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BREEAM Certification: Everything You Need to Know

Heard of the green building certification system BREEAM and want to know more? This article gives you a quick rundown of everything you need to know about BREEAM.

What is BREEAM, and what does it stand for?

There are plenty of established green building certifications that help real estate developers to create more sustainable buildings and communities. They also allow buyers and occupants to rest assured that they are being delivered the features of sustainability and safety they were promised. 

BREEAM is the longest established sustainability assessment and certification system globally.

Launched in 1990 in the UK by BRE Global, the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) pioneered the movement towards more sustainable design and construction of the built environment, assuming a leading role in minimizing the significant negative impacts of the global construction industry on the environment.

Like other green building certification systems, BREEAM is a way to assess the level of compliance of built environment projects with a set of clear and scientifically robust sustainability goals and communicate this to clients. The system works by way of third-party verification of a project’s sustainability performance so that an assessor completely independent of BRE Global assesses the project to ensure that it is approved by different entities and offers a high level of quality assurance.

We, at Alpin, house some of the leading experts in the region when it comes to guiding developers and other contractors to their final goal of a BREEAM certification for their building, community, or infrastructure projects. We are also proud to have worked on the first BREEAM International-certified Community project in the Middle East.

Want to know more details about BREEAM? Read on.

How it works: FAQ

When can a project undergo a BREEAM assessment and certification?

A project can undergo its BREEAM assessment and consequent certification at any stage of its life cycle, design, construction, operation, or refurbishment.

What features of sustainability are measured by BREEAM?

The major categories assessed within BREEAM are: 

    • Energy: efficient use and management of energy, and reduction of carbon emissions
    • Land use: protection and sustainable use of the land surrounding a project, with a focus on habitat and biodiversity conservation
    • Materials: responsible sourcing, procurement, and disposal of materials used in construction
    • Pollution: reduction of a project’s impact on its surrounding environment in the form of noise, air, water, land, or light pollution
    • Waste: reduction and sustainable management of waste from construction, operations, and future repairs of a structure
    • Water: efficient use of water by reducing water consumption and loss via leakage
    • Health and wellbeing: enhancement of the health, comfort, safety, and overall quality of life of occupants
    • Transport: availability and accessibility of public and other more sustainable means of transportation for building occupants
    • Management: incorporation of sustainable values and actions throughout the entire building process from design through to operations
    • Innovation: use of innovative or high-performing features in any category that goes beyond the standard requirement levels

Efforts in each of these categories are assessed using a credit system, whereby each relevant feature incorporated into a project earns the project a certain number of points. Each category is weighted according to the different credits achieved within it, determining the final performance and rating of the project.

What are the BREEAM certification levels? 

Following an assessment by a third party, BREEAM certified projects are given one of the following ratings: acceptable, pass, good, very good, excellent, and outstanding.

What is the BREEAM certification process?

You begin by choosing the BREEAM standard applicable to your project and then appoint a licensed assessor to carry out a pre-assessment. You continue by contracting or subcontracting a sustainability consultant well-versed in the BREEAM system to help create the compliant building structure, which the licensed BREEAM assessor then assesses.

After reviewing the project information you share with the assessor, they determine how well the project complies with the requirements of the chosen BREEAM standard and submit the results of their assessment to BRE Global. Once the project is confirmed to comply with all relevant requirements, you receive the BREEAM certificate and digital and physical certification marks.

How will others identify BREEAM certified buildings? 

Once a project is certified, it receives a BREEAM certificate and certification mark that you can use to communicate your project’s value with your stakeholders. It will also appear as a certified assessment on the official BREEAM website.

What makes this certification important?

Addressing climate change: The construction industry is one of the most significant contributors to climate change, and its role in shifting our world to a low-carbon economy is therefore instrumental. 

The use of BREEAM standards contributes significantly to many of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which are aimed at creating a better, more sustainable future globally, such as:

  • Health and Well-being
  • Clean Water and Sanitation
  • Affordable and Clean Energy
  • Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • Responsible Consumption and Production
  • Climate Action 
  • Life on Land

Increasing business value: Using the BREEAM standard also allows for more effective use of resources, an increased rate of return for investors and developers, and better quality of life for occupants. Building ratings are increasingly being seen as a mark of quality in the industry, but BREEAM certified buildings are specially built for resilience and in response to environmental and societal demands. This results in reduced costs and risks and increased savings and value for all parties involved.

What is the difference between BREEAM and LEED? 

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), run by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), is also a highly renowned green building certification system, which is more widely used than BREEAM, although BREEAM has been used longer. 

One of the key differences between the two certification systems is that LEED (which originated from BREEAM principles) is more globally used than BREEAM. It is applicable internationally but is generally preferred in the UK and Europe. 

While BREEAM requires licensed assessors to assess and judge the performance of a building while guiding its developers through the process, LEED depends on the building design team to evaluate the project and later gather and send the relevant data to the USGBC for approval and certification. Reach out to our experts at Alpin if you want to know which green building certification you should pursue for your next project.

How can Alpin help with BREEAM certification?

Alpin worked as both a Sustainability Consultant and BREEAM Assessor for a confidential project in the United Arab Emirates, and we focused on addressing the reduction of carbon emissions and sustainable use of natural resources, creating a healthy economy, and encouraging cultural activities and community bonding.

In fact, Alpin worked on the United Arab Emirate’s first BREEAM project.

Here are some of the specific ways we helped guide the project in the right direction to achieving its BREEAM certification:

Incorporating biophilic design and natural light that improves occupant wellbeing

  • Implementing renewable energy generators such as low-incline high-efficiency photovoltaic panels on the main roof and parking areas that allow the structure to create twice the energy that it consumes
  • Creating a social hub where the community occupants get to participate in various cultural experiences and events
  • Conducting a Life Cycle Analysis of the entire project to maximize the selection and use of low carbon impact materials, and consequently sourcing building materials like legally harvested and traded timber sustainably
  • Reducing building and operations waste through cellular construction to reduce wood wastage, and use of stormwater run-off collection and treated sewage effluent for public realm irrigation to reduce water wastage

Are you intrigued to know if BREEAM is the right green building certification to pursue your project? 

 Ask us your questions! Read more about our BREEAM services here, reach out to us at [email protected] or give us a call at +971-2-234-6198.