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A rough guide to BREEAM 2008

by mel starrs on June 27, 2008

in BREEAM

I’ve been promising forever to write some kind of field guide to BREEAM. With the launch of BREEAM 2008 to the general public on 24th June, a perfect opportunity has arisen and I don’t need to be as worried about accidentally releasing information into the public realm, as BRE have done it themselves. Major brownie points for doing so.

By putting the manuals into the public domain, design teams may be tempted to cut corners by Doing-It-Themselves to try to save money. This is clearly folly. With 346 pages of documentation to wade through in Offices alone (other schemes have even more!), the time wasted will eat any fees saved. To properly embed BREEAM into a design I would still strongly advise clients and design teams to ensure they have a suitably experienced and qualified advisor on their team, as do BRE:

The BREEAM Assessor Manuals are technical guidance documents which have been created to aid licensed BREEAM Assessors in carrying out Assessments. Please note that the manuals and the information detailed therein has been designed for, and to be used by trained and licensed BREEAM Assessors.
This document must be used by non assessors for reference only (in accordance with the Terms and Conditions of use).

Having the guidance in the public domain gives a transparency which was previously lacking. BREEAM can now be openly compared to LEED. In fact BREEAM now beats LEED, as it costs $200 to get the full LEED guidance (although checklists are available for free).

On to the meaty stuff – what’s changed and how difficult will it be to get an ‘Outstanding’ grade?

The big change which has to be applauded is the Innovation credit. Now there is a route to get accreditation for innovations which BREEAM does not cover. For each innovation for which accreditation is sought and approved, 1% is added to the overall score. More on this later.

And what of the scores? As widely publicised, a new rating has been added for scores over 85% of ‘Outstanding’. In order to get the rating, not only does the building need to gain 85%, but there are minimum requirements in several individual criteria PLUS information on the building HAS to be published as a case study (written by BRE Global).

Minimum levels have been set at ALL ratings for some criteria, the onus of which increases as the rating rises. And don’t forget you still need to gain the minimum percent for each rating band.

  • To gain a Pass (30%), credits Man 1 – Commissioning, Hea 4 – High frequency lighting and Hea 12 – Microbial contamination are compulsory.
  • To get a Good (45%), add the following: Wat 1 – Water consumption and Wat 2 – Water meter.
  • Very Good (55%) adds Ene 2 – Sub-metering of substantial energy uses and LE 4 – Mitigating ecological impact.
  • For Excellent (70%), Man 2 – Considerate Constructors, Man 4 – Building user guide, Ene 5 – Low or zero carbon technologies and Wst 3 – Storage of recyclable waste are added plus a minimum of 6 points must be awarded in Ene 1 – Reduction of CO2 emissions (i.e. an EPC of 40 of less for a new build office).
  • To get the new rating of Outstanding, in addition to all of the above (plus scoring 85% of more), 2 points for Man 1 – Commissioning, Man 2 – Considerate Constructors and Wat 1 – Water consumption (total available in Wat 1 is 3), plus a minimum of 10 points must be awarded in Ene 1 – Reduction of CO2 emissions (i.e. an EPC of 25 of less for a new build office).

In addition, the building now has to have a Post Construction Review (before these were not mandatory unless the client required them). A BREEAM assessment made at stage D is now known as a DS (design stage) assessment and is an interim stage towards final certification as building completion. This will vastly improve the credibility of the scheme – it will not be possible to value engineer out the BREEAM features between design and completion without getting penalised (or put another way, caught).

I’m not going to review every single credit, it will take me a little longer to work out what’s different or startling, but I will mention that the weightings have changed. Energy now accounts for 19% of the toal (an increase) and water now accounts for a slightly larger slice of the pie. Waste is a new section meaning when added to Materials, there is a much greater focus on embodied energy, with Management, Land Use and Ecology and Pollution now accounting for realtively less of the overall score.

Now back to these innovation credits. Would it be possible to gain over 100%? I doubt it. It’s never been possible to gain 100% in BREEAM (mainly due to the recycled facade and structure credits (not available to new build for obvious reasons) – by reusing a building it is highly unlikely that the fabric would perform as well as new build in energy terms, even if the embodied energy is less), and the highest score I am aware of is 87.55% (King Shaw’s Innovate office building in Leeds). After a quick look at the points, I doubt if anyone will ever manage to get more than 100%.

And as for the 1% number? This makes sense when you look at what credits are now worth. The spread between points has narrowed. The mean percentage value of one credit is 0.99%, top value is 1.2% and bottom 0.8%. This is more evenly distributed than before. So in practice I would expect it to operate as a mechanism for replacing points, rather than adding them (i.e. we can’t do X to gain a standard BREEAM point, but we are proposing doing Y instead). I may be proved wrong, but that is my hunch.

All in all, the scheme is moving in the right direction. It remains to be seen how well the market will react – buildings will have to be assessed under BREEAM 2008 from 1 August. My feeling is that a well thought out building will find it slightly easier to score an Excellent under 2008 than 2007, but those who are resorting to bolt-on features (due to lack of joined up thinking or lack of early design input) to gain points will find it considerably harder.

So, the race is on. Who will be first to design and deliver an Outstanding BREEAM 2008 building?

  • Andrew

    Its good news the manuals are now publically accessible, which will avoid confusion about what needs to be complied with.

    It will be interesting to see how the innovation credits work in practice. This is a bit of a u turn by the BRE.

    When we asked them about including such criteria ina bespoke scheme two years ago their reply was that they had no intention to do so. It was intimated that it would be too onerous for them to check/ assess. Perhaps this is just playing catch up with LEED?

    However, I think there is still a big gap in the market to provide training and qualifications, not for those seeking to be assessors, but for us poor souls that have to comply with the requirements.

