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Is the BREEAM boom over?

17 Oct 2016

At BAM we have delivered many sustainable new projects, many of them assessed, rated and third party certified to BREEAM. But as a BREEAM Assessor, I often get asked: is the BREEAM boom over?

BREEAM is the world's leading sustainability assessment and rating scheme for the built environment. More than just a tick-box exercise, it is framework to inspire and assist developers, designers, contractors and end users in delivering a better quality of building with sustainable value. It also takes into account issues that aim to help futureproof the building against climate change or future change of building use, highlighting the importance of building longevity.

110 Queen Street, our BREEAM Excellent development

Previously I have published a blog on the case for green buildings where I cited how certified green-rated buildings are more attractive to developers, investors and occupants, for a range of reasons from financial, health and wellbeing, to environmental impacts and others. Other reports have also detailed research on this topic (see The Business Case for Green Building). 

Some view schemes like BREEAM as an extra cost, and although it does cost to deliver against BREEAM targets, especially those at the higher end, studies have highlighted that the cost of implementing BREEAM has been decreasing over the years. In a 2014 BRE/Sweett Group report 'Delivering Sustainable Buildings, Savings and Payback', the capital cost uplift to achieve an Excellent rating was 0.9% (for an air conditioned office in a location with ‘good’ public transport links), compared to a similar building in 2005 being 7%. Often, ‘moderate’ BREEAM ratings can be achieved for little extra cost (above the Building Regulations baseline), especially if a BREEAM Assessor/AP is engaged as early as possible. This ensures time-stipulated RIBA stage 1-2 credits are achieved and that early decisions are carried out with BREEAM in mind (source: James Parker, BSRIA/Scheider, The value of BREEAM, 2012).

In-house BREEAM workshops ensure BREEAM is on the agenda early-on

Importantly, a BREEAM rated building should deliver payback - in terms of lifecycle savings through lower energy and water bills, or for the speculative developer by the faster selling/letting of a building and potentially higher yield because you have a better quality product. BREEAM-rated buildings provide a healthier and more pleasant environment; occupants are the most valuable asset within a building, with 90% of operational building costs being attributed to salaried staff.  Providing a good workplace helps achieve better productivity and lower absenteeism rates etc. (Source: Health, Wellbeing & Productivity in Offices (2014)).

Although we have recently seen cutbacks to public sector spending on capital projects, and changes to Local Authority Plans following the Housing Standard Review, I believe that BREEAM is a good investment. It is a cost-effective way of bringing sustainable value into buildings and provides a route-map for investors, developers, design/construction teams and occupiers to use natural resources more efficiently.

It would appear that other ‘major players’ agree. Investors and lenders in particular are increasingly recognising the value of certification in their decision-making and policy. For example, the US technology giant Apple announced early this year that it was issuing $1.5 billion in green bonds to pay for a range of environmental initiatives - buildings that meet BREEAM standards are eligible for Apple’s green fund bonds (source). Furthermore, the commercial arm of Lloyds Bank has a £1 billion green lending fund. Earlier this year Lloyds provided an investment loan to Trinova Real Estate to support one of its property purchases. To secure the margin improvement available on the loan, Lloyds stipulated that any capital expenditure on the building must ensure it continues to achieve its BREEAM rating of Excellent (source). 

Current market growth for BREEAM certification appears to reflect this view. For BREEAM UK New Construction & Refurbishment and Fit Out schemes, the graph below highlights the upwards trend in the number of BREEAM certifications, and in the last 12 months the BRE have certified over 1,900 design and post construction assessments, which is higher than any other 12 month period for those schemes.

Source: BREEAM, BRE Global Ltd.

It's a similar growth story for other BREEAM schemes and sectors, such as BREEAM In-Use. The BRE has just launched the new Home Quality Mark, their consumer focused scheme for new homes, and recently announced it has had over 4,000 homes registered to it with interest in the scheme growing. It’s not just in the UK where BREEAM is having an impact, it has an 80% market share of green certification in Europe and 25% of BREEAM certification is for assessments of buildings outside of the UK (Source: BREEAM Annual Digest August 2014). 

BREEAM continues to be popular both in the UK, Europe and further afield, as clients recognise and understand the value and benefits achieved from building or refurbishing sustainably. In response to the original question, is the BREEAM boom over? No, the future is bright, the future is green.


Hardip Mann is Senior Sustainability Advisor at BAM

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