10 Things We All Love and Hate About Commercial Renovation

The contract is signed and the tradies are rolling up for another day of work. Commercial renovation, whether for an office, warehouse, or a shop, is exciting but has its share of ups and downs.


  • The waiting game

It’s one thing to plan, design, and get excited about how the finished product is going to look. But there is a period of several months for the whole structure to get built, first! This isn’t fun when patience isn’t your greatest virtue.


  • Problems

They are inevitable. Not everything goes according to plan. Something in the existing structure could halt progress on a commercial renovation, as well as complaints from the council and nearby businesses. And this brings us to the next point…


  • Cranky neighbours

As a professional commercial building crew, we follow the rules and other codes of conduct. Everything is up to standard, including the time we stop working because of noise restrictions. People who don’t work in the construction industry suddenly become experts when they make a complaint about one thing or another. The best we can do is cop it on the chin and keep following the rules like we always do.


  • Money

Nobody likes talking about it. Money and the issues around it make awkward conversations. Some clients don’t know they need 20 – 30% extra on their budget in case the builder runs into something that will extend the project by a week.


  • Spoken down to

Tradies know how to do their job. Some customers who put in their two cents might think they’re helping, but sometimes it comes off as talking down to the carpenter, plumber, or electrician. If there are issues, speak with the builder or the foreman.

After all that bad stuff, though, there are some good parts about a commercial renovation project to look forward to.


  • New space

At the end of it, your business and your team will move into amazing new digs. That’s always a plus!


  • Underpromise

As the saying goes, underpromise and overdeliver. It’s professional courtesy, plus our obligation to the customer, to deliver the space you asked for.


  • Thank yous

This is a small gesture that’s actually quite underrated. Trades, foremen, and the builder in charge all appreciate this.


  • Treats

You know what we also appreciate? A barbecue or a goodie basket. It’s another way clients say thanks for all the hard work on the commercial renovation. Plus it’s a great morale booster.




  • A job well done

A beautiful end result is always a good thing.


Need more information? Read these:

Make your specialty commercial fitout different from the rest

Keeping costs down on a commercial renovation

5 Horrible Mistakes You Could Make With Your Office Fitout

Mistakes happen, they just do. Commercial construction projects and your office fitout aren’t immune. To avoid some headaches, we listed five of the common hiccups we come across so that you don’t have to deal with them either.


Cheaper = Saving

Don’t feel like you’re saving money by purchasing the cheaper fittings. You’ll spend more on upkeep than you would like.

Quality appliances, fittings, furniture, and even internet connections do cost a pretty penny. But they will function better and last longer. You can buy high-grade items at a reduced price from resellers, just make sure you do your homework.


No emergency fund

You think you budgeted and allocated every last dollar? Feel confident that you don’t need an emergency fund? Then you’re in for a rude wake-up call.

Commercial builders always do their best to make sure the project is running on time. But occasionally they hit a speedbump. You need a backup fund, usually accepted as 20% of your total build quote, to cover costs on the extra days worked.


Not flexible

That said, some clients are less than understanding when problems come along. Builders can always finish an office fitout but it’s better when less stress is swirling around.

Being flexible with the timeline is difficult because as a client, you’re hoping for the project to be finished on the due date. This does happen, but occasionally you need to let go of control and let the team build as best they can. Rest assured, the project manager will keep you updated.


Not friendly

To have a stress-free build, it’s preferable the team and the client get along with each other. Compassion, understanding, and respect from both sides equals a harmonious project. If problems do arise and the relationship is rocky, the head builder won’t look forward to calling the client, it’s an unpleasant situation in the first place.


No questions asked

With an office fitout, it’s absolutely important to ask questions. Don’t worry about appearing ‘too picky’ or wanting all the answers straight away. It’s our job to answer them and create a workspace that you love. Some good questions to ask include;

  • What are the inclusions?
  • Can I see your portfolio?
  • Are variations and associated costs covered in the contract?
  • How long is the building maintenance period?


We love to read. Do you?

Why you should get an office renovation quote

Use coworking spaces as inspiration for your office renovation

Amazing commercial fitouts from around the world

Commercial fitouts done by large companies have gotten better over the years thanks to public opinion being heard and innovative design being employed. The big bosses in the boardroom are paying attention to design now more than ever in order to wow customers and keep employees engaged. They certainly don’t scrimp, as you can see in the examples below.


Starbucks: Kyoto, Japan

This is Starbucks but not as you’re used to it. To take it to a  new level for a commercial fitout, the company has drawn inspiration from Japan’s michi-ya (teahouse) culture. This has resulted in a slightly hidden away outlet that blends in with the rest of the storefronts on Ninenzaka shopping street. Upon entering, you can order your latte or frappucino and claim a spot on the raised tatami floor, if there’s room.

commercial fitout starbucks

Starbucks done differently

Airbnb: Sydney, Australia

Airbnb leases homes and rooms from amazing locations all around the world. Their Sydney office takes workers around the world from Scandinavia to America, Asia, and good old Coogee beach. The beauty of it is that the design team took inspiration and elements from listings in those locations.


