Best Office Design Services

Fit-out permits are a drain on time

Raj Khaneja

Securing approvals from authorities when fitting out a property is not as straightforward as it seems

Rules governing what can be built and how homes and offices are modified can be traced back to ancient Greece. Then, a focus on safety, particularly fire prevention, came to the fore. The Great Fire of London in 1666 led to the birth of what we now know as the Civil Defence department, and construction and building regulations were introduced for safety and general welfare as well as to protect public health. In short, they ensure safe and pleasant places for us to live and work in.

The objectives of these regulations are much the same today. Dubai has grown over the past couple of decades at an unparalleled rate, with ever more impressive structures coming up. Residences and workspaces are at the forefront of innovation, style and comfort.

A contributor to this progress has been the regulatory controls imposed through a system of approvals, inspections and certifications required for a home or workplace to be declared fit for occupancy. However, this system can also prove confusing and complicated for the uninitiated.

Dubai has one of the world’s most complex processes for securing fit-out permits. This is partly due to the various authorities in the emirate and their differing rules and procedures, be it Dubai Municipality, Tecom, Jebel Ali Free Zone, Concordia DMCC, etc. Building management regulations often differ as well.

In addition, one also has to fill out paperwork at Dubai Civil Defence as well as the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority. Put all these together and you have a collection of variables that could frustrate anybody. This is particularly prevalent in commercial fit-outs. The approvals chain for residential property is more straightforward. The process of getting approvals (permissions and permits) can take a month or so if you employ consultants who can prepare all the drawings, collate the plethora of no-objection certificates and submit them in a timely manner. It could take longer with a consultant who is inexperienced or remiss. Technical competence is equally important to avoid  rejections or revisions.

The application for a typical office fit-out would include drawings from the developer, which record power availability, air-conditioning and firefighting provisions as well as dimensions and construction details, architectural drawings of the proposed layout, electrical and mechanical drawings, and the electrical load schedule. All of these must be submitted to the building management and then to the relevant authorities for approval. Only then can one apply for a work permit and commence with the fit-out.

Each authority has its own process and areas of consideration, including staged, interim and/or final inspections. Upon completion of the works to the requirements of all the various inspections and approved standards, a certificate is issued, which would then allow the company to conduct business in Dubai.

Approvals can only be secured by a licensed practitioner, typically a consultant in interior design and buildings. This must not be confused with a technical services contractor, who is reliant on the performance of others to secure approvals. It is recommended to rope in professionals who are experienced with a proven track record, whether the fit-out is for domestic, retail, hospitality or leisure purposes.

For a 3,000-sq-ft fit-out work, a rental grace period of 90 days is secured from the landlord. Top companies in the field can secure approvals and the all-important permit to work in 30 days if all documentation is in place from the start. However, the remaining 60 days can quickly run out if there are complications, so employ a contractor who is proven to deliver high-quality work within tight deadlines, and not one who gets approvals through third parties.

Working with a contractor who provides a one-stop shop solution gives you peace of mind and an assurance that you will not exceed the grace period because of delays.

Restaurant Fit outs Contractors

Fit out basics

Raj Khaneja

When you have purchased or leased your business premises, one of the biggest decisions you will have to make is the selection of a fit-out contractor or consultant. Selecting the right person or company to help you relocate, refurbish and fit out your new space is a critical decision that can’t be rushed as it could prove to be very expensive if you get it wrong.

Appoint a professional and friendly company that commits to timelines, budgets and quality and you should have no problem. But make the wrong choice and you could end up with potential cost overruns, a disruption in business you never foresaw or a snagging list as long as your arm. Use an extensive checklist to evaluate and score the companies you are considering to have a smooth, cost-efficient and successful transition to your new business facility.

A competent fit-out consultant should have the staff and resources to take your project from initial design to completion with all the various experts in-house. Some companies subcontract the important elements of coordination and installation works. A one-stop shop is more often than not the best way to avoid complications, confusion and delays.

It’s all documented

A key area that you should look at while selecting your consultant or contractor is the capability to get approvals to start a project from government authorities such as Dubai Civil Defence, Tecom, Dubai Municipality and Dubai Electricity and Water Authority. This is vital as procedures differ from one authority to another.

A good consultant will also be happy to show you its completion certificates over the past six months as well as outline its history and background. An ISO certification will show that the firm works according to systems and procedures that deliver quality results.

Visit the firm’s offices to see its designs and approved projects and assess its project management skills. A well-established company will be happy to show you some of its works and provide references — it’s always a good idea to look at different projects the firm has handled. Dropping by will tell you a lot and put a face to the names of those looking after your project. Any professional fit-out contractor will also be happy to discuss the project’s schedule of completion.

Final steps

Your work does not stop there. Before you can entrust your project to a contractor, you will have to provide an endless list of documents to allow the necessary approvals process to commence. These include ID, passport copy, trade licence, appointment letter and no-objection certificates from the authorities (see box). A good con-sultant/contractor will provide an easy guide to take you through the process and help you face any potential obstacles as well.

