How universities can get top marks for refurbishment

Overbury head of environmental and sustainability Dr Joe Croft.

Universities can attract and retain students by ensuring that projects involving the refurbishment and fit out of their buildings meet exacting new environmental standards, according to property experts.

Dozens of leading figures in higher education from across the UK will attend a Birmingham seminar this month (March) to hear about how the launch of SKA Higher Education (SKA HE) will drive innovation in environmental and sustainable fit out, giving universities a competitive edge.

SKA HE, the latest environmental assessment tool for the higher education sector provides a new benchmark for the interior fit out and refurbishment of learning spaces in the UK. SKA, the RICS’ environmental assessment tool, offers schemes for offices and retail environments but until now, it has been unable to measure the specialist spaces of universities like lecture theatres, research laboratories or teaching spaces.

Hosted by national refurbishment and fit out specialist Overbury, at the Brasshouse Language Centre in the Library of Birmingham, the SKA HE Explained seminar will also explore how the assessment tool can help institutions meet and exceed the environmental expectations of students and stakeholders.

Attendees will hear from a panel of expert speakers about their experience with the scheme so far, chaired by Overbury’s head of environmental and sustainability Dr Joe Croft. Joe worked closely with the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and other industry peers to develop new Good Practice Measures specifically for SKA HE, building on the existing SKA Offices framework.

Joe comments:  “There has been significant take up of SKA in the higher education sector from numerous universities – including University College London (UCL), University of Liverpool, Westminster University and London School of Economics (LSE) – but feedback was that the established offices and retail SKA schemes did not suit some specific higher education spaces.

“The new scheme incorporates and updates some Good Practice Measures from offices and retail, and introduces new measures to cover the additional higher education spaces.”

Overbury has an established specialist higher education fit out and refurbishment teams that works across the UK, delivering projects for all of The Russell Group universities, as well as a number of other higher education clients. These include Aston University in Birmingham, King’s College London, the University of Salford, and the University of Portsmouth. Additionally, the contractor has already delivered two SKA HE rated projects for LSE (Silver rating) and City, University of London (Bronze rating) – the latter being the first project to receive a rating under the new scheme.

Joe continues: “Our initial research has revealed there is an increasing demand from students for sustainable environments with minimal environmental impact, with a majority possessing an interest in the environmental credentials of the university they attend – making SKA HE all the more relevant in today’s higher education spaces. We look forward to welcoming higher education professionals to our seminar.”

Fellow guest speakers at the seminar will include Evan Landy, of University College London, and Sam Bensky, of building surveyors Rider Levett Bucknall. They will be discussing their experience with SKA HE, and their journeys to date with the innovative guide.

The free to attend seminar will go ahead on Thursday, March 23, from 8.30am, at the Brasshouse Language Centre. For more information or to register to attend visit