SKA: reducing risk and increasing success on a project

Solving problems

18 April 2016

Elina Grigoriou discusses how to reduce risk and increase project success through procurement and delivery for a SKA-assessed interiors project

Decisions taken in the early days of a project can affect its long-term performance. There are cases where the designers specifying products and materials on such a SKA-assessed project have not considered all of the client’s needs, in terms of style, durability, cost, maintenance and environmental performance, passing the responsibility for fulfilling the remainder on to the delivery team. During the tender period, decisions should be made as to whether to include all requirements or not, to manage expectations during delivery.

Tender stage

As the tender returns are reviewed during this stage, you should check that the main contractor has sent the individual measures to the relevant subcontractors according to their trade, giving them clear advance warning that they are required to submit the evidence at the end.

It also is good practice to check whether the main and subcontractors have a dedicated individual who will manage the collation of evidence. Many measures end up being unachievable simply because evidence cannot be collated.

If any changes take place during delivery, the surveyors managing the change order process must ensure that any alternatives proposed also comply with the SKA criteria. This is not just the case for specific, targeted measures but also for general measures such as D20 Timber, which includes timber elements on items that may not themselves be targeted.

For example, if timber battens are used to support the interior cladding of a lift car, the measure for assessing the lifts is not affected but they will affect the overall performance of timber on the project, and thus whether or not it fulfils measure D20.

Good practice

The upfront purchase cost of some compliant items can, in certain cases, be less competitive than the industry standard; some surveyors’ assumption that this applies across the board is incorrect. As a result, project teams can find themselves ruling out measures at the early stages without reviewing the real details and opportunities available. The market is increasingly offering more environmentally friendly products at competitive prices, which are as good as traditional solutions.

Being aware of delivery lead times and product availability is important as some SKA-compliant materials or products may need longer to source, and some of them cannot be replaced, with only a limited range of alternatives on the market at present. This runs the risk of requiring last-minute substitutions, which may not comply with SKA criteria, as in the case of companies that are used to working on projects with off-the-shelf products. If they are replaced with non-compliant items, SKA criteria may not be fulfilled.

If a project is targeting good practice rather than simply standard practice then some actions and specifications will of necessity not be typical (i.e. standard), and neither will the delivery method. This is a fundamental principle that must be understood from the outset by clients and project management teams during good practice procurement, to ensure that design and delivery teams are also on board with this thinking.

Managing risk

During the delivery process, issues that were not in the scope of the design stages might be re-introduced as the subcontractors finalise details on site. This process will skew the project ranking of measures, and thus affect the scoring. It is particularly critical when a measure targeted is in a gateway position and the introduction of another measure above it in the ranking causes it to drop out of the gateway measures.

This means, for example, that projects heading for the highest SKA rating, gold, can get downgraded to silver, or from silver to bronze. But it can also work in a project’s favour, when a project might go from unrated to bronze due to the inclusion of a new, high-ranking measure. A good designer, contractor or assessor will always keep an eye on this and be aware of the issues, so as to design out risks before they occur.

The 100th gold certificate was awarded in September to a retail scheme assessment. The total number of projects certified by December 2015 was 436, with 114 achieving the gold rating.

The SKA rating for higher education will be launched in 2016, with another scheme update for retail to start later this year. A list of SKA-compliant products can be found on the RICS website and the searchable directory.

Elina Grigoriou is Design and Sustainability Director at Grigoriou Interiors, Ska rating Technical Advisor for RICS and all scheme development partners, and Chair of the SKA rating Technical Committee

Further information

  • The online system and good practice measures documents are free to use, and can be found on the RICS website
  • Related competencies include Sustainability
  • This feature is taken from the RICS Building surveying journal (March/April 2016)