One boardroom is designed after a rural Australian cabin, complete with a spoon collection. Another is painted in bright colours like a listing from Havana. There’s no doubt the designers at the company will have more ‘inspirational material’ to pick from as Airbnb’s culture thrives.


Dior: various boutiques

The French couture house is the epitome of excess. On the other hand, its boutiques have been designed with restraint (in most locations anyway).

With each commercial fitout, the colour palette is universal; grey with white trimming. Retaining a neutral colour scheme has allowed the clothes and other products of the house to do the talking. The furniture follows this as well. Some sitting areas have modern, linear couches and others contain French-style chairs and console tables.


Tsutaya: Tokyo, Japan

This book chain’s recent commercial fitout combines two great loves: books and coffee. Tsutaya takes up half of the real estate on the sixth floor of department store Ginza Six, sharing part of its space with Starbucks. Customers can sit in the cafe or the large seating area in the middle of the store with a brew and a book.

commercial construction

Commercial construction, branding and image: tying it all together

Building your business when commercial construction is complete is tough unless you’re a franchise. If you’re an independent business owner striking it out on your own, getting a brick-and-mortar shop is half the job done. The other half is making it customer and employee-friendly.


Think about how to tie everything together. This includes:

  • Your brand
  • Your image
  • Customer experience
  • Employee welfare


You also want to set yourself apart from your competitors. This is easy to do, right from the planning stage. Ask yourself ‘what can I do better?’ You can do things for both customers and employees if you include these in the commercial construction design.


Your brand and image

What sort of image do you want your office to project? High end corporate? Or would you rather the youthful vibe of a startup? When you’re part of a franchise, this is easy to take care of because you must follow a set design. Working as an independent operator, though, you have a lot more freedom.

During the design stage of the commercial construction process, collaborate closely with the interior designer and play around with ideas. You can collaborate with local artists for murals. Have exposed brick walls instead of traditional plasterboard. Buy furniture in block colours and use the cushions to play with patterns and textures.


Employee welfare

These guys spend their entire day at the office, so it’s important to keep them in mind at all stages of the commercial construction. Create spaces that fit  your company values and ethos.

You can have common rooms or collaborative areas where employees can ‘hang out’, or have a hot desk system so people can sit wherever they like every day. You mightn’t be able to provide tennis courts and swimming pools like the Google offices, but it’s okay to start small. A fun addition for both employees and customers is an outdoor entertainment area, like a patio or rooftop bar.

Customer experience

Like employees, you don’t want your customers to feel confined. Open reception areas that allow customers to look into the working area lends a sense of intimacy. They can look at the ‘worker bees’ doing their thing and see the faces behind the brand.

Your offices doubles as a meeting space for clients. Floor-to-ceiling windows facing a garden area will lend a relaxing atmosphere. After the commercial construction is complete, look at extra amenities that can boost your image with them. It can be something as simple as luxury soap like Aesop, or even a coffee machine for each conference room.

office renovation

6 hacks to save on operating costs BEFORE your office renovation finishes

If you think your business is leaking money, an office renovation gives you the time and opportunity to ‘plug’ them once and for all. Energy and water saving measures, combined with a little ‘self-improvement’, can save money and provide peace of mind by the time you move back in.

  • Choose LED

LED lights have more staying power and energy-saving benefits compared to bulbs used in older buildings. Plus they’re less harsh on the eyes and won’t give workers a headache.

LED bulbs have a higher price point and will add to the expenses of your renovation. The benefit lies in the amount of money you’ll save on bills. Also, they only emit 10 watts of electricity compared to the 60 watts of an incandescent bulb. That’s less heat impacting the environment.

  • Waterproof with WELS

Speak with the builder about using WELS approved fixtures in the plumbing. These choices guarantee a decrease the amount of water used every time someone turns on the tap or flushes the toilet.

According to the Australian government website, WELS fixtures use two-to-three times less water than regular taps and whitegoods. The higher the star rating, the better the saving.

  • Furniture

Good office furniture lasts for years. Office renovation is an excuse to shop around for new stuff, but not at the cost of blowing out your budget. Rather than get all-new chairs and lounge suites, get them reupholstered. It’s not as easy as just taking delivery of new stuff, , but it’ll save a few thousand dollars. Plus, if it’s not broken, don’t dump it!

  • Machines

Your monitors are just as guilty of using too much electricity as anything else in the office, and are  often overlooked because people focus on the lights.

