If you're in the market for an office fit out or refurbishment, you've probably heard about the two ways to approach it, 'Traditional' (Trad) or 'Design and Build (D&B)'; but what is the difference between these two methods? We’ve mixed together a pretty sweet analogy to help you understand the two methodologies.

A piece of cake

Imagine you have to make a very special birthday cake for an upcoming party. To make the perfect cake, you need to consider every element - the sponge, the icing, the design, the decoration. To create this cake you have two choices. Your first option is to seek out experts in each of these specialities and have them to work together to plan the perfect cake. Once you’re happy with the plan for the cake, you need to find a bakery who can make it for you. Your second option is to find a bakery that has their own team of in-house experts who can plan how the cake will be made, and then bake it for you as well. This is in essence, the difference between Trad and D&B – bringing together your own team of specialists and a separate builder in the Trad approach, or using a team of specialists who work for the same firm that will design and build your project within the one company.

Vibrant yellow meeting room chairs

The traditional approach

With the traditional approach, you would spend the initial period recruiting the finest sponge experts, icing specialists, designers and cake decorators, individually choosing the exact people you want to work with. Your sponge expert might be selected because they have expertise in fruit cakes – rather than chocolate or vanilla sponge. The designer may be chosen as they specialise in designing birthday cakes, rather than wedding cakes. Your team help you to plan and organise every element of the cake’s design - from the thickness of the icing, to the composition of the sponge. Once you're happy with the design and proposed costs, you find a baker to bake and decorate it the specification set out by your consultants.

This is the Traditional or 'trad' model. It works well for clients who have a specific idea of which consultants (such as architects, project managers and interior designers) they want to work with on the project. A typical project team for this approach would mean hiring a project manager (PM) to oversee the project team, an architect (AR) to design, a mechanical & electrical consultant (M&E) to manage the services and a cost consultant or quantity surveyor (QS) to ensure you're getting value for money. Other specialist consultants can be used depending on the scope of your project and any special requirements (such as structural engineers and sustainability specialists). You would then use your consultants to help you decide on which contractor to select to build your project. At that point, it will be vital to find a construction team who can understand and fulfil the build to the exacting design and standards set out by your consultants.

This approach can also work well if you are looking to create multiple standardised offices across different locations. It allows you to use the same team to design and plan the workspaces, but to use contractors from the respective regions to actually build it for you if your chosen contractor does not have the capacity to fulfil every project.

Croydon Superdrug's modern open plan office
Riverbed's office coffee bar next to communal area
Alan Turing colourful breakout area fit out

Design and build – the all in one method

With the D&B approach to cake making, your first step is to find a baker with the finest in-house team of experts who can create the perfect cake. This can be a quicker process, as you are essentially recruiting one head baker to work with, rather than a team of individual bakers. When choosing your head baker, their team of designers, sponge experts and decorators comes with them, so you don’t need to manage them individually. Once you’ve selected your head baker, you’ll work with them to design the cake to the same exacting standards as the traditional cake. Once you’re completely satisfied with the design they will bake and decorate it for you exactly as you wanted. At the end, you get the same high-quality cake that looks and tastes perfect, with every detail considered.

A typical project team for this approach involves all the similar roles from the 'trad' model, such as project managers, M&E consultants, quantity surveyors and designers, however they are all employed by the design and build company. This helps to simplify the process, as you’ll only need to have one point of contact throughout the whole process – your D&B firm, instead of managing consultants and your build firm.

Since everything is managed by one central firm, certain elements are also able to overlap which can potentially deliver your project quicker, and also save some money along the way. This also affords you extra flexibility throughout the project, as everything is coordinated by your single project partner.

Regardless of the route you choose for your next office refurbishment or fit out project, both approaches will deliver incredibly workspaces, it’s simply your choice of how you want to get there. We’re sure Mary Berry wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the two cakes, as they’d both simply look good and taste delicious!