A refurbishment project at a West Midlands university has achieved a prestigious gold rating for environmental good practice.

Aston University has become only the second national higher education provider to attain a SKA HE Gold rating, following the refurbishment of its biology and pharmacy departments.

Office fit out and refurbishment specialist, Overbury, worked alongside the university and other partners through the assessment tool, which contains more than 100 good practice measures covering energy and COemissions, waste, water, materials, pollution, wellbeing and transport.

Works included demolishing brick walls within the university’s main building, installing new mechanical and engineering services, using glass partitions to create multiple research and postgraduate office space and the removal of a suspended ceiling to allow for more natural light.

Research undertaken by Overbury demonstrates a majority of existing and prospective students are interested in knowing the green credentials of their universities. 

Dr Joe Croft, head of environmental and sustainability at Overbury and SKA technical committee member, said: 

“SKA HE is an invaluable tool for the higher education sector as it provides a set of benchmarks for designers and contractors which have been developed to meet the specific needs of the HE sector. The scheme has already brought value to many universities, with many more looking to use the scheme in the coming years.

“The demand from students for sustainable environments that have minimal environmental impact is huge. Achieving a SKA HE rating gives universities the chance to gain an advantage over their competitors and drive improvements in the lifecycle of their spaces.

“Having had a role in developing the scheme, we’re encouraged to see its real-life impact onsite and are pleased to have helped Aston University achieve what it set out to do. Every effort was made to embed SKA into all aspects of the fit out and we’re grateful to our supply chain for rolling up their sleeves and getting stuck in – it was a real team effort.”

Many UK universities are structured around older buildings that were created more than a century ago when the establishments were founded. The ability to fit out these historical spaces presents a complex set of challenges, especially when it comes to sustainable practice. 

Launched by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in 2016, SKA HE provides a benchmark for the interior fit out and refurbishment of higher education projects by measuring the specialist spaces of universities including lecture theatres, research laboratories and teaching areas.

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Andrew Bryers, energy and sustainability manager at Aston University, said:

“We are hugely proud to be have been awarded a SKA HE Gold rating. This rating demonstrates that sustainability considerations have been incorporated into all aspects of the refurbishment project, from design to handover. As a university we are committed to leading from the front in terms of environmental and sustainability issues and hope that this is the first of many gold-rated projects at Aston.”

A leader in sustainable fit out, Overbury has achieved a series of firsts on environmentally assessed projects, including participation in the development of the SKA HE rating and delivering the fit out of the UK’s only other gold rated project at University College London in 2017. 

Overbury completed a series of transformational projects within the education sector last year, including schemes at the University of Warwick, Staffordshire University, Aston University and the University of Birmingham, in works valuing a total of around £7 million. 

The SKA HE Gold Aston University project was delivered by Overbury in partnership with Robothams Architects, Consulting LLP, PMP Consultants and SDA Limited. The project was assessed and submitted by Aston University’s energy and sustainability manager, Andrew Bryers. 

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