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Fit-Out Rating Tool

08 December 2009

The current economic climate is extending real-estate life-expectancy as occupiers are more likely to refurbish their offices than seek new ones. Now fit-out projects have environmental measure in the form of the new Ska Rating as Frank Booty explains

AGAINST A BACKGROUND OF PRESSURE growing for property occupiers and owners to improve the sustainability of existing as well as new buildings, RICS has led the development of an assessment methodology, rating tool and scheme that focuses on fit-out and allows for the measurement, labelling, quality-assured certification and benchmarking of workplace projects.
Tim Robinson, Director, strategic Business development, RICS, said, “Ska Rating is an environmental labelling method designed to rate and compare the environmental performance of fit-out projects initially for office buildings in the UK.“
Ska Rating helps organisations achieve more sustainable fit-outs. Anybody interested in fitting out an office building in a more environmentally sustainable way can use the method to:
● carry out an informal self-assessment of the environmental performance of their fit-out;
● commission a quality assured assessment and certificate from an RICS-accredited Ska assessor; ● obtain clear guidance on good practice in fitout and how to implement it; and
● benchmark the performance of fit outs against each other and the rest of the industry.
“Ska Rating is designed to encourage good practice in fit-out work and has been developed collaboratively by consultants, contractors and occupiers,” said Robinson. “The fit-out sector is currently underserved with specific benchmarks and labelling although it is a substantial part of the construction industry. The new Ska Rating is intended to fill this gap.”
The current economic climate is extending real-estate life-expectancy. Occupiers are now more likely to refurbish their existing offices than seek new ones but while there are proven methods for labelling the environmental performance of whole buildings, fit-out has been a sustainability blind spot. Ska Rating aims to rate only the environmental performance related to the scope of fit-out projects. In 2005, interior construction company Skansen (from whom ‘Ska’ derives) commissioned a research project with RICS and AECOM to establish whether it was possible to measure either the environmental impact of fit-out on the environment, or measure or codify good environmental practice on fit out projects.
According to James Pack, Director at Skansen, “The findings were compelling and during 2008-09 a collaborative team of development partners led by RICS evolved the concepts into the Ska Rating.”
With its in-depth focus on fit-out, Ska complements other labelling methods, such as BREEAM and LEED. Ska Rating labels 100 percent of the environmental performance related to the scope of fit-out projects, rather than being a whole building assessment. EPCs (Energy Performance Certificates) and DEC (Display Energy Certificates) label how energy efficient a building is. Ska Rating focuses 100 percent on fit out and does consider energy but among a holistic range of sustainability considerations including waste, water, pollution, transport, materials and wellbeing as well as energy and carbon dioxide emissions.
It has been a principle from the outset that Ska Rating should be free to use and be accessible even for the smallest organisation. Producing and lodging a certificate with RICS costs £50. For businesses seeking the credibility of a professional certificates an assessor can be engaged to rate and certify the project. Costs through an individual accredited assessor will be £2,400 to £3,000 per certification, or more.
“Ska Rating will help organisations make informed decisions about fit out projects in the context of the growing importance of sustainability on the corporate agenda and a burgeoning statute book,” said Robinson. “It’s designed to be of particular use for occupiers but has benefits for other property stakeholders including landlords, developers, consultants, fit out contractors and the supply chain.”
For occupiers/tenants Ska measures sustainability impact accurately - the rating is influenced entirely by what you choose to do, not by what has been done in the past; manage the bottom line; follow good practice; legal/statutory compliance, and it helps the decision making process. If you are ISO 14001 accredited, a Ska certificate helps ensure a fit-out project is rated accurately and can be used to support an environmental management system; enhancing customer, investor and stakeholder perception as well as complement other CSR activity.
For developers and landlords: Ska Rating can be used to set targets, and then used as a formal assessment process to assure yourself that target performance standards are met. Finally use the certificate to report performance to stakeholders.
For consultants: Ska Rating can be embedded in standard processes to demonstrate a sustainable specification and procurement process for fit out is being followed.
For contractors: The assessment process and related guidance to make design, specification, procurement and construction practices more environmentally sustainable.
“No matter what your starting point, a Ska Rating will enable you to measure 100 percent of the environmental performance of an office fitout,” said Robinson. “It does not consider the base build, it measures only what you do to add value to your property.”
Ska comprises 99 good practice measures across energy and carbon dioxide, waste, water, pollution, transport, materials and wellbeing. “Each good practice measure is explained in a datasheet explaining the criteria that need to be achieved, the rationale behind the measure and guidance on how to achieve it,” said Robinson. “Because each fit-out project is unique in terms of employers' requirements, the building/site and scope of works, Ska Rating scores the project on the basis only of those measures that are relevant to the project. These are called
measures in scope'.”
Typically between 30 and 60 measures are likely to apply to most projects. The score is ranked in three thresholds – gold, silver and bronze. These thresholds are reached by achieving 75 percent, 50 percent or 25 percent, respectively, of the measures in scope. Because some measures are more important from a sustainability perspective they are ranked from 1 to 99; 1 is the highest and 99 the lowest. To ensure that teams do not just target the easiest measures, the project has to achieve a number of the highest ranked measures in scope to score; these are known as ‘gateway measures’.
The Ska assessment process is broken into three stages: design/planning; delivery/construction; and post-occupancy assessment. The first recipient of a (silver) Ska Rating certificate is London-based reinsurance company RFIB. Meanwhile Google is using it in Europe, and nPower and Compuware of Maidenhead are too, with RICS itself coming onboard having just completed a refit at its London HQ.

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