When all of this is done, you can finally sit back and look forward to doing business at your new premises on the agreed date, completely stress-free.

Someone once said, there is no such thing as good luck, only good planning. And selecting the right fit-out contractor is part of that planning.


Documents to be provided by the client to the fit-out contractor

1. Copies of Emirates ID and passport

2. Contact details

3. Project name and unit number

4. Location and plot number

5. Lease agreement/ purchase agreement and title deed

6. Contractor’s appointment letter from the client

7. Valid trade licence (if the licence is

under process with relevant authorities, an undertaking letter from the client is required.)

8. Existing drawings from the building management (as-built MEP drawings)

9. Existing load schedule from the management

10. Existing electrical load calculations from Dewa

11. Dewa security deposit and receipt

12. Ejari certificate

13. Developer no-objection certificate (NOC) for Dewa, which contains main A/C number, tenant name, unit name, sub-meter number, Dewa approved load, required load and NOC number, among other details

Ensuring the right fit

Areas that need to be addressed while looking for the suitable consultant

1. Make sure your consultant is approved by Dubai Municipality, Tecom and Dubai Civil Defence.

2. Check the firm’s completion certificates from authorities over the past six months.

3. Check its financial history and background.

4. Check past projects.

5. Visit the consultant’s office or showroom.

6. Check ISO qualifications. Does the firm have any?

7. Find out about the firm’s design capability.

8. Check project planning and management capabilities, including the health and safety measures undertaken by the contractor.

9. Check how many projects it is doing at the same time as yours. Can the firm cope satisfactorily?

10. Ask the firm for references from clients.

11. Does it work regularly in your area of the city?

Best Interior design companies in Dubai

Designer of Year award by Dubai Municipality

Mr. Raj Khaneja, Director of Rectangle Interiors – the leading architectural interior design firm specializing in interiors, fit-outs and consultancy for the hospitality sector, has won the prestigious Designer of the Year Award from Dubai Municipality for his exceptional efforts and excellence in design proposals.

The award recognizes Rectangle Interior and Mr. Khaneja’s acumen in conceptualising world-class designs and proposals in line with the overall architectural plans assigned by the General Maintenance Department of Dubai Municipality. This is a major recognition for the company, which is coincidentally celebrating its 10th anniversary in the UAE.

The award was handed over to Mr. Khaneja by Engineer Juma Khalifa Al Fuqaei, Director of the General Maintenance Department at Dubai Municipality.

Engineer Al Fuqaei said: “We would glad to honour and congratulate Raj Khaneja and Rectangle Interior for their excellent designs and proposals that go in line with our world-class architectural standards at Dubai Municipality. The designs truly reflect the aesthetics of DM building, with an innovative and dynamic touch to it.”

In his comments, Mr. Khaneja said: “It is an honour to receive this prestigious award from Dubai Municipality and it gratifying that I and Rectangle Interior are being recognised for our designs. The interiors of Dubai Municipality are amazing and hold a special place for me personally and hence it was essential to create new, fresh ideas, while maintaining its aesthetic look. We set out to create interior environments that not only work well, but create a sense of novelty. I am very proud that we could create designs with such conviction and clarity.”

Since its establishment in 2003, Rectangle Interior has created innovative and inspiring designs for many hotels & resorts. The company is committed to creating tailor-made, distinctive designs that realize each client’s unique vision and aspirations whilst giving appreciative value to their establishments and affirming their corporate identities, marketing goals and brand development.

Bring together an international community of designers who have wealth of experience worldwide and a dynamic and innovative approach to projects, Rectangle Interior has offices in Dubai, with expertise in design concepts, space planning, design development, contract documentation and specification, site supervision and project management.

Residential Fit Out Companies in UAE

Find out how to get a beautiful makeover for your home

Raj Khaneja

There was a time when home trends were rigid, dictated by set design guidelines and, to a certain extent, the lack of creative options. It was easy to identify a set of clearly defined palettes, prints and products that were updated every few years.

But today we live in a time of high consumerism, unlimited choices and the desire to express our style and individuality not just through our wardrobe but even our homes. And while there are always key trends that dominate a particular year or season, all designers agree that these are far more fluid.

”We are seeing modern styled interiors and a reinvention of classic luxury to create serenity and versatility in furniture design and interiors,” says Adel Sajan, Director at Danube Home.

”Contemporary design ideas are being combined with traditional themes. Add to that metal details, fresh shades of olive greens, light greys, pinks and blues to bright patterns, and you have the breezy contemporary look for 2015.”

Home accessories will play an even more important role next year because they are a unique expression of the things we love and who we are, says Sajan. ”Furniture and design can only take you so far. A beautiful house, no matter how well it’s designed, is simply a house.

To make this into a home, we turn to accessories. From art collections, lights to decorative tea pots and candle holders, they give your home personality.”

While designing your home think about what is right for you — your lifestyle, taste and what you want your home to reflect, says Raj Khaneja, Managing Director at Rectangle Interiors. This combined with sophistication, is perhaps the biggest trend we see for now and the coming years.

