BREEAM

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BREEAM has become the de facto measure or standard for the environmental performance of buildings in the UK.

Although voluntary, a number of Government departments and other public bodies either require or encourage the use of BREEAM. These include the Welsh Assembly Government, the Northern Ireland Executive, UK health authorities and the Department for Education. Many private sector clients and developers also use BREEAM to deliver sustainable buildings.

This article describes BREEAM new construction and how it is applied to non-domestic buildings, explains how construction materials are assessed under BREEAM and gives examples of BREEAM ‘Excellent and ‘Outstanding’ steel-framed buildings.

[top]What is BREEAM?

BREEAM (BRE Environmental Assessment Method) is the leading and most widely used environmental assessment method for buildings in the UK. It has been developed by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) has become the de facto measure of the environmental performance of UK buildings. Although currently voluntary, many publically funded/procured buildings are required to be BREEAM assessed and reach a minimum BREEAM rating.

The BREEAM methodology is updated regularly; the current version for UK non-domestic new buildings is BREEAM 2018 New Construction[1]. A separate, similar scheme is available for refurbishing existing buildings. In addition to BREEAM UK New Construction, separate Technical Manuals are available for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These regional variants reflect the differences in building regulations in each country.

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Eliot Park Innovation Centre, Nuneaton: Steel-framed, BREEAM 'Excellent' building

The primary aim of BREEAM New Construction is to mitigate the life cycle impacts of new buildings on the environment in a robust and cost effective manner. This is achieved through integration and use of the scheme by clients and their project teams at key stages in the design and procurement process. This enables the client, through the BREEAM Assessor and the BRE Global certification process, to measure, evaluate and reflect the performance of their building against best practice in an independent and robust manner.

Buildings assessed under BREEAM are awarded credits according to their predicted and actual performance, against 47 individual assessment issues within a range of nine environmental categories: management, energy, health and well being, pollution, transport, land use, ecology, materials and water. Each issue addresses a specific building related environmental impact or issue and has a number of ‘credits’ assigned to it. Credits are awarded where a building demonstrates that it meets the performance levels defined for that issue in the BREEAM 2018 New Construction scheme document[1].

The number of ‘credits’ available for each individual assessment issue varies and generally the higher the number there are for a given issue, the more important that issue. Many credits are assessed using bespoke assessment tools and calculators developed by the BRE.

Credits are either mandatory, i.e. must be achieved for compliance, or voluntary. In addition, there are innovation credits which encourage exemplar performance or which recognise a building that innovates in the field of sustainable performance. The BREEAM 2018 New construction credits are summarised in the table.

BREEAM 2018 New Construction environmental sections and assessment issues
Energy Water Waste
Reduction of energy use and CO2 emissions Water consumption Construction waste management
Energy monitoring Water monitoring Use of recycled and sustainably sourced aggregate
External lighting Water leak detection Operational waste
Low carbon design Water efficient equipment Speculative finishes
Energy efficient cold storage Adaption to climate change
Energy efficient transportation systems Design for disassembly and adaptability
Energy efficient laboratory systems
Energy efficient equipment (process)
Transport Materials Land use and ecology
Transport assessment and travel plan Environmental impacts from construction products - Building LCA Site selection
Sustainable transport measures Environmental impacts from construction products - EPD Identifying and understanding the risks and opportunities for the project
Responsible sourcing of materials Managing negative impacts on ecology
Insulation Change and enhancement of ecological value
Designing for durability and resilience Long term ecology management and maintenance
Material efficiency
Health and wellbeing Pollution Management
Visual comfort Impact of refrigerants Project brief and design
Indoor air quality Local air quality Life cycle cost and service life planning
Thermal comfort Flood and surface water management Responsible construction practices
Acoustic performance Reduction of night time light pollution Commissioning and handover
Security Reduction of noise pollution Aftercare
Safe and healthy surroundings


Credits achieved are weighted according to environmental category and then summed to produce a single overall score on a scale of Unclassified, Pass, Good, Very Good, Excellent and Outstanding.

