08 September 2016

BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) is a sustainability assessment method that is used to masterplan projects, infrastructure and buildings. Launched in 1990, by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) it sets standards for the environmental performance of buildings through the design, specification, construction and operation phases and can be applied to new developments or refurbishment schemes.

What does BREEAM measure?

BREEAM assessment evaluates the procurement, design, construction and operation of a development against a range of targets based on performance benchmarks.

It focuses on sustainable value across range of categories:

  • Energy
  • Land use and ecology
  • Water
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Pollution
  • Transport
  • Materials
  • Waste
  • Management

Each category focusses on the most influential factors, including reduced carbon emissions, low impact design, adaption to climate change, ecological value and biodiversity protection.

Independent licenced assessors carry out an assessment of a scheme and each of the criteria is scored and then multiplied by a weighting.

Two assessment/certification stages are carried out (a design stage assessment which results in an interim certificate, and a post-construction assessment resulting in a final certificate being issued and a rating awarded).

Developments are rated and certified on a scale of Unclassified (<30%), Pass (>30%), Good (>45%), Very Good (>55%), Excellent (>70%) and Outstanding (>85%).

The BREEAM rating benchmark levels enable a client or other stakeholder to compare an individual building’s performance with other BREEAM rated buildings and the typical sustainability performance of new non-domestic buildings in the UK.

Each BREEAM rating level broadly represents performance equivalent to:

  1. Outstanding: Less than top 1% of UK new non-domestic buildings (innovator)
  2. Excellent: Top 10% of UK new non-domestic buildings (best practice)
  3. Very Good: Top 25% of UK new non-domestic buildings (advanced good practice)
  4. Good: Top 50% of UK new non-domestic buildings (intermediate good practice)
  5. Pass: Top 75% of UK new non-domestic buildings (standard good practice)

What are the benefits of BREEAM?

BREEAM inspires developers and creators to improve, innovate and make effective use of resources.

The focus on sustainable value and efficiency makes BREEAM certified developments attractive property investments and generates sustainable environments that enhance the wellbeing of the people who live and work in them. 

While building to meet BREEAM's enhanced standards may incur a capital cost this should be viewed in the context of the overall value of sustainable development. In particular; reduced operational costs, helping to limit investor and developer risk in building for the future, making a building more attractive to let, sell or retain, and creating a healthier workplace.

Do I need to use BREEAM?

Clients may stipulate the use of BREAAM.

The UK Government's Construction Strategy makes it clear that an environmental assessment should be carried out on all public projects with the aim of achieving an Excellent rating in BREEAM (or equivalent if an alternative system is used).

Local Authorities may also stipulate BREEAM certification either as part of their local plan or a specific planning condition imposed on developments.

How popular is BREEAM?

Today there are almost 550,000 BREEAM certified developments and almost 2,250,700 buildings have been registered for assessment.

The method has been applied in over 70 countries (and is easily adapted to local and climatic conditions) and it currently enjoys around 80% share in the European market.

BREEAM dominates the UK market though there are alternative sustainability assessment methods including; Leadership in Energy in Environmental Design (LEED)  (USA), Greenstar (Australia) , Haute Qualité Environnementale (HQE)  (France), Comprehensive Assessment System for Built Environment Efficiency (CASBEE) (Japan).

Where does BREEAM fit with the Code for a Sustainable Built Environment?

BREEAM is part of The Code for a Sustainable Built Environment which is a strategic international framework for sustainability assessment of the built environment, also known as The Code.

The Code consists of a set of strategic principles and requirements which define an integrated approach to the design, construction, management, evaluation and certification of the environmental, social and economic impacts across the full life cycle of the built environment. The Code is interpreted through a Core Technical Standard and a Core Process Standard, both supported by Core Science.

BREEAM Core Standards interpret The Code as two linked documents - one looking at technical issues and the other on process/operational matters.

See www.breeam.com/why-breeam for more details.

What does the future hold for BREEAM?

BREEAM continues to evolve. In 2012 a scheme for domestic refurbishment was launched and in 2014 a scheme for non-domestic refurbishment and fit-out was introduced (expanding to become an international scheme in 2015).

The acquisition of CEEQUAL in 2015 will allow the organisation to look at a new sustainability rating scheme for civil engineering and infrastructure.

In Summer 2016 BRE confirmed it had entered into a partnership with US-based BuildingWise (an LEED certification consultancy) and a US venture, BREAM USA , would be formed.

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