You can kill two birds with one stone. If possible, have staff use laptops instead of having desktops at every workstation. You can then hire monitors for the desks that staff can access at any time. These are usually LED monitors that have the added bonus of consuming less power during sleep mode.

  • Cut costs

An office renovation gives your business a clean slate, and the improvements don’t stop with changing the fixtures or the furniture. Use the downtime from the renovation to look at your books to see what’s being spent where, and if there’s need for improvements in general.

During the design stage of your office renovation, consider making some rooms dual-purpose and having a more ‘open plan’ office space. You’ll cut operating costs and employees won’t feel so confined.

  • Not just window dressing

Curtains and tinting aren’t just for show. When the sun heats up the room, the auto-cycle on the air-condition works overtime to cool down the space. Curtains, louvres, and other types of window dressing are pretty but they’ll also save you a bit on electricity.

commercial construction lease

Attracting tenants when commercial construction is complete

Ordering a commercial construction is a part of your business as a building owner/landlord. Your next step is to find tenants to occupy the spaces. We’ve worked with several commercial businesses and business owners in our time, and have a few tips for you.


  • Scope out the neighbourhood

Before commercial construction can even begin, you’ll look at the surrounding real estate and scope out the competition. Do you see any similarities or gaps that your building can fill? How can you make your space stand out, or attract a similar business to others in the area? If your project is being done in a high-income or high-traffic area with little available real estate the odds are in your favour.


  • Think like a tenant

Think about your target market or have a casual conversation with businesses in the existing commercial properties. Are they happy with where they are? Some shop owners want to expand or set up another location nearby. Ask them about their landlord as well and make notes about what you can do (or do better).

Think about amenities as well. Parking space for staff and clients, amount of floor space (metres squared), and location are among the top of a tenant’s wishlist.


  • Get a property manager

These guys are the experts in putting office space up for lease after the commercial construction is completed. Their office is also the public face of your building when putting up ‘for lease’ or ‘for rent’ signs.

Property managers don’t have the same emotional attachment to the building or the tenants as  landlords do. This is how they easily deal with problems like setting the rent or evicting tenants. When your commercial construction is done, the property manager will organise advertising, interview tenants, and deal with them after they move in.


  • Make the space showroom ready

Your commercial space is on the market, and it’s time to dress it up. Or at least make sure it’s clean. The trades who took care of the commercial construction will clean up after themselves, but getting a professional cleaner is worth the expense. Depending on the type of building you’re leasing, you can furnish it for show. Or you can just leave it empty and let the visitors use their imagination.


  • Can you offer incentives?

The commercial property market is experiencing a ‘glut’, and on top of that other commercial building owners are offering pretty attractive deals. Phrases like ‘free rent for a set period’ or ‘furnishings included’ are thrown around on advertisements.


If this doesn’t suit you, highlight the amenities and benefits that tenants will experience. Highlight the coffee shops and post offices nearby that businesses will use everyday. What cost-saving measures did you put in during the commercial construction?


Liked this article? You’ll love these:

  1. The beginner’s guide to commerical construction
  2. Speciality commercial construction
  3. Getting your commercial project off the ground
commercial construction

Speciality commercial construction for Cairns, Longreach and more

Rod Johnstone Group’s speciality commercial construction services North Queensland locations like Cairns, Mackay, and Longreach. But what does ‘speciality’ include, exactly?

It means we have the experience to handle certain types of projects, and handle them well. Rod and the team get referrals for commercial construction projects like medical centres, dentists, and veterinarians. We might’ve had a hand in building a bakery and gym, as well.

With any commercial construction assignment that comes our way, we sit with the client to better understand what they need. We then contact the relevant contractors that specialise in the client’s niche, whether they’re a dentist or a vet. Next is the on-site visit, followed by the design process and the final quote. Once the client agrees to the terms and signs the contract, we waste no time in getting to work.

We appreciate that our clients are mindful about details, and that’s why we encourage them to have a say during the whole process. Client input is valuable because it means we know we’re going to deliver results they’ll be happy with. No two health care centres, vet clinics, or dentists are the same, after all.

Special care is put in to make sure that building codes are up to scratch, as well as hygiene standards. Clients have access to our extensive network that includes site inspectors specialising in medical offices, interior designers who create blueprints just for vets, and more.

For all our specialised commercial construction projects, we manage the build from beginning to end. We act as site inspectors, submit plans and tenders for approval, and handle the budgets. Fixed priced contracts means no extra costs, unless the client changes their mind or something unforeseen happens.

