It is estimated that buildings may have 30-40 fit-outs during their lifecycle.  With non-domestic buildings producing around 18% of the UK’s Carbon Emmissions, there is an increasing need to interrogate how we can safeguard the environment for future generations and ensure the buildings we develop are healthy places to live work and play.

Sustainability and Health in the Finishes and Interiors Sector

An underlying objective of the FIS is to help deliver a sustainable and healthy built environment.  Our working groups retain a focus on how we can work as a supply chain to reduce waste and use materials and processes that help to create a healthy environment.  Below are some resources and information that support this activity.  This is not exhaustive and if you are interested in improving the sustainability of your business or working on projects where there is the opportunity to introduce or the need to comply with key environmental or health requirements, please don’t hesitate to contact the FIS team.

Implementing a Sustainable Approach in your business

There are many compelling reasons to take a more dynamic approach to improving sustainability and reducing carbon in your business.  In June 2019, the UK today became the first major economy in the world to pass laws to end its contribution to global warming by 2050.  The construction Industry must play its part and in the Roadmap to Recovery sets down as a key ambition:

Net Zero Carbon – improving design, product selection and manufacturing and construction processes to deliver built assets that achieve a 50% reduction in greenhouse gases as part of the pathway towards net zero

This can only be achieved if the entire supply chain changes.  Many clients are now driving sustainability to the top of their procurement priorities and tools like The Construction Playbook, which are driving public sector procurement requires the anyone in tghe supply chain:

Take strides towards our 2050 net zero commitment and focus on a whole life carbon approach to fight climate change and deliver greener facilities designed for the future.

So whether you are doing it because a client is demanding it or just because you know it is the right thing to do, if you are interested in implementing a more sustainable approach in your business or on a particular project, the FIS is here to help.  Some basic advice is available below, but don’t hesitate to contact our team to talk through your options and how you can evolve to being a more sustainable business. 

Environmental Policies – How They Can Help Your Business and How to Write One

Construction Leadership Council Sustainable Building Training Guide

The Supply Chain Sustainability School (a wealth of free resources to support the Construction Supply Chain in improving Sustainability and helping to hit net-Zero Targets)

A recent manifesto published by Perkins & Will sets down a clear strategy to moving to zero carbon and identifies that the built environment is responsible for 40% of the UK’s total carbon footprint and within this fit-out is responsible for 40% of energy in a building.  A key figure to target improvement identified in this report is that 300 tonnes of fit-out goes to landfill every day. 

BREEAM Refurbishment and Fit Out (RFO)

The BREEAM Refurbishment and Fit Out (RFO) standard

The BREEAM Refurbishment and Fit Out (RFO) standard enables real estate investors, developers and building owners to assess and mitigate sustainability-related impacts during the design and works of a refurbishment or fit out project.  Through the assessment and certification process, the standard recognises and reflects the performance of the building once improvements have been made to the external envelope, structure, core services, local services or interior design of a building.

The standard can be used to assess the refurbishment and fit-out of most types and uses of existing buildings, including homes (note: in the UK there are separate standalone technical standards for non-domestic and domestic projects).  The standard includes specific assessment criteria for heritage buildings that take into account the constraints on these types of projects.

What does BREEAM for Refurbishment and Fit-Out set out to achieve?

The BREEAM Refurbishment and Fit-Out standards aim to help investors, owners, landlords and occupiers by:

  • Retaining, improving and future proofing existing building assets instead of demolishing and rebuilding
  • Increases asset value by attracting clientele looking for improved standards of living or working conditions that enhances occupiers health, wellbeing, productivity & satisfaction
  • Improves overall building performance, which in turn reduces overall operational costs
  • Offers a route to demonstrate corporate social responsibility and sustainable business leadership
  • Provides certification and assurance from third party licensed assessors, that the building’s environmental performance has been met
  • Broader benefits of applying BREEAM can be located here

How does it work?

The assessment criteria and process focus on the scope of the refurbishment and/or fit-out from concept design through to the completed works of the building or unit. Once an Assessor has been appointed, and early appointment is recommended, they will undertake a number of site visits. These visits typically occur at least once during the design stage and once just after the building has been refurbished or fitted out. The assessor requires evidence to support the design and refurbishment work decisions for the performance claimed, agreed during the design of the project, and checks they have been fully implemented so that the benefits of the schemes application can be realised.