Although voluntary, a number of Government departments and other public bodies either require or encourage the use of BREEAM. These include the Welsh Assembly Government, the Northern Ireland Executive, UK health authorities and the Department for Education. Many private sector clients and developers also use BREEAM to deliver sustainable buildings.

Building projects are assessed by registered BREEAM assessors and reviewed by a third party (BRE Global) before being awarded a certificate. Since 2008 it has been compulsory to undertake a ‘Post Construction Review’ to confirm that the ‘as built’ information correlates with the design information.

The Design Stage (DS) assessment and interim certified BREEAM rating confirms the building’s performance at the design stage of the life cycle. The Post Construction Stage (PCS) assessment and BREEAM rating confirms the final ‘as-built’ performance of the building at the new construction stage of the life cycle. A final PCS assessment is completed and certified after practical completion of the building works.

The BREEAM certificate, issued by the National Scheme Operator (NSO - BRE Global in the UK), provides formal verification that the Assessor has completed an assessment of a building in accordance with the requirements of the scheme and its quality standards and procedures. A BREEAM certificate therefore provides assurance to any interested party that a building’s BREEAM rating, at the time of certification, accurately reflects its performance against the BREEAM standard.

All BREEAM assessed and certified buildings are listed on Green Book Live (along with a directory of licensed BREEAM Assessors).

Anyone wishing to verify the BREEAM rating of a building can do so by either checking a building’s BREEAM certificate, which will contain the certification mark or by searching Green Book Live for a specific listing.

[top]BREEAM scoring

The BREEAM rating benchmarks for new UK construction projects assessed using the 2018 version of BREEAM are as follows:

BREEAM 2018 rating benchmarks
BREEAM rating % score
Outstanding ≥ 85
Excellent ≥ 70
Very Good ≥ 55
Good ≥ 45
Pass ≥ 30
Unclassified < 30

The BREEAM rating benchmark levels enable a client and other stakeholders to compare an individual building’s performance with other BREEAM rated buildings and the typical sustainability performance of new non-domestic buildings in the UK.

BRE claims that each BREEAM rating level broadly represents performance equivalent the following measures although there is no published evidence to substantiate this:

  • Outstanding: Less than top 1% of UK new non-domestic buildings (innovator)
  • Excellent: Top 10% of UK new non-domestic buildings (best practice)
  • Very Good: Top 25% of UK new non-domestic buildings (advanced good practice)
  • Good: Top 50% of UK new non-domestic buildings (intermediate good practice)
  • Pass: Top 75% of UK new non-domestic buildings (standard good practice)


[top]Minimum standards

Although BREEAM was designed to be a flexible scoring system in which different credits could be ‘traded’, since 2008 BREEAM has included minimum standards of performance in some key areas.

To achieve a particular BREEAM rating, the minimum overall percentage score must be achieved and compliance must be shown with the minimum standards shown in the table.

Minimum BREEAM standards by rating level
BREEAM issue Minimum standards by BREEAM rating level
Pass Good Very Good Excellent Outstanding
Man 03: Responsible construction processes None None None One credit
(Responsible construction management)
One credit
(Responsible construction management
Man 04: Commissioning and handover None None One credit
Commissioning test schedule and responsibilities
One credit
Commissioning test schedule and responsibilities
One credit
Commissioning test schedule and responsibilities
Man 04: Commissioning and handover None None Criterion 11
(Building user guide)
Criterion 11
(Building user guide
Criterion 11
(Building user guide
Man 05: Aftercare None None None One credit
(Commissioning implementation)
One credit
(Commissioning implementation)
Ene 01: Reduction of energy use and CO2 emissions None None None Four credits
(Energy performance)
Six credits
(Energy performance) and Four credits (Energy modeling and reporting))
Ene 02: Energy monitoring None None One credit
(First submetering credit)
One credit
(First submetering credit)
One credit
(First submetering credit)
Wat 01: Water consumption None One credit One credit One credit Two credits
Wat 02: Water monitoring None Criterion 1 only Criterion 1 only Criterion 1 only Criterion 1 only
Mat 03: Responsible sourcing of construction products Criterion 1 only Criterion 1 only Criterion 1 only Criterion 1 only Criterion 1 only
Wst 01: Construction waste management None None None None One credit
Wst 03: Operational waste None None None One credit One credit

BREEAM uses a weighting system derived from a combination of consensus based weightings and ranking by a panel of experts, to weight the scores achieved in each of the nine environmental categories. Different weightings are applied depending on the scope of the assessment, i.e. shell only, shell and core only and fully fitted out. The weightings for a 'Fully fitted out' building are shown in the table.

