Breeam 2008 has been revised and toughened up, with some fundamental updates to the environmental assessment method that strengthen its credibility and raise the bar
by Clare Howe
3 April 2008
Some are aware of the imminent changes to Breeam, yet many more are not. These are not small changes either, but fundamental ones.
The revised 2008 version of Breeam will bring the scheme into closer alignment with the code for sustainable homes (CSH). For example, a post-construction review (PCR) or assessment will become a mandatory requirement of a Breeam assessment, giving added credibility to the scheme. Some organisations, such as English Partnerships, have insisted on PCRs as they are concerned about the vulnerability of using only the Design & Procurement assessment, which is based on design stage commitments that can get lost when it comes to financial constraints. By insisting on the PCR they were assured of a quality construction and design. It is one example of how the 2008 Breeam is toughening up.
Other measures are likely to include the setting of mandatory minimum levels of performance for things like energy and water. One criticism of Breeam is that an 'Excellent' rating could be achieved without really tackling energy as an issue, on a site benefiting from good local transport.
Minimum standards, such as those that apply to the CSH, will ensure that the ratings reflect the combined effort that project teams put into meeting these stringent levels.
Materials selection is another area where we anticipate minimum requirements. For example, under the CSH at least three of the five key building materials must be A+ to D rated. We believe a similar approach will be adopted for the Breeam version. For example, at least four of the seven key building materials will be A+ to D rated in the Green Guide to Materials (April 2008).
This is quite easy to achieve as very few products are E rated, however, credits are maximised by selecting higher rated materials. A+ rated products pick up 3 points per element, while D rated materials pick up 0.25 points and E rated materials pick up none.
Other more subtle changes include revising the weightings of categories aligned to the CSH weightings. This was the outcome of a huge consultation process where industry was asked to judge the importance of each environmental issue against another.
If the categories are also aligned to the CSH, ie, Transport omitted, Surface Water added and Materials and Waste split into two categories, then Energy will have the highest weighting at a massive 36.4 per cent, Water increases to 9 per cent and Materials drops to 7.2 per cent.
Breeam is an excellent tool for measuring the environmental impact of a building, yet it often comes under criticism for changing the goalposts. But that's what Breeam is designed to do. Achieving any rating under Breeam means that minimum standards have been surpassed. Over time, best practice, regulations, legislation and codes of practice all get revised. Breeam raises the bar and challenges project teams to meet higher standards. The 2008 version brings with it a new rating of 'Outstanding' to recognise those buildings that exceed the requirements of the 'Excellent' rating.
A number of credits may be omitted from the 2008 version. For example, anything which has become a legislative requirement since the 2006 version, such as Site Waste Management Plans, or standard practices such as designing systems to minimise the risk of Legionnaires' disease, are likely to be omitted. The 2008 version will see the inclusion of Innovation credits which can be achieved for implementing innovative technologies that have a real environmental benefit.
Most people know about the Design & Procurement assessment as it is such an important area of the funding of new build and refurbishment schemes. However, a Management & Operation scheme also exists - the 2008 version includes a revamp which will be known as Breeam 'In Use', and available for all existing non-domestic buildings.It links up with the Energy Performance Certificate of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive.
This version could play a very important role in many organisations by proving that they work in and operate buildings with low environmental impact. Likewise, it may provide a useful guide to show how simple changes and cost-effective measures can increase the rating of their building.
Breeam 2008 will apply to projects registered from 1 August 2008 onwards although there is scope to register projects to the new version from 3 May 2008. Some very enlightened clients are already looking to achieve the 'Outstanding' rating before the version is available - so there is hope.
I think that the 2008 version will take us closer to our goals of sustainable development and those elusive government targets. However, it won't be cheap and the sooner project teams get stuck into the challenge the better it will be for us all.
Clare Howe is sustainability director at environmental consultancy Corporation Green
FM QUICK FACTS
Breeam is the Building Research Establishment's environmental assessment method
The revised version of Breeam will bring the scheme into closer alignment with the code for sustainable homes
Achieving any rating under Breeam means that minimum standards have been surpassed