As concerns about climate change and the environment continue to grow, there has been a significant increase in interest in sustainable building practices. One of the most widely recognized and respected methods for evaluating the sustainability of buildings is the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) certification.
In this comprehensive article, we will cover everything you need to know about BREEAM certification, including its history, the assessment process, benefits, and how to achieve certification for your building project.
What is BREEAM Certification?
BREEAM is a sustainability assessment method developed by the UK-based Building Research Establishment (BRE). It is used to evaluate the environmental performance and sustainability of new and existing buildings.
BREEAM certification provides a comprehensive, credible, and independent assessment of a building’s sustainability, covering various aspects such as energy use, water consumption, waste management, and ecological impact.
The primary goals of BREEAM certification are to:
- Encourage the adoption of sustainable building practices and technologies
- Enhance the economic, environmental, and social performance of buildings
- Provide a benchmark for comparing the sustainability of different buildings
- Offer a transparent and reliable certification system for sustainable buildings
Since its launch in 1990, BREEAM has become one of the most widely used and respected sustainability assessment methods worldwide, with over 590,000 certified buildings and over 2.5 million registered buildings across 90 countries.
The BREEAM Assessment Process
The BREEAM assessment process involves evaluating a building’s sustainability performance against several categories. Each category consists of specific criteria that contribute to the overall sustainability of the building. The categories include:
Energy: Evaluates the building’s energy efficiency, carbon emissions, and use of renewable energy sources
Water: Assesses the building’s water consumption and efficiency of water management systems
Materials: Examines the environmental impact of building materials, including their sourcing, use, and disposal
Waste: Considers the building’s waste management strategies, recycling facilities, and construction waste reduction measures
Pollution: Evaluates the building’s impact on local air and water quality, and measures taken to minimize pollution
Health and Well-being: Assesses the building’s indoor environment quality, including air quality, thermal comfort, and access to natural light
Transport: Considers the building’s accessibility by public transport, provisions for cyclists and pedestrians, and measures to reduce car usage
Land Use and Ecology: Examines the building’s impact on local biodiversity and the sustainable use of land resources
Management: Assesses the building’s management processes, including stakeholder engagement, monitoring, and maintenance
Innovation: Recognizes the building’s use of innovative technologies or design approaches that contribute to its sustainability
During the assessment process, a building is awarded credits based on its performance in each category. The total number of credits achieved determines the building’s overall BREEAM rating, which can range from Pass, Good, Very Good, Excellent, to Outstanding.
How to Prepare Your Building for a BREEAM Assessment
Preparing your building for a BREEAM assessment requires careful planning, collaboration between stakeholders, and a comprehensive understanding of the BREEAM criteria. The following steps will guide you through the process of preparing your building for a successful BREEAM assessment:
Familiarize Yourself with BREEAM Criteria
Begin by familiarizing yourself with the BREEAM certification scheme and its various categories, such as energy efficiency, resource management, health and well-being, and sustainable site selection and ecology. This will provide you with a clear understanding of the sustainability aspects that BREEAM assesses and the specific criteria your building must meet.
Assemble a Project Team
Assemble a project team consisting of key stakeholders, such as architects, engineers, contractors, and building owners, to collaborate on the design, construction, and operation of the building. Ensure that all team members are aware of the BREEAM requirements and committed to achieving the desired certification level.
Engage a BREEAM Assessor
Engage a licensed BREE AM assessor early in the design stage to guide the project team through the certification process. The BREEAM assessor will help you understand the specific criteria that apply to your building type and provide advice on how to achieve the desired credits and certification level.
Develop a Sustainability Strategy
Work with your project team and BREEAM assessor to develop a comprehensive sustainability strategy that addresses the BREEAM criteria. This strategy should outline the specific measures, technologies, and design features that will be incorporated into the building to meet the BREEAM requirements.
Examples include energy-efficient systems, water-saving fixtures, sustainable materials, and occupant well-being measures.
Integrate BREEAM Requirements into the Design Process
Incorporate the BREEAM requirements and sustainability strategies into the design process from the outset to ensure that they are integrated seamlessly into the building’s design. Collaborate with the project team and BREEAM assessor to review and refine the design as needed to optimize its sustainability performance.
Implement Sustainability Measures during Construction
Ensure that the contractor and construction team are aware of the BREEAM requirements and committed to implementing the specified sustainability measures during the construction process. Regular site inspections and progress meetings can help ensure compliance with the BREEAM criteria and identify any issues that need to be addressed.