BREEAM Environmental section weightings
(fully fitted out)
Environmental section Weighting (%)
Management 11
Health & Wellbeing 14
Energy 16
Transport 10
Water 7
Materials 15
Waste 6
Land Use & Ecology 13
Pollution 8
Total 100
Innovation (additional) 10

The same set of rankings underpins the scoring mechanisms in the BRE Green Guide to Specification[2] and the BRE Environmental Profiling Method for construction materials[3].

The table below shows an example of how the scores in the nine BREEAM sections are aggregated to produce a final BREEAM score which, in this case, translates into a BREEAM rating of Very Good, i.e. a final BREEAM score >55.

Example of how the overall BREEAM rating is calculated
BREEAM section Credits achieved Credits available % of credits achieved Section weighting
(Fully fitted)
Section score
Management 14 21 66.67 0.11 7.33
Health & Wellbeing 12 22 54.55 0.14 7.64
Energy 15 31 48.39 0.16 7.74
Transport 8 12 66.67 0.10 6.67
Water 4 10 40.00 0.07 2.68
Materials 8 14 57.17 0.15 8.57
Waste 3 6 50.00 0.06 3.00
Land Use & Ecology 5 10 50.00 0.13 6.50
Pollution 8 13 61.54 0.08 4.92
Innovation 2 10 20.00 0.10 2.00
Final BREEAM score 57.06
BREEAM rating Very Good

[top]Innovation credits

BREEAM first introduced innovation credits in 2008. The aim of innovation credits is to support and encourage innovation in construction. An additional 1% can be added to the overall building score for each innovation credit; up to maximum of 10 credits, i.e. 10%.

Innovation credits can be awarded in two ways:

  • By meeting exemplary performance criteria defined within an existing BREEAM issue i.e. going beyond the standard BREEAM assessment criteria and therefore best practice. Only some assessment issues have exemplary performance criteria.
  • By application to BRE Global to have a particular building technology or feature, design or construction method or process recognised as ‘innovative’. If the application is successful and subsequently building compliance is verified, an ‘innovation credit’ can be awarded.


[top]Material assessment within BREEAM

Under BREEAM, construction materials are assessed under the five issues shown.

BREEAM 2018 Material assessment issues
Issue Description Credits available
Mat 01 Environmental impacts from construction products - Building life cycle assessment (LCA) Life cycle impacts Up to 7
(depending on the building type)
Mat 02 Environmental impacts from construction products - Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) 1
Mat 03 Responsible sourcing of construction products 4
Mat 05 Designing for durability and resilience 1
Mat 06 Material efficiency 1

The only minimum standard under the Material section of BREEAM 2018 is for Mat 03 (Responsible sourcing of materials) where Criterion 1 is required for all BREEAM rating levels.

Further information on the assessment of materials under BREEAM is available in the Materials section of the BREEAM New Construction Technical Manual[1].

[top]Steel-framed, BREEAM 'excellent' buildings


[top]Steel-framed, BREEAM 'outstanding' buildings


[top]References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 BREEAM UK New Construction, Non-domestic buildings (All UK), Technical Manual, SD5078: BREEAM New construction 2018 1.0. BRE Global Ltd.
  2. Anderson, J., Shiers, D., Steel, K. The Green Guide to Specification, 4th ed., BRE and Oxford Brookes University, 2009
  3. BRE Global methodology for environmental profiles of construction products. SD6050. BRE, 2008.

[top]See also

[top]CPD