Office Environmental Assessment Methods – A Guide

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26 June 2023
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As sustainability and environmental consciousness continue to gain importance in the business world, the commercial property sector is no exception. Office fit-out companies play a crucial role in creating environmentally friendly and sustainable workspaces. To ensure their projects meet the highest environmental standards, many companies in the UK commercial property sector rely on various office environmental assessment methods. In this article, we will explore four widely recognised assessment methods: SKA, BREEAM, WELL, and LEED. We’ll delve into their requirements, their measurement criteria, and ultimately provide a comparative analysis of their effectiveness.

 

SKA Rating

The SKA rating is a rigorous environmental assessment method specific to the fit-out and refurbishment of non-domestic buildings in the UK. Developed by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), SKA focuses on sustainable best practices within the fit-out process. It aims to reduce environmental impact and promote occupant well-being. SKA offers three levels of certification: Bronze, Silver, and Gold.

Requirements:

  • Energy efficiency: Focuses on energy-saving measures such as efficient lighting, heating, and ventilation systems.
  • Waste management: Promotes responsible waste management practices, including recycling and waste reduction.
  • Materials selection: Encourages the use of sustainable materials with a focus on reducing environmental impact.
  • Water usage: Promotes the efficient use of water resources through measures such as low-flow fixtures.
  • Indoor environment quality: Addresses occupant health and well-being by considering factors like air quality and acoustic performance.

Measurement: The SKA rating is determined through a scoring system that assesses various criteria across different categories. Points are allocated based on compliance with specific requirements. The final score determines the level of certification achieved.

 

 

BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method)

BREEAM is a widely recognised office environmental assessment method used to evaluate the sustainability performance of buildings in the UK and internationally. It assesses various aspects of a building’s design, construction, and operation. BREEAM certification is available at different levels, including Pass, Good, Very Good, Excellent, and Outstanding.

Requirements:

  • Energy efficiency: Focuses on minimising energy consumption and promoting the use of renewable energy sources.
  • Water management: Encourages efficient water usage and incorporates measures such as rainwater harvesting and greywater recycling.
  • Materials: Promotes the use of sustainable and low-impact building materials, including sourcing from responsible suppliers.
  • Waste management: Encourages waste reduction and recycling initiatives.
  • Health and well-being: Considers indoor air quality, acoustics, and other factors that contribute to occupant comfort and productivity.

Measurement: BREEAM uses a points-based system to assess the performance of a building against a set of predefined criteria. The overall score determines the level of certification achieved.

 

WELL Building Standard

The WELL Building Standard focuses on promoting human health and well-being within the built environment. It addresses several factors that impact occupant health, such as air quality, lighting, water quality, and comfort. WELL certification is available at three levels: Silver, Gold, and Platinum.

Requirements:

  • Air quality: Emphasises proper ventilation and filtration to ensure high indoor air quality.
  • Water quality: Promotes access to clean and safe drinking water and encourages the use of filtration systems.
  • Nourishment: Encourage healthy eating habits by providing occupants with healthier food choices, behavioural cues, and knowledge about nutrient quality.
  • Lighting: Promotes natural light exposure while minimising glare and providing adequate lighting levels.
  • Comfort: Considers factors like thermal comfort, acoustics, and ergonomic design elements.
  • Fitness: Utilise building design technologies and knowledge-based strategies to encourage physical activity.
  • Mind: Encourages spaces that promote mental well-being and reduce stress.

Measurement: WELL certification involves meeting specific preconditions and earning points in various categories. The final certification level is determined based on the total points achieved.

 

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)

LEED is an internationally recognised green building certification system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Although originally created for the United States, it has gained popularity worldwide. LEED certification is available at various levels: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.

Requirements:

  • Sustainable site development: Promotes environmentally responsible site selection, landscaping, and transportation.
  • Water efficiency: Encourages efficient water use through strategies like low-flow fixtures and rainwater harvesting.
  • Energy and atmosphere: Focuses on reducing energy consumption and promoting renewable energy sources.
  • Materials and resources: Promotes the use of sustainable materials, waste reduction, and recycling.
  • Indoor environmental quality: Considers factors such as indoor air quality, acoustics, and thermal comfort.

Measurement: LEED certification is based on a point system, where projects earn points for satisfying specific criteria. The total points earned determine the certification level achieved.

So how do they compare?

While all four office environmental assessment methods—SKA, BREEAM, WELL, and LEED—share the goal of promoting sustainability and occupant well-being, they differ in their focus and coverage. BREEAM and LEED have broader scopes and are applicable to a wide range of building types and phases, including both new construction and existing buildings. SKA, on the other hand, is tailored specifically to fit-out and refurbishment projects. WELL places a strong emphasis on occupant health and well-being, including aspects not covered extensively by the other methods, such as lighting quality and psychological well-being.

Each method has its unique strengths and advantages, making them suitable for different project requirements. Organisations seeking comprehensive sustainability and wellness goals may find BREEAM or LEED more suitable, while those specifically focused on fit-out projects could benefit from SKA. WELL is ideal for organisations placing a high priority on occupant health and well-being.

In an era of increasing environmental awareness, environmental assessment methods play a crucial role in promoting sustainability and occupant well-being within the UK commercial property sector. By embracing methods such as SKA, BREEAM, WELL, and LEED, alongside working with knowledgeable office fit-out companies like Estilo Interiors, businesses can ensure that their projects meet the highest environmental standards. Each method brings its unique approach and certification process, allowing companies to tailor their sustainability efforts to meet specific goals. By making informed choices, businesses can create healthier, more sustainable workspaces that benefit both the environment and their occupants.

To find out more about office environmental assessment methods, get in touch with our team of experts here.

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