishment

In summary, an office fitout transforms a concrete shell into a functional, usable space with an interior design tailored for the occupier and their needs. An office refurbishment takes place after a fitout, where an existing space is outdated or no longer fits the requirements of the occupier and needs to be reimagined and redesigned.

To determine what would be better for your needs, think about what issues the current space may have and what you’d like to gain from upgrading to a new workspace. If you’re uncertain whether a fitout or refurbishment is better for your building, Agero can point you in the right direction.




Whether you are renovating an office or after a complete fitout, engage a team of experts like Agero to modernise your space, fast-track your project and design an attractive workplace that will get your space leased quicker.

We’re passionate about building innovative and bespoke office environments – just take a look at the award-winning, hip team hub spaces of Whispir. For more inspiration, explore more projects here.

Speak to Agero for office fitout and refurbishment solutions in demand, today.

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