BREEAM is the Building Research Establishment’s (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, educational buildings and healthcare buildings) and offers a bespoke scheme for non-standard buildings. It can be applied to new developments or refurbishment projects. International schemes also 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.
Some clients may require the use of BREEAM.
…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.
Assessments are carried out by trained assessors. BREEAM assessments are based on a scoring system carried out against nine criteria:
- Land use and ecology.
- Health and well-being.
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 the BREEAM rating. BREEAM ratings include; unclassified, pass, good, very good, excellent and outstanding.
Two stages of assessment and certification are carried out; a design stage assessment resulting in an interim certificate being issued and a post construction assessment resulting in a final certificate being issued and a rating awarded. There can also be an optional pre-assessment report, which can help designers understand where the design needs 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.
In June 2012, a new BREEAM scheme for domestic refurbishment was introduced. As with other schemes, this new scheme allows domestic refurbishment schemes to be assessed and rated on a range from pass to outstanding.
The move has been 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. By bringing together CEEQUAL with BRE’s BREEAM scheme, the plan is that this standard and certification tool will fulfill this desire and be able to serve civil engineering and infrastructure projects in the UK and globally.
On 9 June 2016, BRE announced the further expansion of BREEAM in partnership with BuildingWise, the award-winning US-based LEED certification consultancy, to create BREEAM USA.
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.
- 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.
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