Modern planning projects now integrate more of a focus on environmental performance and sustainable development, particularly as it benefits the standard of the built environment. It also has an impact on the full life cycle of masterplan projects, enabling your project team to consider the effects of your project and the infrastructure you are looking to create, and how BREEAM certified buildings will only contribute to long-term value for you and short-term value for the local authorities you need to satisfy.
BREEAM inspires developers to ensure that their project fits in to a sustainable, built environment and that the BREEAM standard strategic international framework developed and enforced by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) is strictly followed. For any developer or project team, it may be unclear whether a BREEAM would be necessary. However, as third-party certification from country-specific BREEAM schemes can bring immense value to a project while benefitting the environment, arranging an assessment can be extremely worthwhile.
What is BREEAM?
Founded by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) in 1990, the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) – is a form of survey designed to measure the level of sustainability integrated within projects involving the creation of new infrastructure. Using the minimum standards of the BRE, an assessment will analyse environmental performance during every stage of the planning process, starting with design, moving across to pre-construction and post-construction, and concluding with operation of the building.
Applicable to developments on new buildings and refurbishments on existing buildings, sustainability during a BREEAM will be determined using a number of categories including ecology, energy, health and wellbeing, land use, management, pollution, transport, waste and water, with primary considerations focusing on the adaptation to climate change, consideration for biodiversity protection and ecological value, reduction of carbon emissions, and utilisation of low impact designs.
From an assessment, the overall conclusion of a building’s environmental quality is given a percentage before being categorised within one of several core BREEAM ratings. The BREEAM rating of a building can then be used to determine the level of sustainability based on the rating awarded by the BREEAM assessor.
The BREEAM rating system works as follows:
Unclassified rating: Lower than 30%
Pass rating: 30% – 44%
Good rating: 45% – 54%
Very good rating: 55% – 69%
Excellent rating: 70% – 84%
Outstanding: 85% or higher
As an indication of common ratings, less than 1% of UK new non-domestic buildings are given an ‘outstanding’ rating and only the top 10% of UK new non-domestic buildings achieved an ‘excellent’ rating. Elsewhere, 25% of UK new non-domestic buildings possess a ‘very good’ rating, 50% possess a ‘good’ rating, and 75% possess a ‘pass’ rating.
After a BREEAM has been completed and the property in question has been issued with a rating, the building will have official BREEAM certification. Although only 10% of UK new non-domestic buildings are given an ‘excellent’ rating, this bracket is regarded as best practice and the desirable level to aim for.
If, however, a building only reached ‘very good’, ‘good’ or even ‘pass’, the fact that the building is BREEAM certified and the sustainability has been inspected to an internationally recognised standard could still contribute to eliminating the risks and increasing the value of the building.
Why is BREEAM Important?
In recent times, the UK government and other governments all over the world have put more of an emphasis on preserving the existing state of the environment while ensuring that new buildings enhance the natural world as much as possible. An example of this would be Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) – a concept that was introduced by the UK government as part of the Environment Act 2021 to guarantee that the majority of current and future developments increase the state of biodiversity by a minimum of 10% post-development compared to pre-development.
BREEAM combines the concept of sustainability with the development of new infrastructure, resulting in solutions that guarantee the highest quality of materials to produce the best possible end result, all while keeping an eye on the impact it could have on the environment.
Additionally, focusing on a building’s sustainability can be extremely profitable for businesses and developers. For instance, sustainable buildings with high BREEAM ratings often have lower running costs due to the energy efficient qualities, and as they are produced within a sustainable design, BREEAM rated buildings that are at a ‘pass’ rating or above will last longer without the need for changes and restoration, face less degradation even several decades into the future and therefore boost market recognition and value, both in terms of the increased rental rates and purchase cost.
Advantages and Disadvantages of BREEAM
For more than 30 years, BREEAM assessments have been used to determine the sustainability of small and large developments involving different building types. In that time, various changes have been made to make the assessment as effective and impactful as possible, and despite that, it may or may not be seen as suitable depending on the specific details of the new construction or refurbishment project in question.
