- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 18 Jan 2018
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 carried out:
- A design stage assessment resulting in an interim certificate being issued.
- A post-construction assessment resulting in a final certificate being issued and a rating awarded.
There is also an optional pre-assessment assessment, 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.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Assessing health and wellbeing in buildings.
- Atlas building, Eindhoven University.
- Building Research Establishment.
- 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.
- Common Minimum Standards.
- Floor insulation.
- Government Construction Strategy.
- Green rating systems.
- Iran - market potential for BREEAM.
- Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
- National Planning Policy Framework.
- NHBC technical standards.
- Performance in use.
- Roof insulation.
- Ska rating.
- Strategic ecology framework SEF.
- WELL and BREEAM align.
- Whole-life costs.
Featured articles and news
The quality of Cambridge owes as much to its open spaces as to its architectural uniqueness.
If events occur that cause the completion of the works to be delayed then these may be compensation events.
BSRIA's new Building MOTs Scheme is designed to provide guidance on the next steps after compliance.
At an ICE discussion, the focus was on delivering a Northern Infrastructure Strategy based on opportunity for all.
The Considerate Constructors Scheme officially launch the new Ultra Site status for contractors and supply chains.
The risk of specification errors in the cladding sector is "worryingly high" after Grenfell, according to major distributor.
Here is our outline work plan for a private sector design and build project.
BRE are to publish new guidance aimed at assuring buyers as to the merits of off-site construction methods.
Who are the various different stakeholders in development projects? Find out in our introductory article.
How a BRE office became the centre-piece for major biophilic design research.