Verifiers grilled at ISCA Conference

What a terrific ISCA conference we had over the last three days! Congratulations to the ISCA team presenters, sponsors and delegates.

I enjoyed sharing the stage with Ken, Daniella, Nicole, Meg and Kirsty for the verifier panel. Time flew, so I’ve completed my thoughts here on helping projects and assets do well through verification.

I suggested to that room, packed with ISCA diehards, that there are process and substantive considerations for preparing a good rating submission.

Most advice dwells on process. This requires common sense, organisation, attention to detail, and the devotion of sufficient time to get it right. For help on process, start by downloading and reading the new ISCA Submission Guidelines. They’re full of practical tips.

The lesser known substance side means you must approach the scheme with humility—and develop and confirm your understanding of its requirements. It’s a spiritual journey.

Verifiers apply the Technical Manual (TM) as if it were legislation, but of course, it’s not.

Lawyers write legislation, applying hundreds of years of accumulated experience to drive out ambiguity and increase the probability of consistent interpretation.

The TM wasn’t written this way and ambiguity exists, making consistent interpretation an ongoing challenge. Fortunately, ISCA has case managers to help assessors understand how elements are being interpreted.

Although the TM is a big read, assessors must read every word of every credit and the additional guidance that follows, as well as cross-checking rulings from Technical Clarifications and Credit Interpretation Requests. There is no short-cut.

If you are asking colleagues from different disciplines to prepare material for credits, give them a copy of the requirements and work it through with them.

For anything that’s less than 100 percent clear, don’t assume your interpretation will be the same as the verifiers’. Discuss the issue with your case manager, explaining how you have interpreted it and intend to respond.

For example, in the Heritage Assessment and Management credit (Her-1, v1.2) there is a subtle difference between heritage interpretation to promote local heritage (Level 2) and identifying and implementing opportunities to enhance heritage (Level 3). Would installation of interpretive signage combined with a smoking ceremony fit Level 2 or 3? Is the smoking ceremony a ‘celebratory event’ used as an example of enhancement in the TM? These are questions to raise with your case manager.

Also on the substance side are the many calculations you must perform. These cover the resources credits—energy, water and materials—and several others (e.g. previously disturbed land; waste diversion from landfill; ecological value; and analysis of community surveys).

Verifiers check your numbers to see if they add-up, ‘make sense’ and accord with their experience. Hopefully, you have already checked them and had them peer reviewed by someone who knows the IS rating scheme.

To aid verification, provide summary tables or graphs that respond directly to the wording of the credit criteria. The summaries should link to the underlying calculations, and evidence should demonstrate the source data on which they rely. Upload your spreadsheets in native Excel format.

The scheme requires mathematical modelling for several elements, for which assessors often develop their own spreadsheet models. As modelling is always based on assumptions, verifiers will want to see assumptions identified explicitly and justified appropriately.

We all want rating outcomes to reflect the sustainability performance of projects and assets. Assessors can help by attending to process and substantive elements—and availing themselves of sound advice from case managers. You may also benefit by having your entire submission peer reviewed.

Disclaimer

Scott Losee is the Director of Losee Consulting Pty Ltd. These are his personal thoughts. Scott does not represent ISCA.

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