A beginner’s guide to the essential tool for sustainable environments

BREEAM stands for the Building Research Establishment’s (BRE’s) Environmental Assessment Method. More than 110,000 buildings are certified under BREEAM and at least 750,000 are registered.

Building assessments are carried out by a growing legion of independent assessors licensed and trained by BRE Global (full list, page 23). Each assessment is then passed through to BRE Global for quality assurance and certification.

Assessors award performance credits in nine categories:

  • Management
  • Energy
  • Transport
  • Pollution
  • Materials
  • Waste
  • Water
  • Land use & Ecology
  • Health & Wellbeing

Using a set of environmental weightings the credits can be added together to produce a single overall score. The building is then awarded a certified rating on a percentage scale marked:

  • Pass 25%
  • Good 40-55%
  • Very good 55-70%
  • Excellent 70%
  • Outstanding (new this year) 85%

Many government departments, including regional development associations, the Housing Corporation and English Partnerships, now expect a minimum Very Good rating for all new buildings. The Welsh Assembly Government insists on Excellent.

The method is updated every two years. This year’s update includes a new Outstanding rating and makes post-construction reviews mandatory.

There are currently 11 versions of BREEAM tailored to specific needs ranging from courts to offices to retail. A bespoke version is also available for mixed-use or specialist environments, although this year’s update will introduce schemes for hospitals and further education buildings. The domestic versions, EcoHomes, EcoHomesXB and Multi-residential, will be updated by the end of this year. EcoHomes has already been used as the basis for the Department for Communities and Local Government’s Code for Sustainable Homes.