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A three step guide to creating a BREEAM Outstanding building

Julia Messenger Julia Messenger 08 Jan 2015

Outstanding buildings are a rare breed. Especially if you only count the BREEAM approved ones! A building can only achieve BREEAM Outstanding if it achieves a score of 85% or above. This takes into account the energy efficiency, how sustainably it was built and how well it will respond to user needs. It rewards innovation to create not just a sustainable building, but a place for sustainable businesses to thrive. But beyond a BREEAM rating a truly sustainable building shapes users’ behaviour to work more sustainably. Not an easy feat…but it can be done.

Here’s how three projects managed to achieve the Outstanding accolade:

1. Integrate the BREEAM process from day one

The first step to creating an Outstanding building is ensuring that there is an integrated design process that incorporates the BREEAM targets from the outset. Jeff Carter, BAM Design Architect who worked on the Outstanding One Pancras Square at Kings Cross, explains “The design team always kept BREEAM high on the agenda. Once BAM had won the project, we appointed a specialist specifications writer to ensure that both BREEAM and other standards were being incorporated into the specifications sent to subcontractors. This assured that everyone was clear what was needed to achieve the BREEAM rating targeted.” 

The team then ensured that there was a BREEAM focused individual both at the design and construction phase, encouraging all the team to collate the evidence. “We were always in contact with the client, developer Argent, to ensure the most suitable credits were targeted for BREEAM but would also be most beneficial for the end users,” says Jeff. This resulted in achieving an Outstanding rating as well as a fantastic new office workspace.

2. Embrace clever technology

An Outstanding building will marry clever design with clever technology, to create an energy-efficient environment that people want to be in. When I visited The Crystal building last year, a BREEAM Outstanding building, it was clear clever technology had been used throughout to make this a highly sustainable building.

Designed so it does not burn any fossil fuels in the building, The Crystal uses renewable technologies such as PVs, ground source heat pumps and wind turbines to create its own energy. It also incorporates rainwater harvesting, as well as the more unusual black water treatment-100% of the water used in the building, such as dishwashers and toilets, is reused to re-flush the toilets and provide the irrigation for landscaping! 

To make sure the users’ needs are being met, the building is monitored in detail including CCTV, fire sensors and occupancy detection. This allows for small adjustments of the building systems to meet the users’ needs while maximising efficiency. And the building management system allows the building’s comfort (heat, light, and ventilation) to be controlled remotely. So maintenance can be non-intrusive but efficient.

3. Making the building work for employees

But clever technology can only get you so far. The building has to be flexible enough to integrate with the culture of the business, and how the users will actually use it. The new headquarters of WWF in Woking truly enabled employees to adopt a new way of working and have their work environment suit their needs.

Moving away from the traditional workspace the design of the building allows staff to hot desk - changing their seating position every day. This allows staff to sit in areas where they feel most comfortable while maximising the space.  This format reduces the number of work stations that are required, opening up more space for meeting rooms and informal break out areas.

The building uses clever technology to control the environment, for example the blinds are automated and the temperature is regulated, but the users always have the ability to override the system if required.

A big decision for the WWF was to change the location of their head offices to central Woking. This has altered staff commuting habits, using the train instead of driving to work. And the building they arrive at is part of the business’ ethos to reduce harm to the planet.

Timber was used as a dominant material in the building but it was sourced from 100% responsibly-managed forests certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The landscape includes shrubs, trees and flowers, and boxes to attract birds and bats. This, as well as the internal trees, shows their desire to encourage biodiversity and bring the natural world onto the site.

So there you have it – three simple steps which contribute to BREEAM Outstanding. If you would like to go and see an Outstanding building been built why not book onto a tour or download the app for the Kings Cross development (where One Pancras Square is located). Visit their website to find out how.

Alternatively you can book a tour of the WWF building in Woking or visit the exhibition at The Crystal building in London. 

Julia Messenger is a Sustainability Advisor at BAM



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