Sheppard Robson helps RICS create free Ska Rating tool
Sheppard Robson has helped develop a free tool to enable architects and interior designers improve and rate sustainability of office fit-out projects, says associate Daniel Winder
Finding ways to balance the, often conflicting, principles of cost, aesthetics, function and sustainability is a continual challenge that faces the architecture and design industry.
The recent economic climate has brought one of these issues - cost - sharply into focus. Our clients still want to live up to their corporate sustainability policies, but they need us to show them that it won’t put additional pressure on their bottom line.
Over the last few years Sheppard Robson has been part of a cross construction industry team working with RICS on a tool that will help our occupier clients measure the sustainability performance of their fit-outs. Launched formally by RICS at the end of 2009, the Ska Rating is already proving popular with more than a million square feet of projects already being delivered according to its methodology and several major clients committing to its use on all their future fit-outs.
Available free online, the Ska Rating is based around a set of 99 best practice measures relating to elements ranging from lighting and ventilation to the recycling of site waste in much the same way as BREEAM or LEED. But since the scope of fit-out projects can vary from just new paint and carpet to a complete strip and re-fit, Ska Rating is uniquely designed to be scope flexible, responding to the need to assess projects with different scopes to the same standards. This enables it to assess 100% of the fit-out, independent of the performance of the existing building.
Once a project has been assessed to determine the measures realistically within its scope (not every fit-out can expect to include staff showers, for example) the project has a benchmark for the designers to work towards. A Ska Rating of Bronze, Silver or Gold is then calculated based on the number of ‘in scope’ measures achieved by the project. Helpfully, this entire process is completed online.
So far so good - but how does the fit-out achieve independent accreditation in the same way that a BREEAM assessment can benchmark the sustainability performance of a new build construction project? This is where a designer – or our clients – will call on the services of a RICS-accredited Ska Rating assessor. There are more than 60 of these assessors out there, with dozens more due to complete the training course throughout 2010. The assessor will work with the design team, client and fit-out contractor to independently audit and certificate their Ska Rating.
Evidence is showing that even the most sustainable – Gold-rated – fit-outs, need not cost our clients any more than a project delivered to standard practice, providing that the guidance is considered during the earliest stages of the design process. A fit-out achieving a Gold level Ska Rating can help reduce in-use energy bills too.
As designers, the message to our clients is clear. We now have a tool at our disposal which will guide the sustainability of our next fit-out and can help our clients cut their costs as well.
To use the free version of the Ska Rating tool visit www.rics.org/ska