BREEAM – Everything you need to know 2024

20 June, 2024
BREEAM Certification Projects Rating

Why should you consider getting a BREEAM Certificate?

Are you planning a new build or refurbishment project? In that case, for your building to be eco-friendly, it is advisable to have BREEAM certification. It is one of the most comprehensive standards that ensures that sustainable design, infrastructure, and operations meet the standards set. 

Considering the energy consumed in offices and buildings, these standards are necessary. It is a planned method of assessing and rating the sustainability of the building. It might be advised or required for office spaces and buildings to have a BREEAM certificate. Today BREEAM certificates are needed in all government and many regulatory buildings and spaces. Apart from this, commercial office buildings can also benefit from a BREEAM certificate. 

This blog will cover all the important information on BREEAM certification so you don’t have to go anywhere else.

Table of Contents

What is BREEAM?

BREEAM stands for Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method. BREEAM is a leading sustainability assessment method for buildings and infrastructure projects globally. It provides a framework for measuring the environmental performance of new and existing buildings, aiming to improve their sustainability through best practices in design, construction, and operation. They introspect the office space in 9 different categories – the key checklist for BREEAM is as follows – 

  1. Energy consumption 
  2. Sourcing of resources 
  3. Generation of waste
  4. Innovation and updates 
  5. Variable pollution 
  6. Transportation 
  7. Land usage 
  8. Wellbeing 
  9. Management process
  10. Consumption of water 

BREEAM covers different aspects of the building’s lifecycle – design, implementation, construction, maintenance, and resources. Each category mentioned has specific standards and parameters of measurement. It is linked with certain points and credits based on which, a company can frame targets for improvements and monitor the plans. It is important to make sure that all the reports are documented as mentioned in the BREEAM assessment process. 

Origins and Development

BREEAM was developed by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) in the UK. It was first introduced in 1990, making it one of the oldest sustainability assessment methods. Over the years, BREEAM has evolved to encompass a wide range of building types and uses, adapting to new sustainability challenges and regulatory requirements.

Key Milestones in BREEAM’s Development:

  • 1990: Introduction of BREEAM for offices, marking the launch of the world’s first environmental assessment method for buildings.
  • 1998: Expansion to include retail and industrial buildings.
  • 2008: Launch of BREEAM International, facilitating assessments beyond the UK.
  • 2011: Introduction of BREEAM In-Use, assessing the sustainability of existing buildings.
  • 2014: Development of the Home Quality Mark for residential buildings in the UK.
  • 2018: Release of BREEAM Communities, focusing on large-scale developments and neighbourhoods.

Today, BREEAM is used in over 90 countries, influencing the design, construction, and operation of sustainable buildings worldwide. It has become a global benchmark for sustainability in the built environment.

Who requires the BREEAM assessment certificate?

BREEAM certificate is mandatory for all the government and regulatory authority refurbished spaces or newly built buildings. Besides this, there are many benefits from BREEAM certification for private businesses and buildings. Any project that focuses on building and refurbishing can voluntarily apply for BREEAM certification. 

The benefits of BREEAM certification include – 

  1. Being environmentally responsible 
  2. Cost-effective
  3. Improvement in the value of the project 
  4. Future adherence to changing legislation 

How BREEAM Works

The BREEAM assessment process is comprehensive and includes several stages from design to post-completion. Each stage evaluates the building’s performance against a set of sustainability criteria.

BREEAM Assessment Stages:

  1. Pre-Assessment: An initial review to understand the potential BREEAM rating and identify key sustainability targets.
  2. Design Stage Assessment: Evaluates the building design against BREEAM criteria to predict performance and identify areas for improvement.
  3. Post-Construction Review: Confirms that the design-stage commitments have been met and assesses the building as constructed.
  4. In-Use Assessment: Ongoing assessment of the building’s operational performance to ensure sustained sustainability outcomes.

This is a robust certificate of sustainability and also helps the company to integrate sustainability without compromising on their productivity. It takes at least 6-12 years and the certificate is valid for only 3 years. The building is required to apply for another certification to maintain the status of a socially responsible project. 

Categories: BREEAM assesses buildings across nine key categories, each contributing to the overall sustainability score:

  1. Energy: Efficiency and reduction of energy use.
  2. Health and Wellbeing: Impact on occupants’ health and comfort.
  3. Materials: Responsible sourcing and environmental impact of materials used.
  4. Management: Effective management practices during design, construction, and operation.
  5. Waste: Minimization and management of construction and operational waste.
  6. Water: Efficiency and management of water use.
  7. Pollution: Reduction of pollution from building operations.
  8. Transport: Accessibility and impact on transportation.
  9. Land Use and Ecology: Impact on and enhancement of the natural environment.

BREEAM ratings range from Pass to Outstanding, reflecting the building’s overall performance against these criteria. The system encourages continuous improvement and innovation in sustainable building practices.

Sample of a BREEAM checklist 

Note: The following is a non-exhaustive list and the factory and category may vary between different buildings and office spaces. 

Energy efficiency

  1. Building design with maximum passive solar gains 
  2. Energy-friendly lighting setup and systems
  3. Renewable energy efficient systems 
  4. Monitoring systems for energy 


Water management 

  1. Arrangement of fittings and fixtures in water supplies 
  2. Leak detection in water 
  3. Flood and draught-controlling systems 


Management and innovation 

  1. Sufficient training and facilities for innovation 
  2. Creating guides and learning programs to develop skills 
  3. Latest deployment of technology and strategies that maximize sustainability in the plan. 

