An introduction to BREEAM
BREEAM is the Building Research Establishment (BRE) Environmental Assessment Method, first launched in the UK in 1990. It sets best practice standards for the environmental performance of buildings through design, specification, construction and operation.
BREEAM sets benchmarks for standard categories of development (such as offices, retail developments, education buildings and healthcare buildings) and offers a bespoke scheme for non-standard buildings. It can be applied to new developments or refurbishment projects, and international schemes exist for projects outside of the UK.
It allows clients, project teams and facilities managers to be certain that the required standard of environmental best practice is being adopted on their project. It can also be used as a marketing tool for potential purchasers or tenants.
The government’s Common Minimum Standards referred to in the Government Construction Strategy require that an environmental assessment is carried out on all public projects, and states that; '…where BREEAM is used, all new projects are to achieve an “excellent” rating….where an alternative environmental assessment methodology is used, projects should seek to achieve equivalent ratings.'
In addition, local planning authorities may require BREEAM certification (or equivalent) either as part of a local plan, or as a planning condition imposed on developments. This kind of requirement is likely to become more common given the presumption in favour of sustainability in the National Planning Policy Framework.
BREEAM assessments are carried out by trained assessors based on a scoring system with nine criteria:
- Land use and ecology.
- Health and wellbeing.
Each of the criteria is scored and then multiplied by a weighting. There are minimum thresholds that must be achieved, and additions can be made for specific innovations. The resulting overall score is translated into one of the BREEAM ratings; unclassified, pass, good, very good, excellent or outstanding.
Two stages of assessment and certification are typically carried out:
- A design stage assessment resulting in an interim certificate being issued (This stage is optional)
- A post-construction assessment resulting in a final certificate being issued and a rating awarded.
There is also an optional pre-assessment stage, which can help designers understand aspects of their proposals that need to be improved to achieve the desired rating. In addition, there is a BREEAM In-Use scheme which allows an action plan to be produced to improve the management and performance both of the building in use and of client activities within the completed building.
Whilst BREEAM dominates the UK market, alternative methods of environmental assessment include; Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) in the USA, Greenstar in Australia, HQE in France and CASBEE in Japan. For more information see: Green rating systems.
In November 2015, BRE announced their acquisition of CEEQUAL to enable the development of a new sustainability rating scheme for civil engineering and infrastructure projects. The was prompted by industry desire for a single sustainability rating scheme to address the challenge of delivering more sustainable and resilient infrastructure on the part of clients and contractors. For more information see BREEAM and CEEQUAL.
There are currently 5.6 million commercial buildings in the US that are not benchmarking their sustainability efforts using a scientifically-based green building certification. The collaboration provides BRE with a platform on which to further develop BREEAM in the USA, where the focus will be on the BREEAM In-Use standard.
Gavin Dunn, Global Director of BREEAM, said: “BREEAM has massive potential in the USA – many of their existing buildings are not equipped for the future and underperform against their potential, wasting resources and unnecessarily impacting the environment. BREEAM USA will help us to address this. It also demonstrates the global value of BREEAM, which is further reinforced with the recent opening of our offices in China and Dubai.”
For more information, see BREEAM USA.
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Assessing health and wellbeing in buildings.
- Building Research Establishment.
- BRE and GRESB introduce new efficiencies for reporting Green Building Certifications.
- BRE Trust.
- BREEAM and CEEQUAL.
- BREEAM associate online training.
- BREEAM In-Use International.
- BREEAM USA.
- BREEAM: Value multiplies while costs plummet.
- Closing the gap between design and as-built performance.
- Code for Sustainable Homes.
- Green rating systems.
- Iran - market potential for BREEAM.
- Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
- NHBC technical standards.
- Performance in use.
- Ska rating.
- Strategic ecology framework SEF.
- WELL and BREEAM align.
- Whole-life costs.
Issue support documents
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Issue support documents are written for named BREEAM Issues or sub-issues. More info. (ac) = awaiting content
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- BREEAM Sustainability champion
- BREEAM Environmental management
- BREEAM Considerate construction
- BREEAM Monitoring of construction site impacts
- BREEAM Aftercare support
- BREEAM Seasonal commissioning
- BREEAM Testing and inspecting building fabric
- BREEAM Life cycle cost and service life planning
- BREEAM Stakeholder consultation (ac)
- BREEAM Commissioning (ac)
- BREEAM Handover (ac)
- BREEAM Inclusive and accessible design (ac)
- BREEAM Post occupancy evaluation (ac)
 Health and Wellbeing
- BREEAM Visual comfort Daylighting (partly ac)
- BREEAM Visual comfort View out
- BREEAM Visual comfort Glare control
- BREEAM Indoor air quality plan
- BREEAM Indoor air quality Ventilation
- BREEAM Thermal comfort
- BREEAM Internal and external lighting (ac)
- BREEAM Indoor pollutants VOCs (ac)
- BREEAM Potential for natural ventilation (ac)
- BREEAM Safe containment in laboratories (ac)
- BREEAM Acoustic performance (ac)
- BREEAM Safety and security (ac)
- BREEAM Reduction of energy use and carbon emissions
- BREEAM Energy monitoring
- BREEAM External lighting
- BREEAM Low carbon design
- BREEAM Passive design
- BREEAM Free cooling
- BREEAM LZC technologies
- BREEAM Energy efficient cold storage (partly ac)
- BREEAM Energy efficient transportation systems (ac)
- BREEAM Energy efficient laboratory systems
- BREEAM Energy efficient equipment (partly ac)
- BREEAM Drying space
- BREEAM Public transport accessibility
- BREEAM Sustainable transport measures
- BREEAM Proximity to amenities
- BREEAM Cyclist facilities
- BREEAM Alternative modes of transport (ac)
- BREEAM Maximum car parking capacity
- BREEAM Travel plan
- BREEAM Home office (ac)
- BREEAM Water consumption
- BREEAM Water efficient equipment
- BREEAM Water monitoring (ac)
- BREEAM Water leak detection (ac)
- BREEAM Hard landscaping and boundary protection
- BREEAM Responsible sourcing of materials
- BREEAM Insulation
- BREEAM Designing for durability and resilience
- BREEAM Life cycle impacts (ac)
- BREEAM Material efficiency (ac)
- BREEAM Construction waste management
- BREEAM Recycled aggregates
- BREEAM Speculative floor & ceiling finishes
- BREEAM Adaptation to climate change
- BREEAM Operational waste (ac)
- BREEAM Functional adaptability (ac)
 Land Use and Ecology
- BREEAM Site Selection
- BREEAM Ecological value of site
- BREEAM Protection of ecological features
- BREEAM Minimising impact on existing site ecology
- BREEAM Enhancing site ecology
- BREEAM Long term impact on biodiversity (ac)
- BREEAM Impact of refrigerants
- BREEAM NOx emissions
- BREEAM Flood risk management (ac)
- BREEAM Surface water run-off (ac)
- BREEAM Reduction of night time light pollution (partly ac)
- BREEAM Reduction of noise pollution
Once an ISD has been initially created the '(ac)' marker can be removed
This particular index is based around the structure of the New Construction and RFO schemes.