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BREEAM revamp – my wishlist

by mel starrs on March 10, 2008

in BREEAM

Welcome news in Building this morning that BREEAM is to be revamped in May (just in time for my return to the UK). The article states:

The new version of the 18-year-old BREEAM assessment tool will make post-construction reviews mandatory, set maximum levels for energy and water consumption and minimum requirements for material selection. It will also introduce an “outstanding” category to recognise buildings that surpass the “excellent” rating.

Given where CSH has gone, it should be no surprise that minimum standards have been reintroduced for energy and water. For those either not old enough to remember or those who didn’t come across BREEAM in the early nineties, the scheme used to have minimum levels for categories – so we are going full circle in a way. I welcome this, by the way. It is possible to pull off an “excellent” score by virtue of location and judicious spending with the current scheme without necessarily addressing carbon and water issues. Some might argue that this is making the scheme more prescriptive rather than the flexible scheme I dreamed of here . But I’m resigned to the fact that human nature being as it is, we’re stuck with checklists for the forseeable future. By the way, it’s worth checking out the comments on that post – some really good points from Matt Grace and David Strong amongst others.

PCR’s are also long overdue to become mandatory. As I have explained before, a D&P certificate at stage E is no guarantee that your building is still “sustainable” at completion after several rounds of “value engineering”.

The only issue I have with this announcement is the “Outstanding” label – it’s like awarding A* for GCSE’s. Why do we need to introduce a new level? The whole mantra of BREEAM over the past few years is that the goal posts shift from year to year. That is why certificates are dated and buildings should only be compared with their peers e.g. an office gaining “Excellent” in 2004 should only be compared with other offices in 2004 – it makes no sense to compare it with an office which gained an “Excellent” in 2007.

This aside it looks like Martin Townsend is settling into his new job. I have a couple more points I’d like to see added to the “to-do” list:

  • Instead of listing only the assessor organisations , list the actual assessors and their normal location, so clients can gauge the suitability of the organisation they are employing. Something like CIBSE have done with Low Carbon Assessors would be ideal.
  • My biggest wish is that the methodology becomes freely available on the website. As this is the default for CSH (pdf, 225 pages) , I’m hopeful BREEAM will follow suit. Currently, only pdf checklists for BREEAM for Offices are available (D&P here and M&O here , pdf 16 and 13 pages). As far as I know, BREEAM will form the Code for Sustainable Buildings, although I don’t know for certain that this will happen in May – can anyone confirm?

If anyone at BREEAM would like to send me an advance copy* for further review, I would be more than delighted ;o). My email address is to the right of the page…

edit: Claire Howe has an excellent piece up at edie.net covering the changes in more detail and echoing some of my thoughts above.  Any chance of starting a blog Claire ?

* as I’m not technically working for anyone at the minute, I’ve lost my BREEAM extranet privileges

  • Andrew K

    I understand from my sources at the BRE that they will publish the manuals on line (’bout time too).

    The BREEAM pre-assessment estimators you referred to are dangerous. Because they do not provide the detail of the credit criteria, in the wrong hands they can give a false impression of the score that might be achieved. This is why it is a good thing they are only available via assessors under the Code for Sustainable Homes.

    The inclusion of innovation credits and the new outstanding category (or A star as you put it) would seem to me to be a catch up with LEED and Greenstar respectively.

    BRE need to do something, because in places like Dubai and Central Europe, our clients prefer to use LEED, not only because it is easier, but more importantly because it is easier to get into (ie you can get hold of the method and understand it).

    We have had clients enquire about using BREEAM in central europe, but they have been put off, by the additional cost of having to get the BRE to develop bespoke criteria. Also we find some use LEED because their parent company is American and it is what they know).

    Your point about the assessors is well made. I’m wanting to employ some Code assessors soon, but how do I know where the staff are that might do this in relation to my project?!

    Also I suspect some organisations have more junior staff do the work which is then signed off by the licenced assessor. Maybe this will be harder to dodge under the proposed changes to the QA scheme?

  • Andrew K

    I understand from my sources at the BRE that they will publish the manuals on line (’bout time too).

    The BREEAM pre-assessment estimators you referred to are dangerous. Because they do not provide the detail of the credit criteria, in the wrong hands they can give a false impression of the score that might be achieved. This is why it is a good thing they are only available via assessors under the Code for Sustainable Homes.

    The inclusion of innovation credits and the new outstanding category (or A star as you put it) would seem to me to be a catch up with LEED and Greenstar respectively.

    BRE need to do something, because in places like Dubai and Central Europe, our clients prefer to use LEED, not only because it is easier, but more importantly because it is easier to get into (ie you can get hold of the method and understand it).

    We have had clients enquire about using BREEAM in central europe, but they have been put off, by the additional cost of having to get the BRE to develop bespoke criteria. Also we find some use LEED because their parent company is American and it is what they know).

    Your point about the assessors is well made. I’m wanting to employ some Code assessors soon, but how do I know where the staff are that might do this in relation to my project?!

    Also I suspect some organisations have more junior staff do the work which is then signed off by the licenced assessor. Maybe this will be harder to dodge under the proposed changes to the QA scheme?