There is a real risk that if we do nothing to support sustainability,  resources will eventually run out; at best, they will become more  expensive and harder to obtain. But what if your business does nothing while your competitors look seriously at the benefits of developing  sustainable plans and strategies? FIS technical manager Joe Cilia explores sustainability within the finishes and interiors sector.

Today, there are many recognised ways for manufacturers to  demonstrate the environmental credentials of their products. These include Environmental Product  Declarations (EPDs), BRE’s Green Guide, Cradle to Cradle certification and the SKA environmental labelling scheme, which is aimed squarely at the fit-out sector and used by designers when designing schemes against the RICS SKA rating system.

Chair of the RICS SKA Rating Technical Committee Elina Grigoriou explains. “Designers are relying on manufacturers to support their efforts and design out end-of-use waste and toxicity through the manufacture of a material/product and its existence, and use, within an interior. If a manufacturer has not asked the questions relating to these issues for all their products, they will be taking a big risk in the sustainability of their own business. It’s encouraging to see many starting to take action, one issue at a time in some cases, and lead the way in industry improvement.”

Manufacturers are also seeing the benefit of working towards a circular economy where products are returned to the manufacturers at end of life with the materials being used as a resource to manufacture new products. Flooring and ceiling manufacturers are among the first in the fit-out sector to develop products and processes that allow resources to be reused in this way, and so are enjoying the benefits of being early adopters.

“The move towards BIM now makes it easier to incorporate circular economy thinking into the off-site manufacture of building components for simple on-site assembly,” highlights Charlie Law from Sustainable Construction Solutions Ltd. “This increases  productivity, reduces waste and allows for easier disassembly at the end of the component’s service life for reuse or remanufacture.”

Sustainable products are just one way of measuring the environmental impact of a fit-out. The design of the interior to promote wellbeing and increased productivity, the methods used by the fit-out contractor to reduce waste and the impact of the work are also key points to be considered. Reducing waste in the process of refurbishing or  constructing a new interior is an  obvious way of being sustainable while saving money. The key to achieving these savings is planning. It should start with a pre-construction survey to establish what materials can be reused, upcycled or recycled before the last resort of landfill.

CIRIA is the construction  industry research and information  association. FIS has been working closely with CIRIA to produce the ‘Fit-out environmental good  practice on site guide (C757)’.

Philip Charles, CIRIA project  manager, comments: “There are internal and external drivers for projects to be more efficient and  reduce their environmental  footprint, and it is more important than ever to engage and effectively communicate the practical steps that can be taken. To support this, CIRIA has worked collaboratively with industry stakeholders to develop this guide. Alongside advice on a range of issues to consider before, during and after construction, it highlights that robust project planning and a collaborative approach enables environmental issues to be  positively managed.”

Willmott Dixon Interiors Limited is one of the guide’s funders. The company’s principal sustainability manager, Simon Tranter, explains: “We chose to support the guide  because it represents a real  opportunity to put the environmental agenda firmly at the heart of the fit-out sector. The guide demonstrates that environmental considerations are integral to all aspects of the  project lifecycle. Having all the  essential information in one place will really help to engage the critical  stakeholders. This is an essential document for anyone involved in fit-out and refurbishments.”

FIS is aware of many initiatives where off-site production has had a practical and positive impact on  construction, resulting in shorter construction times and reduced waste, and providing flexibility for future reconfiguration. This has all been achieved while using products that have been designed for  deconstruction and disassembly, which means materials, and  therefore resources, can be easily recycled and so offer greater  opportunity for closed-loop recycling.

But if the finishes and interiors sector ignores the need to provide sustainable products integrated into sustainably designed projects it could leave a vacuum for engineers, designers and tier 1 contractors to develop materials and  methodologies that may circumvent current solutions. So, it’s up to our sector to be innovative, to look at where the market is pulling and be open to new thoughts and ideas.  If we don’t, be assured there will be those, possibly from outside the current supply chain, that do.

The CIRIA’s ‘Fit-out environmental good practice on site guide (C757)’

The guide is aimed at those responsible for managing fit-out projects and is focused on the contractor/site manager.

The construction industry is under increasing pressure to ensure its activities have reduced impact on the environment. The fit-out sector faces unique challenges – providing a quick turnaround,  controlling costs and working around site constraints – while having the potential to significantly impact the sustainability of the space both during fit-out and in use. The guide provides advice on  environmental good practice.

The guide can be purchased from,  or requested by emailing


Find out more:  Joe Cilia