Now in its 19th edition, the Total Office Cost Survey (TOCS) is the most definitive independent survey of its type, providing detailed information on office costs for over 50 UK locations.
Through the comparison of rents, business rates, service charges and other property costs in locations across the UK, TOCS can help organisations to benchmark their own costs against prevailing, real time levels.
The survey is formed of independent data provided by leading service providers and is based on detailed output specifications which reflect the IPD Total Occupancy Cost Code.
TOCS leaves no stone unturned, providing figures across 22 separate cost metrics ranging from business rates to landscaping to waste management.
Costs are provided for 54 locations and generated for both new and 20-year-old office buildings on a per sq ft and per employee basis.
TOCS allows office occupiers to:
View full office occupancy costs across the UK and assess how these differ by location and sector across new and 20-year-old buildings on a per sq ft and employee basis.
UK Office Market Pulse
Make informed, intelligent and accurate property decisions with office market statistics at your fingertips.
Browse our property database for office space across the UK and Ireland.
Commercial property insight
Occupier overview, regional insight and investment market review of the industrial and logistics market.
For articles about UK office occupation, click on the links below.
Many of England’s office occupiers, particularly at the larger end of the spectrum, will have been left disappointed by the new Rating Revaluation which came into effect in April 2017. The new transitional arrangements have neither shielded occupiers from significant rises in their rates bills nor provided others with a meaningful reduction.
Business rates liabilities can account for a sizeable proportion of a business’s total occupancy costs, coming second only to rental costs. Indeed, latest findings from TOCS 2017 reveal that, for a new 50,000 sq ft office building, these costs can account for anything between 10 per cent and 27 per cent of a business’s overall occupational cost depending on location.
In the lead up to the 2017 revaluation, media attention centred around the potentially painful increases in rating liabilities faced by occupiers in areas of significant rental growth. This was particularly pertinent to businesses in the fringes of central London, where rental values doubled in a few years reflecting economic renaissance and infrastructure improvements.
Less coverage in the lead-up was afforded to the many occupiers up and down the country who were quietly confident of a reduction in their rates bills. This is because, in many locations, rental levels in April 2015 had failed to recover from the previous antecedent valuation date in April 2008, the very eve of the global financial crisis and before rental values started to fall.
As it turned out, neither of the above camps actually stand to benefit very much from the new revaluation. This is because so-called ‘transitional arrangements’ (also referred to as phasing) used in England have done little to cap the full impacts of rateable value increases on the one hand, while on the other hand offer scant reduction in bills where rateable values have fallen.
In England, a transitional arrangement scheme is in place for 2017-22 which limits both year-on-year increases and decreases in rates payable compared with the previous year. There are no transitional arrangements in Wales or Scotland. As the chart illustrates, there is significant variation in how the capping is applied according to the rateable value of the property.
Taking a property assessed with a rateable value of £100,000, if the rating assessment increased from 2010 then the bill for 2017-18 can increase to a maximum of 42 per cent (plus inflation) compared to 2016-17 before the cap hits. The cap applies the following and subsequent years. In 2018-19, the business will pay no more than 32 per cent (plus inflation) more than 2017-18 and so on.
Out of kilter
The business rates figures for TOCS 2017 illustrate those locations where actual business rates costs in 2017/18 appear to be significantly ahead of the unphased level or, to put into other words, the market reality.
Of all the locations, for buildings with an rateable value over £100,000, Preston displays the largest gap in percentage terms between the actual phased rating costs and unphased, standing at nearly 40 per cent. The difference is acutely apparent in other locations in the North West, namely Liverpool and Warrington, where the difference stands at circa 25 per cent.
We can help
If you occupy a property (any type) with a rateable value above £100,000 , say for example £110,000 to £120,000, it would certainly be worth having that assessment considered by a rating consultant. If a reduction to below £100,000 could be achieved, the upwards cap would go from 42 per cent (plus inflation) to 12.5 per cent (plus inflation) and the downwards cap would increase from 4.1 per cent (less inflation) to 10 per cent (less inflation) and there would be reductions in your rates bills from 2017-18 onwards.
