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Potential LEED BREEAM convergence? – not quite yet…

by Mel Starrs on April 9, 2012

in BREEAM versus LEED

A couple of weeks ago the twittersphere and US blogs were awash with news that LEED was now recognising BREEAM energy points, to much fanfare. Worldwide domination of LEED over BREEAM could only follow (or perhaps I read too much into that?). The UK press dutifully repeated the press release with no comment or questioning (I’ll not pick on any one publication – it made it in as a sidebar to most of them). I commend the sentiment behind the announcement, but knowing the two schemes intimately I was intrigued.

And then, I smelt a rat. No statement was forthcoming from BRE and the interview between Scot Horst and Tristan Roberts on LeedUser rang further alarm bells. Let’s look at this a little closer…

Firstly, the press release (pdf) of 16 March 2012 from USGBC:

At the meeting it was announced that the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED green building program will now recognize credits from BREEAM, the U.K.’s widely used green rating program. The recognition will begin with LEED for New Construction and the most recent International version of BREEAM.

“Europe faces unique challenges with its buildings, not only existing buildings, but also the wealth of historic structures that can realize significant resource savings and protection of occupants,” said Scot Horst, Senior Vice President, LEED + Global Strategic Innovation, USGBC. “The announcements today show USGBC’s dedication in making the LEED program more flexible, starting with the specific challenges faced by project teams in Europe.”

 “That’s odd”, I thought to myself, “there’s currently 3 routes to ENE1 through BREEAM and one of those is ASHRAE 90.1 which LEED uses anyway”. At this point I mentally shrugged and got on with the day job. I interpreted it as nothing really earth shattering to report – BREEAM and LEED both use ASHRAE and someone had pointed this out. Big deal.

But then I read the interview in LeedUser and so many things felt out of kilter I had to get in touch with BRE and then trawl the USGBC website to check some facts. My attempt to set some records straight follows (emphasis in italics mine):

To use this option, the project team must first receive BREEAM certification. The only way projects using this option can use LEED Online is if they have achieved all of the BREEAM Energy points. If they have not achieved all of the energy points,  a USGBC reviewer will do a crosswalk with their BREEAM documentation to the LEED credits.

All of the energy credits? There is now an equivalency note on the LEED website here which clarifies what this means:

Wowsers. So if you get the full 15 credits in Ene01, you get 28 points in LEED (plus you have to demonstrate the prerequisite). Not really a bargain given under ENE01 15 credits is zero carbon or 100% improvement over ASHRAE 90.1 where local standards don’t exist. In contrast, the maximum numbers of points in LEED which gives you the 19 points under EAc1 is equivalent to 48% improvement over ASHRAE 90.1 (2007) baseline.

However, there is something odd going on here. The equivalency note says:

For projects using BREEAM New Construction that have achieved less than 15 credits in BREEAM Ene 01 Reduction of CO2 emissions, alternative point allocation within LEED 2009 for New Construction will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Projects must have received final BREEAM certification to pursue this ACP. At this time, projects that have received a BREEAM 2008 assessment are not eligible for this ACP.

Hmm. So BREEAM International 2008 doesn’t count – what does?

For which versions of BREEAM & LEED are this Alternative Compliance Path available?

Any project that has received their final BREEAM certification under the following schemes are eligible to use this ACP if pursuing certification under LEED 2009 for New Construction:

  • BREEAM 2008 Europe Commercial
  • BREEAM 2008 New Construction (UK)
  • BREEAM 2011 New Construction (UK)

BREEAM projects that have achieved all 15 credits (zero net CO2 emissions) in Ene 01 Reduction of CO2 emissions and have received their final BREEAM certification are eligible to use this ACP in their LEED 2009 for New Construction certification submission.

BREEAM projects that have achieved less than 15 credits in Ene 01 Reduction of CO2 emissions and have received their final BREEAM certification may apply to determine point allocation in their LEED 2009 for New Construction certification submission.

Bizarrely, they have left out BREEAM International Bespoke 2010 and Europe 2009. Very, very odd.

This also rather limits the market to only those countries where BREEAM Europe is used (and the UK). For those who need to know Europe is defined as:

  • Any member of EU
  • EFTA member states (Iceland, Norway, Switzerland)
  • EU candidates (Turkey, Croatia, Macedonia)
  • Others (Albania, Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Ukraine, Western part of Russia (up to the Ural mountains)

For more on the prevalence of BREEAM in Europe I have some stats in this blogpost.

Back to Tristan’s interview with Scot:

We are only recognizing the Energy credits for now and only between LEED 2009 and BREEAM International 2011. We wanted to start small and then continue to build commonality between BREEAM and possibly other systems.  We will watch this closely and see how it goes. If it is successful, we believe it will increase projects for both LEED and BREEAM, thereby increasing market transformation.  And if it is successful we expect to continue the crosswalk among credible systems like BREEAM, HQE and DGNB.

The key point is that we are focusing primarily on project teams and people doing the real work of transformation.   We are recognizing and promoting leadership through this action.

Umm, there’s some major typos here – BREEAM International 2011 does not exist and BRE are only starting the consultation process on BREEAM International 2012 now. I would recommend deferring to the LEED equivalency note.

I’m not knocking the ability to be able to seek some equivalency between the schemes – any LEED projects I’ve looked at in the UK were also pursuing BREEAM so I’m well aware of the lack in joined-up-ness, but this announcement isn’t the major step forward it looks like at first. The value of the energy credits is NOT equivalent (BREEAM requirements being a lot higher than LEED), and the schemes this relates to leaves out anywhere not in Europe (and we haven’t even mentioned the countries where local national operators run their own BREEAM schemes – Spain, Norway and Netherlands – this equivalency wouldn’t work there).

This announcement is useful to you if you have an already BREEAM certified zero carbon building, most probably in the UK. The upshot is, you won’t need to submit evidence for LEED for credits EAc1, EAc2 and EAc6.

  • Tristan Roberts, LEEDuser

    Mel, you’ve broken down the announcement and Scot’s  information in a way that I didn’t have the expertise for. Nice work! I hope USGBC will respond with some alacrity in making this BREEAM opening more relevant.

  • Guest

    I think you’re missing the point here.  LEED is now allowing BREEAM documentation to be used in place of doing a separate energy model that LEED currently requires.  This isn’t a point chasing exercise as it seems you are making it out to be.  It’s about reducing the amount of time, money and paperwork that projects have to do when pursuing both systems.  This is a big deal. 

    Additionally, you are highlighting the option for projects that are net zero but fail to comment on the fact that LEED is going to work with projects that are less than net zero to develop solutions.  It looks to me like LEED is trying to work with the market to fix a huge problem for projects doing both cetifications and you are trying to minimize the intent behind this announcement.  I for one am glad that somebody is stepping up, even if they don’t have all the answers.