So why is the Rod Johnstone Group right for your speciality project? Well:

  • We’re a member of the Master Builders Association.
  • We’ve won Housing and Construction Awards for regional and State categories; four years in a row.
  • Like all master builders, our projects (and therefore your investment) are protected by insurance.
  • And if you’ve seen our portfolio, you know we’ve handled builds like yours plenty of times before.
commercial construction

The beginner’s guide to commercial construction in Mt Isa

Rod Johnstone Group helps business owners at every  stage of their career get access to top notch commercial construction in Mt Isa. Not everyone knows things about construction like us, and we don’t expect them to. Whether you’ve worked in property development for a while or are a total newbie to the scene building your first brick-and-mortar presence, we made a basic beginners guide for you.

Location location location

Whether you’re ordering commercial  construction in Mt Isa, Longreach, or Cairns, Rod Johnstone’s offices are there to back you up. After initial meetings, we’ll meet you on the site where you plan to develop your business.

In commercial construction, it’s vital to check if a site is viable to build on. Our contractors conduct topsoil analysis, measurements, and more. This ensures an accurate timeline for the project and price on the final quote.

Meeting official requirements

You’ll find more builders in offices doing vital work than onsite doing manual labour. They have the experience and the contacts to make sure your development gets off the ground. Before any commercial construction in Mt Isa can begin, the project needs to meet zoning requirements and plans have to be submitted for council approval. This is non-negotiable. You won’t have to worry about doing this, though. The head builder of your project handles everything and will keep you informed.

Going over plans

And there’s A LOT of them. Commercial construction in Mt Isa isn’t a short process; the whole pre-construction duties take a few months. This includes the builder, architect, and engineers drawing and generating plans for your build. These are structural, mechanical, and electrical. The architect will create a blueprint of how you want your building to look when it’s finished and the more technical details are worked around it.

These are only some of the details behind what goes on during commercial construction in Mt Isa. There’s more to come because there’s so much to cover, but Rod and everyone at Rod Johnstone group will answer any questions. They’re the experts, after all.

commercial builder

What does a commercial builder do?

A commercial builder gets called in when there’s a shopping centre, warehouse, or other type of business project to take on. The title might look straightforward, but the job description isn’t. Commercial builders do a lot more than make office blocks.


Safe and sound

On site, commercial builders or master builders rarely pick up tools themselves. But they do make regular visits to check everything is up to standard, safety-wise. They’re required to have certification in building codes, safety obligations on a worksite, and qualifications in fault assessment.



A commercial builder might have past experience on site, but in their current role they delegate that work to others.

Commercial construction firms have subcontractors under their umbrella. This includes the usual trades like plumbers and carpenters, alongside designers and architects. Before any work is assigned, the builder will send people to the potential site for measurements and assessment. After that a quote is sent to the client with prices and potential completion dates.


Behind the scenes

A commercial builder shifts paper rather than wood frames. They submit plans/tenders for approval, manage work crews, and do what they can to make sure the project is completed on time and on budget. This means they’re also in charge of supplying the materials for the build. This includes: concrete mix, wiring, piping, wood, tools, etc. They carry out work, but not the physical type.

Commercial builders communicate regularly with the client to give them updates. When they’re on the worksite, they’ll make an inspection with the on-site project manager to make sure everything is getting done safely. They also need to check that the building is up to code and there’s no faults.

They’re also learning constantly. A master or commercial builder regularly receives updates about building legislation, laws, trends, and more about the industry. They keep their skills up to date and must renew their license every few years.


commercial renovation

Keeping costs down on a commercial renovation

Commercial renovation projects are an expensive practice. Before you’ve gotten the project off the ground, you must consider money and how much you have available. The building is already there; you just need to find a way to “refresh” it without emptying the budget.

Reuse and recycle

Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s useless or broken. Keep the employee’s desks but add a lick of paint. You might even consider restoring it. Freestanding furniture is easier to move around compared to ones that are built into the building. Therefore they’re easy to transport to and from a workshop.

If the furniture is beyond renovations themselves, companies have the option to buy in bulk to keep costs down. There’s second hand/vintage shops as well that can save lots of money without sacrificing quality.

Go green

Renovation means out with the old and in with the new and more efficient. Older buildings aren’t fitted with eco-friendly options. This means various bills, and the carbon footprint, are through the roof.

It’s important to discuss new fittings with the builder and where you want them. Contractors replace a lot of lighting and plumbing fixtures during commercial renovation projects.

Go minimalist

One of the points of a renovation is updating the space. This is used as an opportunity to get rid of items that clutter a commercial space. Discuss a minimalist approach with the builder’s designer and architect. They’ll find a way to make the space more “open” and airy. Open plan offices are getting more popular because they let in more natural light and boost productivity.


Buying new costs A LOT when it comes to tech. Photocopiers, monitors, phones and more will burn through cash quickly when bought fresh off the production line. Some businesses have solved this dilemma by renting instead.

Just because a space is getting renovated doesn’t mean money should get spent on anything and everything. Discussing the budget with the builder, restoring the furniture and going green are some ways to keep costs down.