News - Northern Ireland

For those in the world of commercial property ‘Grade A’ is a term that you’ll hear most days and if the office or investment sector is of interest to you it’ll be the benchmark against which you compare the majority of assets.

While there is no industry standard definition for Grade A it refers to ‘best in class’ office accommodation either new or recently refurbished with raised floor access, air conditioning  and in general accommodation that meets and exceeds the requirements of demanding modern occupiers.

As with many subjective terms Grade A in one place isn’t always the same as Grade A in another, and hence the expectations of London’s Grade A offices may be significantly different to Belfast’s in terms of the standards expected in these locations.

For decades two key drivers, above all other elements, have topped the list of occupier demand when selecting their Grade A office; cost and location took precedence over and above all else and more often than not made or broke deals.

That is until now. As the economy changes and with the proliferation of smart technologies it’s no longer just location and cost at the very top of the occupier’s list. Enter digital connectivity, the new kid on the block, a factor driven so strongly by the rapidity of recent technological change that it is now to be rapidly catching up Location and Cost on occupiers requirement lists

Today, for almost every company looking for Grade A space, is being in the right place, at the right price enough? If the digital connectivity of the space doesn’t meet, support and exceed a firm’s technological infrastructure requirements it’s a significant barrier to the decision making process.

And digital connectivity isn’t the only factor that’s moved up occupiers list of requirements. Over the past ten years one of the biggest workplace changes has been the transition towards a gig economy, where temporary jobs are commonplace, and companies are moving from full-time employees toward independent contractors and freelancers. As a result layout is becoming a more and more vital aspect of a company’s decision making when choosing their future home.

Cubicles and private offices have become ‘so last decade’ and technological change and economic pressures are resulting in what has been coined the ‘agile workplace’. Companies are now having to provide inventive environmental solutions to offer flexible working space for permanent staff and also meet the requirements of project workers. This is fuelling a desire for occupiers to have open plan and collaborative areas that just a few years ago would have been considered the domain of the design studio or tech start-up.

So… what is Grade A office space?

Well, right now it’s harder to define than ever and likely to become more so as occupier demands continue to become more diverse. One thing that can be said for sure is that occupier decisions won’t just be based location and cost anymore, there’s an awful lot more to it than that. 

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