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retrofit briefing Technologhy4Change

Published by BRE Trust

20 Gracechurch Street, London


This office refit expresses its occupant's eco-friendly ambitions. 

As headline sponsor of the Catlin Arctic Survey for climate change research, global commercial insurance underwriter Catlin demanded a fit-out of its 20 Gracechurch Street office in London that would exemplify its eco-friendly ambitions.

The decision to refurbish nine floors at this address was apt: two floors of the grade 2 listed building had already been upgraded for RFIB Group in a successful pilot for the Ska rating system. Ska is an RICS environmental assessment tool specifically for fit-out and refurbishment projects, comprising 104 good practice measures for sustainability.

BW Interiors, the fit-out contractor for Catlin, had been involved in that inaugural Ska project with Pringle Brandon in 2009, helping to achieve a silver rating for the RFIB Group fit-out. The following year, the company's Category B fit-out for Westpac achieved the first gold Ska in London. It therefore targeted a rating for the 129,000 sq ft fit-out for Catlin.


The works were a combination of reconfiguration, refit and refurbishment including:

  • creation of an atrium through the structural removal and strengthening of floors
  • installation of new staircases, lifts, and handrail replacements for the escalators
  • new changing rooms, toilets, executive showers, laundry and washing facilities with electronically accessed and controlled lockers, restaurants, cafés, pantry, tea points, conservatory, lounge areas and executive offices.
  • full internal fit-out of open-plan offices, bespoke curved glazed brokers' booths and video conferencing suites
  • installation of new mechanical and electrical (M&E) services, communications rack, fire protection and plant area
  • installation of corporate signage, bespoke feature lighting and an acrylic ribbon feature spanning the structural glazed balustrade
  • creation of an audio-visual, security and IT infrastructure including a state-of-the-art telepresence room and fully integrated RFID system, incorporating security, access control, follow-me printing, room booking and cashless vending on ID card
  • fabric paneling to video conferencing suites.


The project achieved its Ska silver rating and all LEED-based KPIs were met. The scheme has targeted BREEAM Very Good.

Environmental key performance indicators (KPIs) were achieved in the following areas:

  • Recycled content by value (£): target was 20 per cent excluding M&E. 30 per cent was achieved
  • Re-used content by value (£): target was 1 per cent excluding M&E. 11.49 per cent was achieved
  • Renewable content by value (£): 3.12 per cent was delivered, against a target of ‘where possible'
  • Procurement and manufacturing of materials within 500 miles by value (£): more than double the target figure of 20 per cent, excluding M&E, was delivered
  • Materials sourced within 500 miles by value (£): target was 10 per cent, excluding M&E. 19.56 per cent was delivered
  • FSC/PEFC timber: 100% target was delivered
  • Construction waste diverted from landfill (BREEAM target): target was 75 per cent by weight. Result was 92 per cent by weight
  • Construction waste diverted from landfill and incinerators (Catlin KPI): target was 75 per cent, and the result was 87 per cent by weight
  • Embedded carbon of materials, excluding M&E: although no target was set for this, the result was calculated at 1109.63 tonnes
  • Chemicals containing volatile organic compounds, excluding M&E: the target was to meet BREEAM Offices 2008 and LEED thresholds, which was achieved (not yet assessed by BREEAM).

Lessons learned

  • This was the first time many of the subcontractors and manufacturers had been scrutinised so closely, and there was a ripple effect. Suppliers initiated their own compliant supply chains, wooden delivery pallets were found from more sustainable sources, and a joinery firm introduced a new factory spraying method.
  • Ska required the whole team to work collaboratively through decisions. This level of detail from the earliest stages made it a strong tool.
  • The silver rating for Ska owed a lot to the BREEAM guidelines followed during the design stage. This was because energy, materials, wellbeing and waste management are a focus under both schemes. This project has shown the two schemes can go hand in hand.

BW Interiors aims to achieve Ska accreditations by:

  • identifying easy and difficult wins, allocating extra resource to the more demanding factors and building in contingency to ensure accreditation
  • allocating the good practice measures (GPMs) to the relevant members of the delivery team
  • scrutinising the supply chain by assessing compliance against each GPM, and then requesting a commitment to the project's sustainability charter
  • monitoring the project materials, energy use, waste and more, to ensure compliance. Fines issued for noncompliance by sub-contractors raised £2,700 for charity.

For the fit-out contractor, this attention to detail included screening all materials - they found that they could replace many with more sustainable alternatives without compromising quality or aesthetics.

Sources and links

Client: Catlin Group

Interior designer and BREEAM assessor: Artillery Architecture and Interior Design

Environmental advisor: Beyond Carbon

Contractor and Ska assessor: BW Interiors

Project manager: Interactive Space

ICT consultant : Cordless Consultants

Catlin Arctic Survey

Ska Rating


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