Finding a BREEAM assessor

Additional Supporting Information

BREEAM Refurbishment and Fit-Out Brochure

The BREEAM Non Domestic RFO Standard

The BREEAM Domestic RFO Standard


WELL Building Standard

FIS Members will often be involved in projects that adopt the WELL Standard.  WELL is a leading tool for advancing health and well-being in buildings globally.   Register your office, building or other space to leverage WELL’s flexible framework for improving health and human experience through design.


WELL Building Standard article in SpecFinish May 2017

WELL Case Studies

Fit-out specialist and FIS member QOB Interiors has delivered a ‘gold’ level performance in the fit-out for multi-disciplinary engineer Cundall at One Carter Lane, Europe’s first building to gain the WELL Building Standard (WELL) – you can read more about the project here

Cundall London demonstrated a positive ROI outcome from WELL within three months merely by calculating their reductions in sick leave and attrition without any accounting for all the other benefits: Read the Case Study from a Cundall perspective here:  An Introduction to the WELL Building Standard – Cundall

SKA Rating System

Ska Rating was established in 2009 as the environmental assessment method, benchmark and standard for non-domestic fit-outs.  It helps designers, contractors, landlords and tenants assess fit out projects against a set of sustainability good practice criteria, known as good practice measures (GPM).   FIS sits on the board and supports the development of this standard.   

Although there were established tools for assessing the environmental impact of whole buildings (eg BREEAM in the UK, LEED in the US), industry feedback that the certification of fit out, especially on existing buildings, indicated that attempts to use whole building systems were unsatisfactory both in terms of high costs and low relevance.  Ska Rating has been developed with designers, contractors, corporate occupiers, managing agents and consultants. It differs from other labelling systems in that it is:

  • Project driven: labels fit out projects irrespective of base building
  • A free online tool has been made available to help organisations achieve more sustainable fit outs (businesses only pay if they want formal
  • Flexible scoping: the tool measures only what is within the specific project’s scope.

How does it work?

SKA 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 rating system
  • Flexible scoping: match the rating to the scope of the fit-out 
  • Easy-to-use online tool
  • 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
  • Applicable to offices 
  • Applicable to retail

For more information on SKA visit the website here.



Plasterboard Sustainability Partnership

The Plasterboard Sustainability Partnership (PSP), which is made up of the broad range of stakeholders involved in the production, installation and disposal of plasterboard as well as the relevant government departments and regulatory agencies, was established in 2009 as an output of a DEFRA programme to develop a Plasterboard Roadmap identifying the environmental impacts of plasterboard throughout its lifecycle.  The Partnership is supported by the FIS Drylining Working Group.

More Information.

The Plasterboard Resource Efficiency Action Plan (REAP) sets targets for reducing waste across the sector.  There are currently no records across our sector for plasterboard waste. In order to understand the levels of plasterboard waste in the sector, the FIS Drywall Group has proposed members using a single method to record waste.

Download the document here

Plasterboard Company Waste Report

Plasterboard Site Waste Report

Technical note – The true cost of disposing of a skip full of plasterboard


Ceilings Sustainability Partnership

The Ceilings Sustainability Partnership (CSP), which is made up of manufacturers, distributors and installers of suspended ceilings, was established to ensure that the resources used to manufacture Mineral Wool Ceiling Tiles are not wasted or having a detrimental impact on the environment.

Ceiling Sustainability Partnership

CSP List of Recyclers

Mineral Wool Ceiling Tiles: A Resource Efficiency Action Plan

Fit-Out Environmental Good Practice – Ciria Guide

A Resource Efficiency Action Plan for mineral wool ceiling tiles

Flooring Sustainability Partnership

This work was initiated by the Construction Products Association and supported by FIS as part of their commitments within the Strategy for Sustainable Construction. More information on the action plan can be found here.

As part of this work a specialist website has been created with the support of funding from WRAP and BRE Trust. It acts as a useful resource for those who want to know more about flooring waste and how it can be managed.

It has information for 5 types of flooring: Broadloom carpet and underlayment, Carpet tiles, Resilient flooring, Hard flooring, Resin flooring

For assistance with the recycling of carpets – List-of-carpet-recyclers

For assistance with Raised Access Flooring – click here