You should take advice on how transitional arrangements will operate for you. Calculations can be run to provide budget figures for 2017-22 on any property or any scenario. For more information, please contact Paul Easton, National Head of Business Rates, at Lambert Smith Hampton.
Serviced offices have existed as a flexible solution to office needs for decades, although rapid employment growth within smaller businesses and start-ups, and the need for a flexible lease product has driven recent demand.
This has been most evident in central London, where serviced/co-working office providers accounted for a substantial 25 per cent of office take-up in 2016 and now occupy just under 11 per cent of total built stock. That said, even larger, more established businesses are taking space, often to ensure smoother transition in wider corporate accommodation strategies.
However, with various advantages and disadvantages associated with conventional leased space and serviced office solutions, knowing the right solution can be difficult . To help inform your thinking, here we outline the main questions and answers around this issue.
Co-working space is a relatively recent phenomenon from the US, and is an evolution of the serviced office model. Space is rented on a desk-by-desk basis within a shared open-plan, creatively designed environment, allowing the exchange of ideas and collaboration between the businesses in situ.
The more traditional serviced office essentially offers occupiers their own private space within a building, along with meeting rooms and reception areas. The boundaries are blurring however, with some operators providing both co-working and traditional forms of serviced offices within the same building, a system which allows small businesses to graduate from the co-working environment into the more private option if desired. The Office Group and WeWork are the leaders in this.
Above all, flexibility and speed are the main drivers behind opting for a serviced office solution over a more conventional lease. For serviced office space solutions, contract terms typically run for a year, but can often be as little as two months and frequently negotiated. In contrast, conventional leases typically involve a minimum three year term, more typically five years, with the business liable for any dilapidations costs at lease end.
Other factors are speed; the contract can be signed within 24 hours compared to four to eight weeks for a traditional lease and as the serviced office comes complete with furniture and IT connection, companies do not have this added hassle and capital expense. Another key advantage is the ease of running the space on a day-to-day basis. Cleaning, recycling and refreshment services are typically included.
It is commonly assumed that the flexibility associated with co-working and leased offices command a considerable premium. Typically this is the case – operators have to make a profit– but it is not always as significant as expected, particularly if you’re prepared to compromise on location and specification.
While costs may be cheaper over the duration of a lease, the upfront capital expenditure required to fit-out and furnish the leased space can also be prohibitively expensive. However, this is often partially off-set by rent free incentive periods offered by the landlord, which vary depending on the level of choice and demand at the particular time.
It is the add-ons that really make money for the operator – phones, meeting rooms, printing etc.
In addition to cost savings, another key advantage associated with leased offices is the ability to influence the space to your own requirements, whether in terms of layout, furniture or design. This allows a business to communicate its brand credentials more clearly . The other factor is the ability to create workspace that suits your identity and personality including private meeting rooms, dedicated reception, your own break out and soft seating areas, as well as occupying space not by desk numbers (which is typical of serviced offices) but by creative and inspirational zones, which could increase productivity.
However, this advantage is also arguably being eroded by the increasingly sophisticated approach taken by a number of serviced office providers. While freedom to influence space continues to be constrained, operators are paying much closer attention to the space, which is designed to appeal visually as well as simply provide a functional work-setting.
Serviced office locations run parallel with conventional lease locations with the bulk of supply concentrated in London. On average 75-80 per cent of turnover is derived from London and providers are happy to occupy space on the same street but tend not to be in the same building. The centres tend also to be non-branded with each having a slightly different fit out according to the target market and micro location the centre is in.
For more information about serviced offices and conventional leases, contact David Earle in Lambert Smith Hampton’s office agency team.
From 1 April 2018, the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) set out under the Energy Efficiency Regulations 2015 will make it unlawful for landlords in England and Wales to let a building which fails to meet the minimum required EPC rating of E.