Monitor and Document Performance
Throughout the design, construction, and operation phases, monitor and document the building’s performance against the BREEAM criteria. Collect and maintain records, such as product specifications, energy modeling results, and commissioning reports, as evidence of compliance with the BREEAM requirements.
Prepare for the BREEAM Assessment
As the project nears completion, work with your BREEAM assessor to prepare for the formal BREEAM assessment. This will involve compiling all necessary documentation, including design drawings, product specifications, commissioning reports, and other evidence of compliance with the BREEAM criteria.
The assessor will review this documentation and conduct site visits to verify the building’s performance and adherence to the BREEAM requirements.
Address Any Issues Identified by the BREEAM Assessor
If the BREEAM assessor identifies any issues or areas of non-compliance during the assessment, work with your project team to address these concerns and implement corrective actions as needed. This may involve revising the design, modifying construction practices, or adjusting operational strategies to meet the BREEAM requirements.
Maintain and Improve Performance Post-Certification
Once your building has achieved BREEAM certification, continue to monitor and manage its performance to ensure ongoing compliance with the BREEAM criteria and identify opportunities for further improvement.
Regularly review and update the building’s sustainability strategies, systems, and technologies to maintain its environmental performance and adapt to changing circumstances.
By following these steps, you can prepare your building for a successful BREEAM assessment and achieve the desired certification level.
BREEAM certification not only demonstrates your commitment to sustainability but also provides numerous benefits, such as improved environmental performance, reduced operating costs, enhanced occupant well-being, and increased marketability.
Four Main Components of BREEAM Certification
BREEAM Certification is a comprehensive sustainability assessment method for buildings that evaluates their environmental, social, and economic performance. The certification process encompasses various aspects of a building’s design, construction, and operation, which are divided into several categories or components.
The four main components of BREEAM Certification include:
- Energy Efficiency
- Resource Management
- Health and Well-being
- Sustainable Site Selection and Ecology
Let’s delve deeper into each component to understand how they assess a building.
1. Energy Efficiency
Energy efficiency is a critical aspect of sustainable building design, as it directly impacts a building’s operational carbon emissions, energy consumption, and running costs. BREEAM Certification assesses a building’s energy performance by considering various factors such as:
Building envelope: The design and insulation levels of the building’s walls, roofs, floors, windows, and doors play a significant role in minimizing heat loss and reducing energy demand for heating and cooling.
HVAC systems: The efficiency of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems determines their energy consumption and the overall energy performance of the building. BREEAM encourages the use of energy-efficient systems, proper sizing, and effective controls to optimize energy usage.
Lighting: Energy-efficient lighting solutions, such as LED fixtures and smart controls, can significantly reduce a building’s energy consumption. BREEAM Certification also considers the use of daylighting strategies to minimize artificial lighting requirements during daytime hours.
Renewable energy: The incorporation of renewable energy sources, such as solar panels, wind turbines, or biomass systems, can further improve a building’s energy performance and reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.
Energy monitoring and management: BREEAM Certification promotes the implementation of energy monitoring and management systems to track real-time energy consumption, identify opportunities for improvement, and optimize building operations.
2. Resource Management
Resource management focuses on the efficient use of water, materials, and waste management in a building project. BREEAM Certification assesses a building’s resource management performance through the following aspects:
Water efficiency: BREEAM encourages the use of water-efficient fixtures, appliances, and irrigation systems to minimize water consumption. The certification also promotes the implementation of rainwater harvesting and greywater recycling systems to reduce potable water demand.
Materials selection: Sustainable material selection involves considering factors such as embodied energy, durability, recyclability, and environmental impact. BREEAM Certification encourages the use of sustainably sourced materials and those with low environmental impacts throughout their lifecycle.
Waste management: BREEAM Certification evaluates a building’s waste management strategies, including waste reduction, recycling, and responsible disposal. This includes construction waste management during the building process, as well as ongoing waste management practices during the building’s operation.
3. Health and Well-being
A sustainable building should prioritize the health and well-being of its occupants. BREEAM Certification assesses this aspect by considering various indoor environmental quality factors, such as:
Indoor air quality: Proper ventilation, air filtration, and the use of low-emission materials can help maintain good indoor air quality and minimize harmful pollutants. BREEAM Certification evaluates the building’s strategies for maintaining healthy indoor air.
Thermal comfort: BREEAM considers the building’s ability to maintain comfortable indoor temperatures for occupants, taking into account factors such as insulation, glazing, and HVAC system design.
Acoustic comfort: Noise control is essential for occupant well-being, particularly in residential and educational buildings. BREEAM Certification assesses the building’s acoustic performance, including sound insulation and noise mitigation strategies.
