Should we update the current scoring system to help motivate greener construction?

Penny Crompton

It seems to me that everybody is talking about sustainability, carbon footprints and the bad weather. I was invited to two conferences on sustainability during sustainability week and my flatmate has started to buy eco-friendly washing up liquid. The construction industry has a massive part to play in this transition and it has made me think about what is going on in my projects.

Green building design is measured against the BRE Environmental Assessment Model (BREEAM). There is no doubt that this is a good system and has helped motivate a much greener way of constructing.

I have noticed however that the point system doesn’t seem to follow a natural scale and I have even seen reports which volunteer information on “easy points”. Since the introduction of the new Part L regulations it doesn’t take much additional effort to slightly over satisfy the regulations and score some free BREEAM points; maybe we should all be trying a bit harder. Perhaps the rating needs to be updated to encourage a “super” rating!

One of my commercial sector clients has recently asked if we can apply LEED (leadership in energy and environmental design) in addition to BREEAM on one of his projects. This seems like a good idea to me. The benchmarks are regularly updated and it seems to set the bar a little higher with only 18 commercial offices currently awarded the converted “platinum” award.

Another advantage seems to be that you can clearly split the responsibility of the building by achieving one award for “shell and core” and another for the “fit-out”. I have heard however that a lot of time and money is spent providing paperwork to authenticate an award.

Whilst a greener building is a desirable product, perhaps we should be investing in updating one of these systems so that the opportunity to incentivise and certify truly green buildings is not lost.