BREEAM is a familiar term which has been in use since 1990, and when used in the construction industry, usually refers to 'BREEAM Buildings'. But BRE's Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) family is made up of a wider set of tools, developed to assist professionals when considering the environmental impacts of projects. The group encompasses:

  • BREEAM Buildings – assesses the environmental performance of any type of building (new and existing) and the operational and embodied environmental impacts of individual buildings.
  • BREEAM Developments – targeting and benchmarking service for large scale masterplanning, new settlement or community development.
  • BREEAM Envest – Envest 2 assesses the environmental and whole life impacts of alternative materials, as well as servicing and operational strategies.
  • BREEAM LCA - certified system for providing information about the environmental impacts of construction materials over the whole life cycle of the product.
  • BREEAM Smartwaste – site waste minimisation tool.
  • BREEAM Specification, 'The Green Guide' – this publication compares environmental impacts of over 250 elemental specifications for roofs, walls, floors etc.

For those less familiar with the scheme, BREEAM Building is probably the process with the greatest publicity, and covers a wide range of building types. Each assessment programme is designed specifically to suit the type by BRE. The other current BREEAM versions include:

  • BREEAM Bespoke
  • BREEAM Courts
  • BREEAM EcoHomes
  • BREEAM EcoHomes XB
  • BREEAM Industrial
  • BREEAM International
  • BREEAM Multi Residential
  • BREEAM Offices
  • BREEAM Prisons
  • BREEAM Retail
  • BREEAM Schools

Set type criteria are used to environmentally appraise the individual project in the following areas:

  • Management
  • Health and Wellbeing
  • Energy
  • Transport
  • Water
  • Material and Waste
  • Land use and Ecology
  • Pollution

A broad spectrum of information is required (over time) of the project team, allowing the assessor to award credits in each topic area. The credit scores are then environmentally weighted, hopefully giving an overall score equating to a compliance category of PASS, GOOD, VERY GOOD or EXCELLENT.

BREEAM Building is increasingly the performance tool dictated by funding bodies as a condition of funding, usually requiring a standard of VERY GOOD or above. It is primarily a design stage tool and should be adopted early in the project's inception, but can also be used for existing buildings. Pre-assessment estimators are available free to use from the BRE website, however the full system lends itself to dialogue between BREEAM consultant/ assessor and the project team, in order to achieve the highest rating.

Assessment is considered to be impartial, being carried out by assessors under BRE license, and subject to BRE QA procedures, monitoring, and certification processes. BREEAM was also winner of the 'Best Program' Award at the 2005 Tokyo World Sustainable Building Conference, and was recognised as “the most successfully executed program for promoting sustainable practices, and influencing other initiatives, worldwide”.

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