Last edited 21 Dec 2020

Main author

Tom Blois-Brooke Engineer Website

Specifying BREEAM in local planning guidelines


[edit] Introduction and aim of this article

The aim of the article is to provide advice and guidance to those setting BREEAM rating targets for a development, in particular for local authorities and planning consultancies who may be responsible for setting and amending planning conditions.

There are a number of considerations to be taken into account when setting and reviewing planning conditions, some of which are listed below:

Setting unrealistic sustainability targets for developments can have the opposite effect to that intended as project teams and developers are unable to meet the requirements without incurring significant costs, meaning developments can become unviable, leading to a consensus that BREEAM certification adds costs without yielding operational (lettable or sale) value.

[edit] Scope of BREEAM

The BREEAM scheme was originally introduced for new build developments but has expanded its scope to cover the following types of development:

Within the above, there are options to assess the following development scope of works:

More information can be found here:

This article focuses on BREEAM New Construction for non-domestic developments as this is the most common assessment but the principles apply to all BREEAM schemes.

[edit] Benefits of BREEAM

The aim and objectives of BREEAM, as set out in the BREEAM New Construction 2018 manual, are as follows:

BREEAM assesses, encourages and rewards environmental, social and economic sustainability throughout the built environment. The BREEAM schemes:

More information on the objectives and principles of BREEAM is contained with the technical manuals which can be found on the technical standards link above.

The following webpage contains information on the business case for BREEAM as well as links to independent reports highlight the value of BREEAM: The BSRIA Report BG 42/2012 on “The Value of BREEAM” (available at the above link) gives a good overview on the benefits of BREEAM and the environmental, social and economic benefits.

Resource Pack 2 in the links at the bottom of the article also contains information on the value case for BREEAM.

The various articles for each issue are in the process of being updated to include a summary of the benefits of achieving the credit to the project team and end user.

[edit] BREEAM Rating Benchmarks

Developments assessed under BREEAM can achieve one of the following BREEAM ratings:

  • Unclassified (Score <30%)
  • Pass (Score ≥30)
  • Good (Score ≥45)
  • Very Good (Score ≥55)
  • Excellent (Score ≥70)
  • Outstanding (Score ≥85)

BREEAM rating benchmarks enable clients and other stakeholders to compare the performance of a newly constructed building with other buildings assessed under the same version of the BREEAM scheme and the typical sustainability performance of new non-domestic buildings in the UK.

BRE has defined minimum standards for each BREEAM rating to act as a baseline, the details of which can be found within the BREEAM manuals.

The above ratings broadly represent the following performance levels:

Therefore, it can be considered that, for any rating above Pass, the development has exceeded standard good practice and demonstrates the client's and / or occupier’s commitment to the environment and sustainability.

BRE monitors the developments undergoing assessment against the current BREEAM scheme to determine when what was considered either advanced good practice or best practice at the outset of the scheme being released becomes standard practice. When this occurs, BRE releases a revision to the BREEAM criteria to maintain the above performance levels.

As a result, there is a significant difference between a BREEAM Excellent-rated building assessed against the BREEAM New Construction 2014 criteria and one assessed against the BREEAM New Construction 2018 criteria. This difference is explored in more detail below.

[edit] BREEAM New Construction 2014 vs 2018

To assist in understanding the impact of the release of the BREEAM New Construction 2018 criteria on developments, an assessment has been undertaken for the following hypothetical development that achieved an Excellent rating under the 2014 scheme to determine how it would perform under the 2018 scheme:

This has been undertaken on the basis that the evidence gathered as part of the 2014 assessment was then subsequently assessed against the 2018 criteria with no modifications or additions.

The table below summarises the assessment:

2014 vs 2018 comparison.PNG

Against the 2014 scheme, the development achieved a rating of Excellent (70.47%).

Against the 2018 scheme, the development achieved a rating of Pass (44.90%). This was due to the following reasons:

It is therefore recommended that, when setting BREEAM targets, consideration is given to which version scheme the development will be assessed under and how recently was the new scheme released. This will require those setting BREEAM targets to adapt their requirements to suit each development.

It should be noted that this is one factor and there are others that need to be taken into consideration as outlined in the introduction. If further guidance is required, some useful links have been included at the bottom of the article.

For more information on the changes introduced under BREEAM 2018, refer to the following article:

[edit] Certification Timelines

The BREEAM New Construction 2018 manual (Revision 2.0) contains the following useful chart on how the BREEAM assessment process aligns with the RIBA Stages:

RIBA Stages.png

In practice, the following often occurs:

The latter can be down to a number of reasons which can include:

The current timeframes for QA Audits are as follows (as of March 2019):

Audit Type Minimum Typical Maximum
Administrative Check 1 day 3 days 10 days
Technical Audit – First Submission 3 weeks 6 weeks 8 weeks
Technical Audit – Resubmission 2 weeks 5 weeks 8 weeks

These timeframes are subject to change and the BRE is introducing measures to streamline the process. Based on the typical time frames and assuming a technical audit is required, a period of three months from submission of the report to receipt of the certificate can be expected.

Achieving certification prior to occupation is unrealistic as evidence required to demonstrate compliance is often not available until after the building has completed. Examples of this include:

An alternative would be to seek verification that the assessment was on target to achieving the targeted rating at the time of occupation and will be submitted no later than six weeks after completion to allow the assessor time to complete the report and gather final evidence. Evidence of certification could then be provided no more than six months after completion.

Resource Pack 1 in the links below contains information on setting planning conditions relating to BREEAM and some sample wording that could be used that captures the above points.

[edit] External links

BRE has produced the following documentation to assist planners:

A recommended starting point would be the following document on the top 10 questions asked by planners about BREEAM:

[edit] About this article

This article was written by Tom Blois-Brooke.

[edit] Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki

--Tom Blois-Brooke 15:19, 03 Jun 2019 (BST)


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