Visual comfort: Good lighting design, including the use of natural daylight and glare control, contributes to visual comfort and occupant satisfaction. BREEAM Certification evaluates the building’s lighting design and daylighting strategies.
Access to outdoor spaces: BREEAM Certification encourages the provision of outdoor spaces and green areas for building occupants, promoting physical activity, biophilic design, and mental well-being.
4. Sustainable Site Selection and Ecology
The location and ecological impact of a building are crucial aspects of sustainable development. BREEAM Certification evaluates this component by considering factors such as:
Site selection: BREEAM encourages the development of brownfield sites and locations with good access to public transportation, amenities, and existing infrastructure to minimize urban sprawl and reduce transportation-related emissions.
Ecological value: BREEAM Certification assesses the environmental impact of a building project, including its effects on local flora and fauna, habitats, and biodiversity. The certification promotes the protection and enhancement of ecological features, such as green roofs, wildlife corridors, and native planting schemes.
Flood risk: BREEAM Certification considers a building’s potential exposure to flood risk and promotes the implementation of sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) to manage surface water runoff and minimize flood risk.
Climate change adaptation: BREEAM encourages the incorporation of climate change adaptation measures, such as shading devices, green roofs, and passive cooling strategies, to ensure that buildings remain resilient and comfortable in the face of changing climatic conditions.
In conclusion, the four main components of BREEAM Certification—energy efficiency, resource management, health and well-being, and sustainable site selection and ecology—provide a comprehensive framework for assessing a building’s sustainability performance.
By addressing these components effectively, building developers, architects, and owners can create environmentally responsible, resource-efficient, and healthy spaces that contribute to a more sustainable built environment.
Benefits of BREEAM Certification
There are several benefits associated with achieving BREEAM certification for a building project:
Enhanced Environmental Performance
BREEAM certification encourages the adoption of sustainable building practices and technologies that reduce a building’s environmental impact. This can lead to lower energy consumption, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and better waste and water management.
Improved Occupant Well-being
BREEAM-certified buildings often provide healthier and more comfortable living and working conditions for occupants. This is due to the emphasis on indoor environmental quality, including air quality, thermal comfort, and access to natural light.
Increased Marketability and Asset Value
BREEAM certification can enhance a building’s marketability and asset value, as it is widely recognized as a mark of sustainability and quality. This can make the building more attractive to potential buyers, tenants, or investors.
Compliance with Regulations
In some countries and regions, achieving a certain level of BREEAM certification may be required to comply with local building regulations or planning requirements. Additionally, certification can help demonstrate compliance with various environmental and sustainability standards.
BREEAM-certified buildings often have lower operating costs due to their energy efficiency and sustainable design features. This can result in significant savings on energy bills and maintenance costs over the building’s lifecycle.
How to Achieve BREEAM Certification
To achieve BREEAM certification for your building project, you will need to follow these steps:
Appoint a BREEAM Assessor: A licensed BREEAM Assessor is required to carry out the assessment and provide guidance throughout the certification process.
It is essential to involve the assessor early in the project to ensure that sustainability considerations are integrated into the design and construction processes.
Pre-assessment: The BREEAM Assessor will conduct a pre-assessment to identify the building’s potential sustainability performance and areas for improvement.
This stage helps inform the design and construction team of the necessary measures to achieve the desired BREEAM rating.
Design Stage Assessment: The BREEAM Assessor will evaluate the building’s design against the BREEAM criteria and award interim credits based on the proposed sustainability features.
The assessor will then provide a Design Stage Certificate, which can be used to demonstrate the building’s sustainability credentials during the planning and marketing stages.
Post-construction Stage Assessment: Once the building is complete, the BREEAM Assessor will carry out a post-construction assessment to verify that the sustainability features have been implemented correctly.
The assessor will then award the final credits and provide a Post-construction Stage Certificate, which confirms the building’s BREEAM rating.
BREEAM In-Use Certification (optional): For existing buildings, BREEAM In-Use certification can be pursued to assess and improve the building’s ongoing sustainability performance.
This involves regular assessments and updates to the building’s management and maintenance strategies.
Why a BREEAM Certification?
BREEAM certification is a valuable tool for evaluating and enhancing the sustainability of building projects worldwide. By encouraging the adoption of sustainable building practices, BREEAM helps create buildings with reduced environmental impacts, improved occupant well-being, and increased marketability.
To achieve BREEAM certification, it is essential to involve a licensed BREEAM Assessor early in the project and follow the assessment process diligently. By doing so, you can ensure that your building project contributes to a more sustainable built environment for future generations.