Editor David Crowson, explores SKArating which, over 15 years, has helped over 12,000 fit-out projects become more sustainable.

With the UK declaring a state of climate and environment emergency in 2019, sustainability measures are becoming increasingly front of mind for both landlords and tenants.

Prioritising sustainability in your commercial fit-out has both a positive environmental and financial impact, from lower construction and operational costs, to higher asset value and occupancy rates. A sustainable build also reinforces a company’s Environmental Social Governance (ESG) strategy, a focus that stakeholders are paying an increasing amount of attention to.

An historical overview 

In light of industry feedback stating that previously available tools for assessing buildings weren’t always suitable for fit-out projects, a team of designers, contractors, occupiers, agents, and consultants collaborated in creating a new assessment: the SKArating.

SKA is a simple abbreviation of Skansen, in 2005, Skansen initiated a research project with RICS and AECOM to establish whether it was possible to measure either the environmental impact of fit-outs, or measure or codify good environmental practice on fit-out projects to remove the ambiguity prevalent in the fit-out and refurbishment industry.

In November 2009 the environmental assessment method and benchmarking tool which rates and compares the environmental performance of office and retail fit-out projects in the UK was launched.

In February RICS completed the transfer of ownership of SKArating to SKArating Ltd, a not-for-profit company run by technical committee members.

The company aims to help landlords and tenants assess fit-out projects against a set of sustainability good practice criteria, known as good practice measures. The SKArating is one of the many accreditation schemes established to help companies prioritise sustainability in a quantifiable way.

The underlying philosophy and aim are to encourage all in the supply chain to make a small change in a practical way to be at the heart of net zero and sustainable decisions in the fit-out sector, and provide a free tool that is open to all to drive forward sustainability performance. These are underpinned by a robust accreditation and holistic training programme that targets better decisions and a more systematic approach to delivering sustainability in refurbishment and fit-out.

Who does it work for?

  • Developers and landlords: Use SKArating to set targets, use the formal assessment process to assure themselves that target performance standards are met, and finally use the certificate to report performance to stakeholders; benchmark the sustainability of fit-outs across a portfolio of buildings; include the use of SKArating in ‘Green Lease’ provisions to help drive up the sustainability of properties or protect a building already certified under a whole building assessment method; sustainability increasingly makes good company sense. Research demonstrates an expected increase in the asset value of labelled low-carbon buildings compared with standard speculative buildings. 
  • Consultants: The SKArating is embedded in a company’s standard processes to demonstrate that they follow a sustainable specification and procurement process for fit-outs; use the tool and datasheets to support the delivery of professional advice to clients on good practice in sustainable fit-outs, and assess their designs and projects; offer certificated assessments to clients who wish to demonstrate they have achieved a more sustainable fit-out through the SKArating accredited assessors scheme.
  • Contractors: Use the assessment process and related guidance to make their design, specification, procurement and construction practices more environmentally sustainable; demonstrate their sustainability credentials to clients and consultants by making the targeting of standards under SKArating part of your standard tender and delivery process.
  • For product suppliers: Support align information and demonstrating how products support specific SKArating good practice measures; promote products and help suppliers, specifiers and contractors find products that help deliver their project goals.

How does it work?

It comprises more than a hundred ‘good practice’ measures covering energy and CO2 emissions, waste, water, materials, pollution, wellbeing and transport. An example of a good practice measure is that when wooden flooring is stripped out, it should be sent for re-use to a salvage yard instead of to landfill.

Key aspects of the system 

Flexible scoping: match the rating to the scope of the fit-out; easy-to-use online tool (free to use); a label that is clear and easy to understand: Bronze, Silver and Gold, plus a percentage score; a formal, quality assured scheme for those who require a certificate; schemes cover offices, retail and higher education sectors.


The tools and related features of the scheme can be accessed on the website. These comprise:

  • Accredited assessor list: This is a register of property professionals who have attained a recognised standard of knowledge of the SKArating environmental assessment method for fit-out. The register locates accredited assessors.
  • Online tool: This tool allows property and construction professionals and SKA assessors to design, specify, rate and certify fit-out projects for environmental impact, using the SKArating fit-out benchmark system. Use of the tool is free and open to all. Projects can be certified by qualified assessors for an additional fee.
  • Training and becoming accredited: SKArating helps landlords and tenants assess their interior fit-out and refurbishment projects against a set of environmental good practice criteria, and part of wider sustainability goals. In this hub, everyone involved in a project can find all of the resources and tools needed to help engage, use, and assess the SKArating
  • Product compliant directory: Latest published list of products that have been found compliant with the criteria required in SKArating good practice measures.
  • Product compliant label: Grigoriou Interiors works with the supply chain and acts as a link between you and your projects, informing and supporting you to align with a company’s net zero, wellbeing and wider sustainability aims at a company, product, or service level.

Since 2021, the Natwest Group has used the SKArating assessment method for fit-out projects in a number of their offices and branches.

A spokesperson for Natwest Group who have adopted SKArating on a number of projects, said: “This has helped us to embed sustainable practices across our buildings, providing valuable insights and helping us to evolve our learning each time to deliver sustainable premises for our colleagues and customers.

“Moving into 2024, we have a continued focus on delivering sustainable quality assured fit-outs across all of our buildings, currently using SKArating to assess fit-out projects against their set of sustainability criteria”.

Volunteer SKArating Board member and CEO of the Trade Body, Finishes and Interiors Sector Iain McIlwee said: “I got involved in SKArating because we need it. It all began because a group of people who care recognised that there was a need to help other people who care to design, specify and measure the environmental impact of refurbishment projects. This is important to the FIS community as around 80% of commercial work is refurbishment and because…we care.

“What emerged was a simple, flexible and robust process to help landlords and tenants make better decisions around their projects. A simple rating scheme that ultimately helps draw the supply chain together, reduce our collective impact and improve commercial space based around simple good practice measures.

“At the core is a tool that is free to use, it is accessible to all and can help everybody (even the smallest contractors working on the smallest of fit-outs) make better decisions. So SKArating, like FIS is community led and has continued to evolve through the volunteers who have supported the technical group and this collective effort has ensured the scheme has stayed relevant, practical and grounded.

“We want more people to understand this and make use of SKArating and that is why FIS is happy for me to get involved”.

SKArating Ltd has been established as a not-for-profit company. All revenue generated through accreditation of projects and assessors, training of assessors and licencing of SKA compliant materials will be invested in the development of the scheme.  The board directors are all providing their time voluntarily and will not take salaries or benefits from SKArating Ltd.  We are very clear that we want SKArating to be a tool owned by the fit-out industry for the benefit of the sustainable fit-out sector.

To find out how you can start using SKArating now to improve the sustainability of your fit-outs visit: www.skarating.org