The value of BREEAM

Published:  03 December, 2012

BREEAM, Schneider Electric, BSRIA

Organisations that focus on the greener agenda are no longer isolated islands, but the norm — with the result that even voluntary schemes such as BREEAM are resonating with businesses keen to demonstrate their environmental commitments.

Since BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) was introduced in 1990, it has grown in popularity as an aid to delivering environmentally friendly buildings. Last year alone, some 7000 projects were assessed using BREEAM. MBS frequently runs stories about buildings that have achieved high BREEAM ratings such as ‘Excellent’ and ‘Outstanding’.

But is there more to BREEAM than just providing businesses with the means to demonstrate their environmental commitments? Can its use add value to a project through, for example, achieving a building that is cheaper to run for little, if any, extra cost.

Lots of people in the industry have their own views on BREEAM, which have been brought together in a report commissioned by Schneider Electric and conducted by BSRIA. The report offers an insight into the discussions around the cost of BREEAM to businesses and whether this is a major factor in the choice to opt into having a BREEAM-accredited building.

Overall, the responses to the survey were positive. The large majority (88%) thought that the concept was a good thing, but that there was room for improvement. It was also found that 96% of businesses would invest in BREEAM accreditation again and saw value beyond the economic benefits.

Thinking about BREEAM at project inception gives most value and has the potential to make the process cheaper. Many respondents felt that improvement could be made by making the scheme simpler and more flexible.

Despite the economic climate, counting the cost of BREEAM does not rank high on the agenda. The main reasons for organisations opting for BREEAM included company policy and to boost CSR (corporate and social responsibility) credentials (47%), to meet planning requirements (33%) and for procurement purposes (16%).

A major positive finding was that there does not appear to be a significant link between the amount of cost increase and the level of BREEAM rating sought. A factor that influenced the cost of a project was when BREEAM was included in the design process — with a number of respondents acknowledging that the earlier a decision is made, the better chance there is of keeping costs down. Respondents also identified that including BREEAM early in the process and engaging with all parties to maintain dialogue ensured the project succeeded beyond the initial construction.

Despite perceptions by many that achieving a BREEAM rating can be a costly and expensive choice, the findings of the report show that less than half of recipients incurred significant extra costs on their latest BREEAM project. 40% said that they did not incur extra charges compared to a non-BREEAM project. For some respondents the additional costs were not an issue since BREEAM is seen as an investment for the future — with a payback coming from the reduced running costs of the building.

Respondents also identified that BREEAM does not consider operational costs, and only 47% of those surveyed thought about operational costs versus capital build costs. As part of the process to improve the ability of end users to measure savings, changes need to be made to ensure more focus is made on running efficiencies.

Acknowledging the importance of not losing sight of a building’s performance after construction, businesses also rated improved comfort and satisfaction for occupants, enhanced productivity and staff retention and internal social benefits.

BREEAM, Schneider Electric, BSRIA
The attainment of a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating for the £50 million Palatine Centre at Durham University is based on the latest in green technologies, with eco-friendly materials and renewable-energy sources at its heart. The design includes solar thermal collectors, PV panels, air-source heat pumps, solar shading, rainwater harvesting and sedum roofing.

Eddie Coxon, vice-president of buildings UK and Ireland from Schneider Electric, comments. ‘The findings of this report clearly show there is an appetite from business for guidance on green practices. While Government may introduce policies and targets, more support mechanisms need to be in place to help organisations respond to the green agenda.’

He also remarks on the perspective companies have on BREEAM. ‘What is interesting is the mindset of companies which aren’t necessarily striving for BREEAM accreditation just for financial gain. They can clearly see the wider scope of possibilities.’

Commenting on the costs of being green, He says, ‘We have long believed that green buildings don’t have to cost much more to develop than a standard building project. The report’s findings clearly demonstrate that as long as the BREEAM certification is well considered early on in the design process, then the extra costs are negligible.

‘What is a concern though is the lack of awareness in the supply chain about the focus on recovering those costs. This implies there is a lack of ownership on operational-expenditure [OPEX] savings, which need to be driven into the process to provide greater focus on delivering and measuring savings for the benefit of all. In addition, clients need to share these objectives with all those involved, so there is a shared end vision for the project that does beyond the initial build.’

Evidence that organisations working towards a BREEAM rating also think outside the box was discovered during research into compiling the report. All businesses said that they had installed building technologies and active energy management in their latest project — but less than a third did this solely for gaining credits. For the majority (51%) it was for both operational savings and gaining credits — a clear sign that organisations think beyond the initial BREEAM accreditation process to how they will use the building in the longer term.

Two major conclusions emerged from the research.

One is that every building can benefit from controls and technologies that deliver long-term benefits — whereas not all can achieve ratings for the building’s location or position, which can often be outside the control of the business.

The second conclusion is that energy-efficient solutions can become less efficient and effective over time if there is no-one to manage and monitor them and ensure they continue to be used to maximum performance.

Eddie Coxon summarises, ‘This is perhaps where more consider­ation needs to be put into BREEAM, as accredited buildings are then not continually assessed to ensure they maintain their rating.’

BREEAM, Schneider Electric, BSRIA
BREEAM is also applicable to refurbishment projects, such as the £11.6 million refurbishment and remodelling of Greater Manchester Police’s Rochdale divisional headquarters to achieve a ‘Very good’ rating and reduce CO2 emissions by about 230 t a year. Balfour Beatty Engineering Services was responsible for the sustainable M&E installation. Sustainable initiatives included the introduction of high-performance insulation to the building fabric, solar heating panels and absence detection for lighting and ventilation systems to minimise unnecessary use.


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