While the Regulations apply to private rented properties with EPC ratings of F and G, tenants of D and E-rated properties should also be aware of the potential benefit of commissioning updated EPCs which, from a February 2017 study by Arbnco on Non Domestic EPC Re-Simulation Analyses, has proven to result in 33 per cent of D and E-rated properties dropping to F or G, as the graph to the left shows.
While these Regulations have been widely reported, many landlords have been slow to fully understand the potential impact on their portfolios, particularly now that well-advised tenants are identifying how they can use them to their financial advantage.
Here are some questions, which might be useful for tenants to consider.
My lease is due to expire, how can I use MEES to my advantage?
Dilapidations claims on lease expiry can be substantial and tenants are rarely prepared for them. By taking professional advice on the impact of the MEES Regulations on your dilapidations liability, it may be identified that you have little or no liability at the point of lease expiry.
This is down to the fact that where it can be proven at lease expiry that a property is in breach of the Regulations and requires improvement works, the tenant could argue that these improvement works will render some or potentially all of the dilapidations claim valueless and therefore the claim is actually zero.
What about when it comes to lease renewals and reviews?
Understanding your position with regard to MEES may also significantly bolster your negotiating position over break options, renewals and rent reviews.
Similarly to the dilapidations example, if as a tenant you can demonstrate that the property is at risk of failing if reassessed below the minimum required rating then, with expert advice, you may be able to renegotiate terms with your landlord in your favour. For example, using your right to exercise a break option, you could leave your landlord with a non-compliant, unlettable building, requiring potentially very costly improvement works.
I’m in a modern air-conditioned office; the regulations won't apply to me
The MEES Regulations apply to all private rented property. Many seemingly modern buildings constructed since 2000 will not comply and therefore be rendered unlettable. Given the potential impact, tenants should not presume that their property will be unaffected.
Furthermore, the majority of current EPC ratings are widely recognised as being inaccurate. This is due to the fact that they were first required in 2008 when a property was constructed, sold or let. At that point, EPCs themselves were simply a means to an end of transacting a property and were often produced with little attention to detail.
I know that the building I am in is compliant – it's a D-rating
Through consequent revision of respective EU and UK legislation, and cyclical tightening of the building regulations requirements (upon which EPC ratings are based), ratings have regularly been seen to result in a two rating drop when EPCs are reassessed. Therefore, even if you know you are in a D-rated building, you may well find the building is re-rated F under current standards.
Surely these regulations aren't meant as a means for me to cause problems for my landlord?
The MEES Regulations are in place to bring about energy efficiency improvements to the least energy efficient private rented building stock in England and Wales. They are enacted in UK law and, whether realised through direct penalties or tenants gaining the significant strategic benefits outlined above, will:
How do I find out what my position is?
Ensuring that you understand your current position will enable tenants to protect themselves against substantial landlord claims for improvements and may open opportunities to drive their costs down.
To understand your current position, contact Lambert Smith Hampton’s MEES specialist, Ben Strange.
There's no escaping the explosion of colour and employee perks in the modern workplace, with today’s offices barely recognisable compared with those of the recent past.
Are these environmental changes a departure from the more traditional, honest expression of what work is about, a thin veil disguising the reality of work: dull, stressful and a necessary evil? Or are they a sound contributor to the performance of an organisation?
Happiness is a serious business. According to the Hay Group: What’s My Motivation? report, disengaged employees and poor health costs the UK economy around £6bn, and with only 15 per cent of UK workers reporting to be ‘highly motivated’, it is clear that organisations need to pay attention.
So how exactly do employees ensure that their workplaces provide that elusive thing called happiness? Let's focus on some particular examples.
Building design features have a positive impact on health, wellbeing and productivity. And these elements form the foundation of basic human comfort.
Consider comfort in two ways: physical comfort and psychological comfort.
The functional elements of an environment contribute to physical comfort. Access to daylight, controllable temperature, a place to sit. These are the things that that allow people to get work done, and link to productivity.