In the section below, we explain the identified advantages and disadvantages of BREEAM.
Benefits of BREEAM
The decision to seek BREEAM certification on a building carries multiple benefits. For example, BRE Group themselves claim that 70% of local authorities in cities all over the UK enforce a BREEAM certification, and the results from a survey by the UK Green building Council (BGC) suggested that more than 71% of individuals that used a BREEAM assessment for their building development stated that the improved image led to social benefits.
With sustainable buildings becoming more in-demand, BREEAM assessments are capable of increasing the value of new buildings. Energy efficient buildings are also only likely to cut costs, with them typically offering components that consume less water, heating systems that are cheaper to run, and lighting that uses less power, not only reducing current costs but also lowering the price of running and refurbishment in the future.
As well as the obvious environmental benefits such as enhancing water and air quality, improving the local environment, and reducing CO2 emissions, a BREEAM assessment on a home or workplace property can also support other areas in a local context. For instance, community benefits appear as consideration of local individuals, environment and transport, economic benefits such as long-term value and satisfying potential stipulations by local planning authorities, and health and wellbeing benefits come in the form of the fit out of better access to natural features, building materials and facilities.
Problems with BREEAM
Although arguable and very much up for debate, there are a couple of factors that some consider as negatives about BREEAM. For one, the Building Research Establishment (BRE) aim their focus from a primarily commercial standpoint. As a result, it may be that the assessment isn’t directly suited to certain private developments.
Likewise, the methods of rating the assessment have, in some circumstances, been seen to credit peripheral or potentially ineffective environmental aspects of the building’s sustainability, making the overall BREEAM rating generous yet inaccurate. Our assessors, however, will do their utmost to get the most out of a BREEAM assessment and ensure that it is suitable for the client and the purpose of the project.
A sustainability assessment method on a new building will cover multiple areas of building design and location to produce an accurate overall score and rating. Using the BREEAM core standards and regulatory requirements as a basis, an assessor will establish the building’s performance in terms of environmental, social and economic impacts and considerations.
Due to the all-encompassing nature of a BREEAM assessment, assessors will need to be involved throughout the development process.
Prior to carrying out the full BREEAM assessment, an assessor will hold a BREEAM pre-assessment workshop with the project’s design team. At this point, the team can discuss their targets for what they want the development to achieve and the assessor will gauge whether it fits within the criteria of the BREEAM scheme. A document will then be produced to detail the targets specifically and outline the criteria that should be considered.
All evidence from the design stage should be passed on to the BREEAM assessor, enabling them to submit the assessment to the BRE for certification. It also coincides with a quality assurance process, with opportunities for the BRE to address any queries or problems they have with the evidence handed to them, such as if any missing linked documents or issues with non-compliance.
Once the quality assurance stage is complete, the project will be registered with the BRE for the relevant BREEAM schemes. An assessor can choose to arrange a BREEAM kick-off meeting with the construction team to ensure that the regulatory requirements are being followed accordingly. Over the course of the construction, the assessor will conduct numerous physical site inspections, with the number of inspections determined by the size of the site.
As with the pre-assessment evidence, post-construction evidence will then be submitted to the assessor before being sent to the BRE for certification, alongside the corresponding quality assurance. Once again, any queries or problems will be raised, and afterwards, the development project will receive the final BREEAM certificate.
During the assessment, an extensive number of considerations will be covered within a pre-determined and universal BREEAM checklist, with the majority of factors measured at the design stage.
Categories in a BREEAM checklist would typically include:
- Site selection and assessment (relevant to new construction only)
- Digital (most relevant to new construction and major refurbishment/extension)
- Landscape and natural heritage (relevant to external areas only)
- Resources and materials selection
- Tendering for works
- Management of contractors and resources
BREEAM Ecology Report
Another service we offer that is linked to BREEAM are ecological reports for a BREEAM assessment. If you are low on BREEAM credits and want to gain more, we can help by providing expert recommendations based on your site and project.