  • Andrew

    Its good news the manuals are now publically accessible, which will avoid confusion about what needs to be complied with.

    It will be interesting to see how the innovation credits work in practice. This is a bit of a u turn by the BRE.

    When we asked them about including such criteria ina bespoke scheme two years ago their reply was that they had no intention to do so. It was intimated that it would be too onerous for them to check/ assess. Perhaps this is just playing catch up with LEED?

    However, I think there is still a big gap in the market to provide training and qualifications, not for those seeking to be assessors, but for us poor souls that have to comply with the requirements.

  • http://www.fairsnape.wordpress.com martin

    Excellent review Mel.

    Speaking to a leading developer a week or so ago, they informed me they were uping their requirements from VG to Ex, as that was where their market (tenants) was going. (ie top end retail, corporates etc). Interestingly, the chap I was chatting too wasnt too clear on the new outstanding category – but maybe once the market place is willing to pay more for outstanding then…

    And on a same theme, who would now lease / buy / commission a G or VG project now? Oh, OK the UK goverment on schools maybe 🙂

  • http://www.fairsnape.wordpress.com martin

    Excellent review Mel.

    Speaking to a leading developer a week or so ago, they informed me they were uping their requirements from VG to Ex, as that was where their market (tenants) was going. (ie top end retail, corporates etc). Interestingly, the chap I was chatting too wasnt too clear on the new outstanding category – but maybe once the market place is willing to pay more for outstanding then…

    And on a same theme, who would now lease / buy / commission a G or VG project now? Oh, OK the UK goverment on schools maybe 🙂

  • http://www.melstarrs.com mel starrs

    Good point Martin – a Good has just become League Two if Outstanding is the Premier League and Excellent is the Championship (and yes, I had to look that up – football is not my forte).

    And Andrew – I think you have a good point re: training. With an eye to the future (a possible Code for Sustainable Buildings based on BREEAM), I would expect the market to follow that of CSH after EcoHomes and open up more (not quite the same model, maybe). Which is a massive difference to LEED which is a standalone model unlikely to be tied into regs in the quite the same way as CSH has to EPC’s.

  • http://www.melstarrs.com mel starrs

    Good point Martin – a Good has just become League Two if Outstanding is the Premier League and Excellent is the Championship (and yes, I had to look that up – football is not my forte).

    And Andrew – I think you have a good point re: training. With an eye to the future (a possible Code for Sustainable Buildings based on BREEAM), I would expect the market to follow that of CSH after EcoHomes and open up more (not quite the same model, maybe). Which is a massive difference to LEED which is a standalone model unlikely to be tied into regs in the quite the same way as CSH has to EPC’s.

  • Ben

    Great review Mel, very concise

    I doubt that Outstanding will become the new Premier League tho bearing in mind the highest BREEAM score ever is only 87% (Office building in Leeds finished last year but assessed under BREEAM 2005). Given that the majority of buildings only ever have around 90% of credits available for one reason or another (not contaminated, not refurbishment etc etc) 85% is a big ask. Excellent is indeed becoming the new Gold Standard at least that’s what I’m seeing in the South West and Wales but It’ll only be one-off exemplar buildings that get outstanding (as intended).

    With regards to the Code for Sustainable Buildings, I would expect it to not be too different to BREEAM 08.

  • Ben

    Great review Mel, very concise

    I doubt that Outstanding will become the new Premier League tho bearing in mind the highest BREEAM score ever is only 87% (Office building in Leeds finished last year but assessed under BREEAM 2005). Given that the majority of buildings only ever have around 90% of credits available for one reason or another (not contaminated, not refurbishment etc etc) 85% is a big ask. Excellent is indeed becoming the new Gold Standard at least that’s what I’m seeing in the South West and Wales but It’ll only be one-off exemplar buildings that get outstanding (as intended).

    With regards to the Code for Sustainable Buildings, I would expect it to not be too different to BREEAM 08.

  • Melissa

    When you say (above) that a building much achieve an EPC of 40 or less what do you mean? EPC as I know it is for Energy perforamnce Certificate and a rating of 40 or less is bad (Grade E, F, and G). COuld you please clarify what this EPC 40 is? Thanks!

  • Melissa

    When you say (above) that a building much achieve an EPC of 40 or less what do you mean? EPC as I know it is for Energy perforamnce Certificate and a rating of 40 or less is bad (Grade E, F, and G). COuld you please clarify what this EPC 40 is? Thanks!

  • http://www.melstarrs.com mel starrs

    Melissa – thanks for pointing this out. EPC’s for housing are the reverse of non-domestic buildings. A rating for non-domestic is an EPC of 0-24, B rating is 25-49 and C rating 50-74, etc. Housing is the other way around. Confusing, eh?

  • http://www.melstarrs.com mel starrs

    Melissa – thanks for pointing this out. EPC’s for housing are the reverse of non-domestic buildings. A rating for non-domestic is an EPC of 0-24, B rating is 25-49 and C rating 50-74, etc. Housing is the other way around. Confusing, eh?

  • jimmy

    what qualifications do you need to become a breeam assessor and what would it cost re training course ect cheers jimmy

  • jimmy

    what qualifications do you need to become a breeam assessor and what would it cost re training course ect cheers jimmy

  • Andrew

    Clever the way BRE tie their standards and other products together innit?

    Like use of the proprietary Green Guide in not only BREEAM but the quasi legal Code for Sustainable Homes, and making BREEAM in Use a requirement to achieve the Outstanding rating.

  • Andrew

    Clever the way BRE tie their standards and other products together innit?

    Like use of the proprietary Green Guide in not only BREEAM but the quasi legal Code for Sustainable Homes, and making BREEAM in Use a requirement to achieve the Outstanding rating.

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