Psychological comfort is at a higher level, and contributes to increased performance. Permission to personalise space, feeling a connection to the company and colleagues, even a view of nature yields positive results.
Studies support the notion that some level of personal control over ambient physical conditions— temperature, light, noise—make workers feel more comfortable, happier, and more productive.
Environments that encourage participation produce a climate of citizenship. They get people involved with keeping spaces clear of clutter and provide opportunities to contribute to the process of creating environments.
Employees who have control over the design and layout of their workspace are not only happier and healthier – they're also up to 32 per cent more productive, according to research from the University of Exeter.
Businesses are increasingly using their workspace as a means to communicate the values and culture of the organisation. With business having to work ever harder to differentiate themselves from their competitors, even more consideration is being taken on fit-out design to give a sense of kudos to their staff and visiting clients. As working practices become more agile, the office is likely to serve increasingly as a focal point for the face-to-face interaction between staff and clients, intensifying this trend further still.
Fulfillment is also important. Displaying the history, legacy and struggle of peers and the journey of the organisation reminds people of the purpose of the business they’re a part of. Acknowledging contribution of the individual and team’s role in the organisation’s mission through physical expression can be a great motivator.
Within a multi-tenanted environment, shared amenities are important. The more familiar amenities include cafes, bike storage and shower facilities. Other types of amenity are also increasingly being provided, such as crèches and multi-faith prayer rooms, reflecting the increasing diversity and needs of today’s workforce.
Relationships are important in the workplace and can be nurtured by ensuring that space is available for social interactions and activating spaces. Bringing people together who might not work with each other on a daily basis - through common interest and downtime - creates social bonds that fulfil our need to connect with others.
Businesses are increasingly recognising that their space is a resource which can add value to their business. Happy employees work harder, are more effective and cost an organisation less than those who are disengaged or disgruntled. As Shawn Achor’s article on Positive Intelligence in the Harvard Business Review highlights, they create better bottom-line results with on average three times more creativity, 31 per cent more productivity and 37 per cent higher sales.
This article has been provided by Kursty Groves a workplace innovation consultant and an expert on the relationship between space, collaboration and creativity. To find out more, visit Kursty's website: kurstygroves.com
Dr Johnson famously said “To be tired of London, is to be tired of life”. Over 200 years on, one wonders whether all Londoners share this sentiment.
According to London First, London’s housing crisis is a serious threat to its global competitiveness. Its report warned that unless addressed, by 2040, only financial sector workers will be able to rent in inner London, choking off the supply of talent in other areas.
But this London-centric view overlooks the important role key regional cities have in helping the UK to compete globally. With London’s professionals feeling the pinch of housing costs or long, crowded commutes, does the solution to a better lifestyle lie elsewhere?
London has always commanded a significant cost premium to elsewhere in the UK. But, over the past few years, strong rental growth across central London has pushed the relative expense of the capital over other regional locations up to record levels.
At £127 per sq ft per annum, the cost of occupying a new-build development in London’s Midtown is now 78% higher than an equivalent building in the UK’s ‘big six’ cities (average of Birmingham, Leeds, Bristol, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow), rising from a more modest 55% in 2008, prior to the last recession.
The use of Midtown as the comparator also highlights how London’s expense is spreading. The relative cost parity that once existed between the core cities and London’s fringe locations has vanished. Tech City, South Bank and Clerkenwell have seen exceptional rental growth in recent years, placing resident occupiers under increasing pressure.
Significant as occupier costs are, staff costs are by a distance the largest business expense, typically accounting for over 80% of expenditure. On average across the Big Six cities, current annual staff (based on average local salaries in the upper quartile of earners), and occupier costs amount to circa £50,000 per workstation. Reflecting the increased salary costs associated with London, a Midtown workplace carries an annual cost of nearly £85,000.
Placing the above into context, for both staff and occupier costs combined, the overall annual cost of a new-build 50,000 sq ft office building within the Big Six amounts to £27m. Over five years, this amounts to an effective £68m ‘saving’ compared with London’s Midtown.