Mix it up

Thank design gurus for this direction, which allows much leeway when choosing a look for your room or home. Call it eclectic or plain old mix-and-match — it is all about mixing old and fresh design ideas by incorporating a fusion of styles, materials and patterns to create stylish and comfortable living spaces. You can play with textures, prints, colours and even styles of furniture.

”More than ever before, we’re seeing fusions of different styles. Whereas before clients asked us for contemporary or Arabic or retro we’re now seeing interiors that have elements of a few different trends, which gives a space its own, very unique identity,” says Merete Broen, Founder and General Manager at Zen Interiors.

The idea, when going eclectic isn’t about just throwing it all together but reinterpreting the classics and fusing trends, especially the traditional with the contemporary or the rustic with vintage. For instance, this could mean blending the indoors and outdoors by incorporating nature into your interiors, suggests Broen, by blurring the divide between inside and outside or introducing botanical prints and natural woods into your home.

Go Andy Warhol

Yes, like every season there is a predominant colour and one has to be grateful that it is not tangerine. But before getting to that, just remember that when it comes to colour this year — pretty much anything goes. Opt for every imaginable combination, tone, contrast and shade you love. Think Andy Warhol prints, rich renaissance paintings, Greek islands, tropical forests, Victorian vintage and magical sunsets.

Colour is used to highlight or simply cheer up a room. Use big bold splashes of pinks, purples, aqua, and olive green. The star colour for the year is blue, but darker shades such as deep navy, indigo and inky blue are also popular, as well as ocean-inspired tones from aqua to teal.

Michelle Dinsmore, Head Visual Merchandiser at Home Centre says that blue is the year’s statement colour. ”A deep shade of Patriot Blue or touches of Grecian sea — this primary colour in all its glory is here to make a statement this year. The easiest way to welcome the hue to your home is by adding a choice of accessories.

Accent chairs, a statement chaise and a striking lamp in tonal blues are other exciting ways to include the colour. There’s plenty to explore in the depths of the colour blue.”

And while the dominant colours are definitely in the green-blue neighbourhood you can go all pastels or even neutral, except this season it is all about going grey, while whites are being used with just the slightest hint of blush pinks.

Get the gold

Gold is certainly taking centre stage this year. Gold in all its warm glory is everywhere from fittings and fixtures to walls, picture and mirror frames, upholstery, accessories and even furniture. ”Gold is the new chrome,” says Khaneja, ”And although gold has never been far from the traditional taste here, we now see its tones in contemporary furniture.

Warmer than steel and ranging from copper through to the brightest sparkling shades, it works particularly well with natural open grain timber.”

Now homeowners will no longer be limited to silver or stainless accessories and can experiment by adding touches of gold all over the house.

This year, Homes r Us has a whole new line of bright, bold spring colour interiors with a tinge of gold. If the thought of using gold is daunting, then extend it to anything with warm metallics such as brass and copper finishes that are just as warm and luxurious.

Dinsmore says it is time to commit to gold and submit to metallic splendour with subtle touches in the form of accents or a whiff of glamourous shimmer. ”The great thing about gold and metallic tones is that it lends itself beautifully to spectrum of styles from traditional to modern,” she says. ”Mirrors, lamps, wire frames on furniture or even vases and cushions can bring out the glamourous golds and meteoric metals which are on-trend in 2015.”

Print it up

Do not underestimate the power of pattern, where everything from paisley to palm leaves and plaid is making an appearance on fabrics. From psychedelic graphics to sharp geometrics and striking chevron, prints continue to be popular in every room.

Combined with this is a new wave of ethnic prints from all over — ikat from India, oriental-inspired blooms, American Indian patterns or African tribal — all reflect a shrinking global geography. Prints and patterns whether in cushions, throws, rugs or wallpaper lend a cool sophistication when tastefully combined with muted palettes, stark wood, raw metals bare floors and Scandinavian minimalism.

The most basic facelift to any room can be achieved by the clever use of prints, use an exotic bird feather patterned throw on an old sofa or green botanical prints paired with stark white furniture for a tropical feel, go retro with bold black and white photographic images for that hint of drama, or cheer up a study nook with colourful geometric designs.

Rules of thumb

1. Versatility is important: Always keep in mind that rooms need to be multifunctional and adaptable and while choosing furniture and accessories always combine practicality with aesthetics.

2. Quality counts: People are making wise purchases for their home, where they’re willing to invest in more expensive pieces that will really stand the test of time — both in terms of their quality and timeless appeal, says Merete Broen, Founder and General Manager, Zen Interiors.

3. Don’t follow fashion: Opt for things that personally appeal to you. Don’t buy items just because you think visitors to your home will be impressed by it. You have to live with it every day, not them, so buy for yourself.

4. No breaking the bank: Spend as much as you can afford on any piece of furniture or accessory. If the price seems ridiculously cheap, then chances are you’re not going to get years of use out of it, cautions Broen.

5. Make a statement: Try and choose one or two items in each room that make a statement about your style, it could be an oversized pendant light over a dining table, or a beautifully engraved console in the hallway, whatever it is, make sure that you love it, adds Broen.

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Sheikh Zayed Road