A guide to office fit out & office design terminology

Welcome to our comprehensive Office Design and Fit-Out Glossary, an essential resource for navigating the often complex terminology used in the industry. Whether you’re planning a new office space, refurbishing an existing one, or simply want to understand the language of office design and fit-out, this glossary covers key terms and concepts. From understanding different fit-out categories to grasping technical jargon, our glossary is designed to help you make informed decisions and communicate effectively with designers, architects, and contractors.



Agile Working involves specific working models such as activity-based working, where there are no assigned ‘seats.’ Team members move throughout the space during the day according to their spatial needs, such as collaborative ‘pods,’ standard desks, meetings, workshops, etc.


Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a process for creating and managing information on a construction project throughout its whole life cycle. As part of this process, a coordinated digital description of every aspect of the built asset is developed using a set of appropriate technologies. This digital description likely includes a combination of information-rich 3D models and associated structured data such as product, execution, and handover information.


Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) is a rating system that has become the world’s primary sustainability assessment.


Cradle to Cradle (C2C) design is a holistic economic, industrial, and social framework that seeks to create systems that are not only efficient but also essentially waste-free.


Computer-Aided Drafting (CAD) refers to the use of computer systems to assist in the creation, modification, analysis, or optimisation of a design. This technology enables designers and engineers to create 2D drawings and 3D models of spaces, enhancing the precision and efficiency of the design process before actual construction begins.


A Category A (CAT A) fit out results in a space that has mechanical engineering plumbing (waste out and water in). For more on this topic, see our detailed guide to CAT A vs. CAT B and other types of office space.


A Category A+ (CAT A+) is a generic fit out undertaken by the landlord, which includes facilities such as teapoints and toilets as well as some meeting rooms. These types of office spaces are often sufficient for small or startup companies or organisations that need flexibility and short-term commitment to a space, thus avoiding the cost of design and fit out. They generally will lack personalisation, but there are ways this can be added.


A Category B (CAT B) fit out is a designed space tailor-made to suit the occupant, from custom features to branded finishes – down to the plants and accessories.


Continuing Professional Development (CPD) consists of attending talks and seminars from suppliers and staying up to date with new product developments in the design and building industry.


Construction Specification Institute (CSI), founded in 1948, is a national association that focuses on the standards and protocols for the construction of buildings.


Delivery and Install (D&I) involves the delivery and installation of furniture, fixtures, and equipment.


Acoustic test results are expressed as decibels (dB) of sound reduction, indicating how much the product reduces the transmission of sound between rooms. The higher the dB rating, the more sound reduction the partition will perform.


Disability Discrimination Act Compliant (DDA Compliant). The DDA is a law that protects anyone with a disability. The DDA defines disability as “a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.”


Decarbonising energy involves replacing the fossil fuel energy sources currently being used (such as coal, oil/petroleum, and natural gas) with energy sources that emit far less carbon dioxide (such as wind, solar, and nuclear energy).


Drawing (DWG) – File name for drawings in CAD


Environmental Product Declaration (EDP) is a standardised way of communicating information about the environmental impact of a product.


Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is a government document that outlines the impact of a proposed project on its surrounding environment.


Embodied carbon refers to the carbon footprint of a building or infrastructure project before it becomes operational. It also includes the CO₂ produced in maintaining the building and eventually demolishing it, transporting the waste, and recycling it.


Furniture Fixtures and Equipment (FFE) encompass everything that goes into the design of the space to make it both functional and stylish. This can include furnishings, artwork, window treatments, furniture, accessories, rugs, mats, white goods, plants, and planters.


Flexible Working involves adapting the traditional 9-5 schedule to accommodate a better work/life balance. This could involve compressed hours, irregular hours, or part-time work.


Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) promotes environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world’s forests.


If your space has been recently fitted out or built, a set of floor plans should be in existence. Floor plans are the key to being able to plan space, more formally referred to as a GA or ‘General arrangement’ of space.


The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It prevents work-related death, injury, and ill health. HSE is an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department for Work and Pensions.


A philosophy of thinking that places the user/people experience at the centre of the solution.


Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC)


Hybrid Working is the combination of remote/home and office-based work.


Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) refers to indoor conditions in a building related to the health of those who occupy it. IEQ includes factors such as lighting, air quality, and damp conditions.


Joints Tribunal Contract (JCT) produces standard forms of contract for construction, guidance notes, and other standard documentation for use in the construction industry in the United Kingdom.


Light Reflectance Value (LRV) in architecture measures visible and usable light that is reflected from a surface when illuminated by a light source.


Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing (MEP)


Introduces several measures to combat slavery and human trafficking. In addition to creating new criminal offences, powers of enforcement, and measures to protect victims, it introduces requirements intended to eliminate slavery and trafficking in global supply chains.


The NABERS (National Australian Built Environment Rating System) scheme is a performance-based rating system that measures the energy efficiency, water usage, indoor environment quality, and overall environmental impact of buildings. In the context of building construction, NABERS provides a star rating from one to six, helping building owners and managers understand their building’s environmental performance and identify areas for improvement. Originally developed in Australia, NABERS has been adapted for the UK market, known as NABERS UK, and includes programs for both existing and new buildings. This scheme is integral for promoting sustainability in the construction industry and ensuring buildings operate efficiently and sustainably over their lifecycle


A viewpoint that brain differences are normal rather than deficits. Neurodivergent people experience, interact with, and interpret the world in unique ways. This concept can help reduce stigma around learning and thinking differences.


A business design playbook contains all the pieces and parts that make up your company’s go-to approach for getting things done, such as process workflows, standard operating procedures, and cultural values. They can also incorporate design direction such as colour palette and materials sustainability approach relating specifically to office design.


Raised Access Flooring (RAF)


Reflected Ceiling Plan (RCP)


The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is a professional body for architects primarily in the United Kingdom but also internationally. It was founded for the advancement of architecture under its Royal Charter granted in 1837, three supplemental charters, and a new charter granted in 1971.


Refers to the 7 stages and processes by which all architects and most design companies follow (in some form). Also referred to as design phases. Each stage or phase should be complete, approved, and signed off before moving onto the next stage.


A method of environmental assessment for fit-out projects in the UK. The scheme was introduced by The RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) as an alternative to the existing industry models for environmental certification, which evaluate entire buildings instead of focusing on fit-out projects.


Building Standard System of certification that is run by IWBI (The International WELL Building Institute). They are the world’s first building certification body that is devoted to assessing the impact of buildings upon human health and wellbeing.