BREEAM (The Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method)

The Building Research Establishment (BRE) is a charitable organisation, which is dedicated to research and education in the built environment. The Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) is the most well established approach to investigating the total environmental impact of an individual building development. Similar approaches exist outside of the UK, such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) in North America, and Haute Qualité Environnementale (HQE) in France, but BREEAM is the most widely used, with over 200,000 buildings certified.

BREEAM is accredited using assessors certified under a United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) training program.

BREEAM is used by four main groups, as follows:

1. Developers. Internationally recognised approach to sustainable development allows comparable certification levels between developments, and allows for higher visible visibility in the marketplace.

2. Property agents. To improve environmental credentials and therefore market value of a development.

3. Design teams. To utilise BREEAM in parallel with existing knowledge to achieve higher levels of building performance.

4. Managers. Reduction of running costs, monitoring of building performance, empowerment of staff and improvement of portfolio.

Whilst there is no legal requirement to undertake BREEAM, it is often a contractual element which therefore forces the relevant persons to achieve a predetermined certification level. These contractual agreements could be a condition of funding, as is the case for all Governmental buildings, or in order to achieve planning permission from the relevant authority.

BREEAM is based upon the Green Guide for Specifications. The environmental impact of different construction elements are outlined within this Green Guide, and credits are assigned accordingly within the nine different schemes within BREEAM. These schemes include the following: management, pollution, land-use and ecology, waste, materials, water, transport, energy, and health and well-being.

A BREEAM assessment follows five stages, as listed below, with the two most important being the interim and post construction stages. This is because the former is where the credit potential of the development is assessed, and the latter confirms if the building achieves the predicted level of certification.

1. Pre-assessment stage

2. Design stage assessment

3. Interim ‘design stage’ BREEAM certification

4. Construction stage review

5. Final ‘post construction stage’ BREEAM certification (undertaken over the 12 months following development completion)

There are consequently 6 certification levels that can be awarded through a BREEAM assessment. See these listed below:

Unclassified (<30%)

Pass (>30%)

Good (>45%)

Very good (>55%)

Excellent (>70%)

Outstanding (>85%)