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How can fit-out contribute to the sustainability agenda?

11 January 2000

The fit out sector is currently underserved with specific benchmarks and labelling although it is a substantial part of the construction industry. Ska Rating from the RICS is intended to fill this gap.

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. Developed by a number of industry partners, it is designed to encourage good practice in fit out work and has been developed collaboratively by occupiers, consultants, contractors and landlords. Ska has achieved recognition through a number of industry awards including the CoreNet Global, Industry Excellence Award 2009 (Leadership and Strategy), the CoreNet Global UK, Land Securities Trillium Award 2008 (Sustainability) and the Association of Interior Specialists, Eco Innovation Award 2009.
According to the Office for National Statistics, the UK construction industry spent
£64.5bn in the years 2003-06; of this £6.9bn was attributed to the fit-out sector – that’s 10 percent of the construction sector budget. The recent 2009 CoreNet Global and Jones Lang LaSalle sustainability survey revealed that 70 percent of corporate real estate executives said sustainability was a critical business issue. The current economic climate is extending real-estate lifeexpectancy and occupiers are now more likely to refurbish their existing offices than seek new ones. While there are proven methods for labelling the environmental performance of whole buildings, fit out has remained a sustainability blind spot.
The tool makes it possible to measure sustainability impact accurately for a tenant of a single office doing a one-off fit out or a major corporate occupier. It can be used as part of a CSR policy, to drive staff and external stakeholder engagement or to support
an Environmental Management System. Pilot studies conducted using the method also demonstrated that it is possible to increase the level of rating without necessarily adding cost.  By following good practice occupiers may actually able to reduce costs, for example utilities bills, facilities' staff time, paper and travel. Using energy efficient
methods and appropriate recycling should lead to a reduction in resource consumption and improved efficiency.
Landlords can use Ska Rating to set targets, then use the formal assessment process to assure themselves that target performance standards are met, and finally use the certificate to report their performance to stakeholders. Multiple fit-outs can be benchmarked over time and the scheme can be used to protect a building already certified under a whole building assessment method. Consultants and contractors can embed Ska Rating in standard processes.
Ska Rating is free to use and accessible even for the smallest organization. All the information about the rating method, criteria and guidance is available free on the web.
Use of the online assessment tool is also free for those who want to self-assess. Those
wanting a quality-assured certificate to formally substantiate their performance will need
to commission a formal assessment from a Ska Assessor accredited by RICS. The tool
allows for flexible scoping, match the rating to the scope of the fit-out and produced a
label that is clear and easy to understand: Bronze, Silver Gold plus % score.
There are 99 good practice measures across Energy and CO2, Waste, Water, Pollution,
Transport, Materials and Wellbeing. 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 basis only of those measures that are relevant to the project called ‘Measures In Scope’. Typically between 30 and 60 measures are likely to apply to most projects. Because some measures are more important from a sustainability perspective, the measures 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 in order to score; these are known as Gateway
The Ska assessment process is broken into three stages reflecting the way fit outs are
delivered: Design/Planning; Delivery/Construction, and Post-Occupancy Assessment. Finally there is the option to review how well a fit out has performed in use against its original brief from a year after completion.
The Ska Rating has been developed by industry to respond to the need for better
decision making and sustainability best practice in the fit-out sector. Organisations including Arcadis AYH, DTZ, hurleypalmerflatt, Interserve, Pringle Brandon, Savills, Scott Wilson, Sheppard Robson have been involved in developing the scheme.
Skansen, an interior construction contractor, initiated a research project in 2005 with RICS and AECOM to establish whether it was possible to measure either the environmental impact of fit out on the environment.
RICS operates an accreditation scheme to enable qualified professionals to undertake
quality-assured Ska Rating assessments. Ska Accredited Assessors are able to formally
certificate projects. Assessors attend a two-day training course, completing and passing an exam and then joining the accreditation scheme and register. The training is aimed at building professionals including facilities managers, surveyors, project managers, construction managers and sustainability assessors.
● Tim Robinson, Director of Strategic Business Development, RICS. For more information visit

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