BREEAM New Construction 2018 - Part two

BREEAM New Construction 2018 - Part Two

By Richard Knight, Environmental Assessment Knowledge Lead

The main driver for BREEAM has in the past been local planning policy. Now there is an increased demand from end occupants who are requiring a ‘badge’ of sustainability for their own Corporate Social Responsibility. The problem for commercial agents is that this badge of honour doesn’t come with reciprocal higher rental values.

Although BRE own and run the scheme, it is Local Authorities who are responsible for setting the target level at planning. A common approach within Local Plans and Core Strategies is to have an increasing BREEAM target over time i.e. Very Good in 2018, Excellent in 2020 and Outstanding in 2024.

This is all well and good if the assessment method and criteria were to remain the same, as one could reasonably expect the construction industry standard practices to improve over that 6-year period. However, given that the BREEAM methodology refreshes every 3-4 years, the goal posts are forever moving.

The original intention of BREEAM was to recognise environmental sustainability within the built environment, rather than to be a ‘paper-pushing’ exercise which is what it feels to be now. This ‘paper-pushing’ is something the construction industry loathes. What the industry (and to some extent BRE themselves) should be promoting is that any BREEAM rating is better than ‘business as usual’, rather than it being Excellent or nothing.

Some of the blame for BREEAM ratings being so high must sit with end-user marketing. It is not uncommon for buildings to require BREEAM Excellent to have any sort of marketable position, but this is often thrown about by professionals without any understanding of the downstream (and sometimes upstream) implications of this statement.

There is a risk that BREEAM could go down the same road as Code for Sustainable Homes (although this was a Government owned scheme rather than private), in that the obtainment of credits and certificates presents too many obstacles for developers and then the scheme falls by the wayside.

BREEAM does still have a place in pushing building level environmental sustainability, as well as being a badge of honour in the industry. However, this should be done by utilising the efforts of design teams into creating better buildings rather than creating paper trails. The challenge and opportunity ahead will be with negotiating a position which reflects a developer's commitment to going above and beyond standard practice, but not to the detriment of overall development viability.