Together with other strategies aimed at improving work-life balance, such as flexible working, relocation may offer existing staff a better lifestyle while securing local talent.
London’s horrific housing costs
While London-based office workers command markedly higher salaries, for most, this is offset by housing costs. The average cost of a house in London’s inner boroughs is almost ten times the average combined salary of a cohabiting couple.
Alongside affordability difficulties is time. The average couple saves for eight years for a London deposit, at least three times as long as other UK regions. This has implications for young families, who often settle for relatively cramped conditions to remain in the capital.
Cheap house, long commute
In search of value, the only viable option is to move into the further reaches of the capital’s transport catchment. A recent TUC study showed that those in the South East with a daily commute over two hours has more than doubled over the past decade. For many, commuting is unwanted. Rather than settling for long commutes, relocation to a core city makes living centrally more affordable.
Relocation is a big step
The compelling case for relocation indicates that we may be on the cusp of a wave of inward investment into core regional cities. However, the extent of inward investment moves – from either London or overseas – has actually been relatively modest over the past year. Clearly, there is more to setting up in the UK’s core cities than operating costs. Here are the main obstacles businesses have to contend with.
|Company||Market||Building||Size (sq ft)|
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
One New Bailey
Ford Credit Manchester
No.1, Capital Quarter
2 Arena Central
XYZ Building 90,000
While employees may welcome the lifestyle afforded by moving, many may be tied by family commitments. A gradual approach to relocation might help, initially through setting up a smaller satellite operation, then expanding, allowing staff time to plan.
London is unrivalled for the depth and breadth of its skills base. Consequently, in particular specialist areas, there may be a limited supply of employees. However, core city economies are becoming increasingly sophisticated with, for example, growing concentrations of Technology and Media businesses in Manchester, Bristol and Leeds.
For some London-based businesses in niche sectors, operating elsewhere is inconceivable. Complex social networks cannot be readily transplanted.
Above all, ensuring talent is in situ will be fundamental to relocation decisions. Most UK core cities already boast renowned universities, but the challenge is stemming the ‘braindrain’ into London. Ironically, as the cost barriers of London become more widely understood by ambitious young professionals, businesses may increasingly come to them.
Occupiers seeking to move out of their premises may soon find themselves footing the bill to improve its Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating. If it is currently rated D, E, F or G, you should seek professional advice to understand whether you have a defence against your landlord’s entire dilapidations claim.
From 1st April 2018, the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) Regulations will make it unlawful for any landlord to let a building which fails to meet the minimum required ‘E’ energy rating. This applies to the granting of both new leases and lease renewals. From April 2023, the applications of the regulations will broaden to make all active leases unlawful for ‘sub-standard’ properties.
It is important that tenants are aware of their premises’ EPC rating and the terms of their current lease. This is because landlords may be able to pass the cost of bringing their buildings up to standard onto the tenant through dilapidations claims. Depending on the lease terms, the result upon your dilapidations liability may be drastic; either significantly increased, or possibly reduced to zero.
According to figures from the Green Construction Board, 23% of UK office buildings currently have an EPC rating of either F or G, and would therefore fail to meet minimum prescribed standards once the new regulations come into effect without some sort of remediation to the property.
However, properties currently rated D or E are also at risk. EPCs hold a validity of 10 years. This means that the EPCs carried out in 2007/2008 – when the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive came into force – will shortly require updating.
Early EPCs were notoriously inaccurate and based upon several assumptions, whereas the current assessments are far more rigorous. In addition, there have been two revisions of Part L of the Building Regulations since 2007. The combination of these two aspects has seen several EPC ratings drop two levels since their original assessments; i.e.
Taking this into account, 72% of UK office buildings are considered at risk of being unletable when the regulations come into force. So, while your premises’ EPC may state that you are sitting in a D rated building, you may shortly see that reassessed to a lower rating. The current rating of your building can be found on the EPC register - www.epcregister.com
As an occupier, you are likely to have agreed a lease on your property which requires you to provide the property back to your landlord fully repaired, redecorated, with alterations stripped out and with all statutory testing and certification provided, in addition to paying your landlord’s associated professional fees incurred.
