The Value Of BREEAM

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 7,000 projects were assessed using BREEAM.

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 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.

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.

Extracts from Modern Building Services magazine December 2012