Meet the fit-out guys

They come in after a building is completed and before a company moves into their office space where everything is set up for them: desks, chairs, cubicles, internet, pantry, storage, filing shelves, cables under the floors, enough outlets for everybody.

If this were science fiction, it would be easy to imagine PK Dick writing about a second Adjustment Bureau Team, invisible to the rest of us, working in the tunnel under the world to arrange things just before we become sentient. But instead of arranging fates according to their playbook, they’re building physical things according to yours.

Say hello to the fit-out guys of Manila Commercial Fit-out Corporation (MCFC) — contractors that provide customized fit-out services. Fit out is the process of making an office suitable for occupation, and with over 30,000 sqm. of office space added in the last quarter of 2018 and another 2.1 million sqm. expected in the next two years, the fit-out industry is pretty busy.

Don Caringal, MCFC managing director, with his business development team, Robyn Palanca, Bam Abiera and Raul Guerrero

Office space is not cheap whether you’re renting or buying, and no matter how high-end the commercial building is, you get it bare. When companies don’t start operations in time because their office isn’t finished on time, they lose money.

MCFC managing director Don Caringal says, “New spaces are always under a tight timeline given that most properties only allow for a limited time to set up the office. As soon as that period is up, the rent starts to become a liability for those who haven’t started operations yet. The challenging part is always the deadline, whether it’s a 1,000 sqm. office or 5,000 sqm. for a corporation or a BPO. In malls, retailers are given a deadline to open their stores, it’s the same in office buildings, sometimes they’re given only 30 days or 60 days. MCFC has a 20 percent faster turnover rate and our capability comes from our experience of working on over 200 projects.”

MCFC managing director Don Caringal says, “Our extensive portfolio of completed projects for both multinational and local offices is a testament to our ability to deliver quality and worry-free projects.”

Since its founding in 2013, MCFC’s clients have included Malacañang Palace, Agoda, FujiFilm, Security Bank, Chronos Strategies, BW Offshore, FujiXerox, Dusit Thani and Datascope. Their clientele is a good mix of corporations, BPOs and POGOs.

How specialized are these office requirements? “Most offices have similar requirements, you have the architectural side, furniture, cabinets, data cabling, pantry — these are a must for any good-sized office. Some have more specialized requirements like BPOs and POGOs where you may have from 50 to a hundred or more work stations. They may be open cubicles or with partitions, then you have enclosed offices for executives, a conference room, reception, a boardroom, a server room and lockers. We also do the IT part, it’s an end to end turnover to the client. We believe in delivering on time, we don’t cut corners and we don’t let our clients pay extra on rent. Whatever the project size, we dedicate a team to do it headed by a project manager.”

Don adds, “We expected a few years ago that speed of completion of a project would be a crucial factor and started to set up our own off-site fabrication called Dovetail. This build and install system allows us to start well ahead of the turnover of the site and has cut 20 percent of the time needed to do a traditional fabricate-on-site process,” Don says. “We invested in putting up a factory to do our own joineries because we saw the need to control the timeline. Every time we outsourced it, they didn’t meet the deadline. Another reason is the quality. When we do a rush project, sometimes the joinery gets delivered to you and they do it on-site but now that we control it ourselves, we do it offsite and just install it; everything is clean and on schedule.”

The biggest fit out project they’ve done is a two-floor 5,000-sqm. office space.

What is the ideal environment to make people more productive and creative? “These days they usually request for informal meeting rooms, meaning they’re not enclosed like traditional ones.  It’s a more relaxed environment in a collaborative atmosphere. They have bean bags instead of leather chairs, they want a space that’s vibrant and fun. Of course, the ambience, the feel is important. In Tagalog, it should be matiwasay. A lot of our clients now want a Google kind of space that has collaboration areas and even game rooms.”

Natural light is also a very important factor that affect productivity. “When a client has a space where the window is only on one side, they want to put the production area there — that’s where their agents are. Windows are no longer just for the executive rooms. If they do require that, we open it up also by putting a glass wall so the light still comes in. The whole office has to be lively, it cannot be depressing for your workers. Happy workers are productive workers — it all boils down to that.”

* * *

For more information and to get in touch with MCFC, visit

Visit the author’s travel blog at Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @iamtanyalara.