Please note, however, that you will require an ecological site survey in the form of an ecological walkover survey in order to produce your BREEAM ecology report.
For more information on BREEAM, the video below will offer more insight:
For an assessment to be undertaken correctly, a BREEAM assessor needs to have the necessary experience, licensing, training and qualifications. More specifically, a BREEAM assessor will be able to not only conduct the assessment of a development project and determine the ratings based on the development, but also register it to BRE once the process has completed, and apply for third-party certification from an accredited BREEAM scheme operator.
Why Use Arbtech?
Dissimilar to other ecological consultancies that may have to outsource BREEAM services, we possess an integrated approach that enables us to provide core technical standard assessment surveys on new developments, including BREEAM with trained and qualified in-house BREEAM assessors and other equally capable chartered surveyors.
Our BREEAM consultants are fully licenced, have years of experience in this field, and are located across the country, making them highly flexible for clients in the UK and other countries. Additionally, Arbtech’s ecologists are highly regarded by BRE, with them considering our extended phase 1 habitat survey and BREEAM ecology reports to be thorough yet concise.
BRE trust the work we do and were so impressed by our services that they asked for our written permission to use them as the standard by which others are assessed. Kim Dine, BREEAM Technical Consultant for the BRE, contacted Robert Oates, Managing Director at Arbtech, to ask permission to use an outstanding example of a BREEAM ecology report she had come across, in the 2011 BREEAM Training Sessions for all Assessors.
Kim Dine, BREEAM Technical Consultant, BRE Global says:
“Further to our telephone conversation, I would like to confirm that BRE Global would like to use your document ‘BREEAM ecology assessment (attached)‘ for training purposes on BREEAM courses run by BRE Global as an outstanding example of documentary evidence which may be given to an assessor carrying out a BREEAM assessment. The document may be used in both in and out of classroom on exercises and so may be copied and distributed to students.”
Despite commonly being associated with solely commercial developments since BREEAM was launched in 1990, there are in fact different types that are more applicable for building sustainable homes, business properties or other building services.
Each national and international scheme we cover includes:
- Non-Domestic New Construction 2008, 2011, 2014 and 2018
- Commercial (Industrial, Retail, Offices)
- Public (Courts, Education, Healthcare, Higher Education, Prisons)
- BREEAM Other Buildings
BREEAM Assessment Cost
If you need a BREEAM assessment to improve sustainability issues on your project, it will need to be factored in to your overall budget. It is an inevitability in any project that certain surveys will be needed depending on the nature of the project and the condition of the site.
By determining that a BREEAM is needed early in the process prior to the design stage, however, you will be able to benefit from infrastructure with long-term value, avoid the increased rates that would come from a building that isn’t eco-friendly, and avoid the need for additional costs if any pressing issues occur later in the process after failing to arrange a BREEAM.
How Much Does a BREEAM Assessment Cost?
As with many of the surveys we provide, the cost of a BREEAM assessment will be calculated using the client’s specifications, with the two primary factors being the size of the site and the scale and type of project. It will also be tied to a mandatory fee for registering a BREEAM assessment, currently set at £280.
Due to the specific nature of how BREEAMs are priced up, it would be advisable to speak to us directly so we can take down your details and provide you with an accurate quote based on your proposed project.
Getting Started with your BREEAM Project
Starting your BREEAM project with us is an easy process. Simply get in touch with us via our contact page, using the quote form above or by calling the number at the top of this page. You can then give us extensive details about your site and project, and using these details, our project teams can produce an accurate quote and send it across to you over email.
All of our operational costs, transaction prices and any other fees related to the assessment will be included in the free quote you receive, and if you are happy to work with us, we can speak to you about getting involved with integrating strategic principles in your project that adhere to the BREEAM standard.
With our help, we can ensure that there are signs of BREEAM in use within your project, gauge the predicted ecological value post-development, work with the necessary national scheme operators, analyse growing evidence of sustainable development, and guarantee that you are aware of any strategic principles that will contribute to a strong final rating at certification stage.