If your premises are currently rated D, E, F or G, you should consider taking professional advice to understand whether you may have a defence against your landlord’s dilapidations claim (whether current or anticipated), to state that they have no claim because the property they are asking you to repair, redecorate or reinstate will shortly become unletable unless steps are taken to to improve its EPC rating.
Alternatively, if your lease is carefully worded in your Landlord’s favour, you may find that you are liable for not only the standard dilapidations works, but also upgrade works (for instance, to the lighting or the air-conditioning systems) to bring the property up to a ‘letable’ grade.
When sub-letting, you need to be sure that your lease wording with the sub-tenant suitably protects your position as headlessee. In the MEES scenario, the potential is for the superior landlord to make a full dilapidations claim from you, which you then in turn seek to pass to the sub-tenant. If the sub-tenant is well advised, they may completely negate the claim using the defence outlined above and the full liability may then rest with you under the headlease.
The assessment of risk is based on many variables, including the property in question, the accuracy of the EPC currently in place (if there is one), the terms of the lease on the property and what works you as tenant have carried out to the premises.
This is therefore a matter which needs to be assessed on a case by case basis. To have this undertaken, and understand whether this matter poses a risk or an opportunity to you, get in touch with Ben Strange, Associate Director - Building Consultancy.
The cost data has been supplied by Lambert Smith Hampton and a number of leading industry suppliers. The data in this edition represents the position as of 30 April 2017.
To get consistent and comparable costs between locations, the type of building and associated day-to-day services have been specified in detail. For full information on the building's specification, see Definition of Cost Heads below.
Key building parameters:
We have adopted the hypothetical purchasing power of a medium sized organisation which employs 500 staff, this is considered the minimum size required for procuring the TOCS bundle of services.
The survey has also assumed all expenditure items are procured separately, which in the real world is unlikely.
To identify costing, we have analysed all relevant annual and one off capital costs for the occupation of office space. This analysis has taken into account expenditure items contained within the IPD Total Occupancy Cost Code.
Actium Consult, the previous owner of TOCS, helped IPD to define this cost code, which is now established as an industry benchmark. These costs include net effective rents, rates, annualised costs such as maintenance, security and cleaning and relevant business support costs such as reception, telephones, catering and printing and reprographics.
Calculating the net effective rent from the headline rent is a necessary step in calculating the total cost of occupation in different locations around the UK.
For the purpose of this survey, the level of headline (or lease) rent of a hypothetical 50,000 sq ft NIA office building in a prime office location let to a single occupier was determined. It was assumed that this property, excluding car parking, would let within a reasonable time, approximately six months, and on a 10-year FRI lease with a review after five years.
The typical rent free period for each of the 54 centres covered was also taken into account.
Net effective rent is calculated using the current quoted prime rent for a good quality modern office building. The net effective rent reflects any rent free inducement on a straight line basis up to the end of a 10-year lease. The rent free period also includes the traditional three month allowance for fit out.
Since the intensity of use in office buildings varies it has become standard practice in the industry when looking at occupancy costs to measure not only price per sq ft but also costs per workstation. For organisations who use a 1:1 ratio for workstations (no desk sharing/hot desking) and staff, this measure also relates to cost per staff member.
Therefore a good best practice benchmark for the total workstation area is 100 sq ft (NIA). This is a reasonable assumption for an occupier moving into and refitting new space, although in practice some occupier sectors use considerably more space.
The net area of a workstation* is the area taken up by a desk, chair, pedestal and proximity storage, which comes to approximately 52 sq ft. However, any analysis of gross workstation area also needs to accommodate other spaces in the building including:
Our space calculation assumes approximately 12% cellular space and 88% open plan.
You can download the Space model for the Total Office Cost Survey
* Floor measurements referred to are based on the RICS Code of Measuring Practice, 6th edition.