BREEAM Standards and Ratings

BREEAM provides a range of standards tailored to different types of projects and stages of a building’s lifecycle. Here are the primary standards:

  1. BREEAM New Construction: This standard assesses the sustainability of new buildings during the design and construction phases. It focuses on minimising environmental impacts, enhancing health and well-being, and improving resource efficiency.
  2. BREEAM In-Use: This standard evaluates the operational performance of existing buildings. It helps building owners and managers reduce operational costs and improve sustainability over the building’s life.
  3. BREEAM Refurbishment & Fit-Out: This standard addresses the sustainability of refurbishment and fit-out projects. It ensures that sustainability is integrated into the improvement of existing buildings, extending their life and enhancing their performance.
  4. BREEAM Communities: This standard evaluates the sustainability of large-scale developments and communities. It covers planning and development phases, ensuring that entire neighbourhoods are designed to be sustainable, resilient, and supportive of community wellbeing.


BREEAM Rating System

BREEAM ratings range from Pass to Outstanding, reflecting the building’s overall performance against its criteria. Each rating signifies a level of sustainability performance:

  • Pass: 30% score – Meets basic sustainability performance.
  • Good: 45% score – Above average sustainability performance.
  • Very Good: 55% score – High sustainability performance.
  • Excellent: 70% score – Best practice in sustainability.
  • Outstanding: 85% score – Innovative, exemplary performance.

Each rating is determined by the total score achieved across all BREEAM categories, ensuring a holistic approach to sustainability.

Benefits of BREEAM Certification

Environmental Benefits:

  • Improved Energy Efficiency: BREEAM-certified buildings often feature advanced energy management systems and renewable energy technologies, significantly reducing energy consumption.
  • Reduced Carbon Footprint: By promoting sustainable design and construction practices, BREEAM helps buildings minimize their greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Enhanced Occupant Wellbeing: BREEAM places a strong emphasis on health and wellbeing, ensuring that buildings provide comfortable, healthy environments for occupants through improved indoor air quality, natural lighting, and ergonomic design.

Economic Benefits:

  • Increased Property Value: BREEAM certification can enhance the marketability and value of a property, as sustainability is increasingly valued by buyers and investors.
  • Operational Cost Savings: Sustainable practices lead to reduced utility bills and maintenance costs, resulting in long-term financial savings.
  • Market Differentiation: Achieving BREEAM certification sets a building apart from non-certified ones, showcasing a commitment to sustainability and responsible building management, which can attract eco-conscious tenants and customers.

How is the BREEAM certification undertaken?

  1. The first step is to find a qualified and licensed BREEAM assessor, who specializes in planning, verifying, and monitoring the performance of various areas of operation. 
  2. The assessor will help in the registration of the project
  3. Once the registration is successful, the assessor can initiate the BREEAM assessment
  4. The reliability of the systems is checked through quality assurance tests.
  5. Once the project is qualified and at least meets the BREEAM standards, ratings are awarded accordingly. 

Implementation and Case Studies

One Angel Square (Manchester)

This headquarters of the Co-operative Group in Manchester achieved a BREEAM rating of Outstanding. The building employs sustainable technologies such as a double-skin facade for natural ventilation, a combined heat and power plant, and rainwater harvesting. It also features a passive solar design and a large green roof. One Angel Square demonstrates how large office buildings can achieve high levels of energy efficiency and environmental performance.


Bloomberg HQ (London)

This European headquarters for Bloomberg received a BREEAM rating of Outstanding with the highest score ever awarded. The building features a combined heat and power system, rainwater harvesting, and smart lighting systems that adjust based on natural light availability. It also has a central ramp encouraging walking, which promotes occupant health and well-being. Bloomberg HQ sets new standards for sustainable office environments, combining cutting-edge technology with innovative design to minimize environmental impact while enhancing occupant experience.


The Edge (Amsterdam)

The Edge achieved a BREEAM rating of Outstanding with one of the highest scores ever recorded. Located in Amsterdam, this office building is renowned for its innovative design, including a smart lighting system powered by Ethernet and solar panels on the facade and roof. The building is highly energy-efficient and serves as a model for future office buildings worldwide.


The Porter Building (Slough)

This office building in Slough received a BREEAM rating of Excellent. It focuses on creating a healthy, productive workspace for its occupants through enhanced air quality, natural light, and ergonomic design. The building features energy-efficient systems, sustainable materials, and waste reduction measures, demonstrating how office buildings can achieve high sustainability standards while providing a conducive work environment.

Challenges and Considerations

  • Cost Implications: Initial costs for sustainable design and materials can be high, although these are often offset by long-term savings.
  • Comprehensive Documentation: The process requires extensive documentation and evidence, which can be time-consuming and complex.


Strategies to Overcome Challenges:

  • Early Engagement with BREEAM Assessors: Engaging assessors early can help streamline the process and address potential issues before they become major obstacles.
  • Integrating Sustainability from the Outset: Incorporating BREEAM principles from the planning stage ensures that sustainability measures are effectively integrated into the project, reducing the need for costly retrofits.

Future insights

All the regulations and schemes relating to BREEAM are updated regularly with feedback from stakeholders. Thus, it is a continuously evolving subject that is open to changes in economic, environmental, and social dynamics. The strategy is subject to change in a way that fulfils the current sustainability targets and goals. 


What is BREEAM?

BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) is a globally recognized sustainability assessment method for buildings and infrastructure projects. It measures the environmental performance of buildings to encourage sustainable design, construction, and operation.


What are the different BREEAM standards?

BREEAM offers several standards including New Construction, In-Use, Refurbishment & Fit-Out, and Communities, each tailored to different stages of a building’s lifecycle.


What are the BREEAM rating levels?

BREEAM ratings range from Pass, Good, Very Good, Excellent, to Outstanding. These ratings reflect the building’s overall performance against BREEAM’s sustainability criteria.


What are the benefits of BREEAM certification?

BREEAM certification offers environmental benefits such as improved energy efficiency and reduced carbon footprint, as well as economic benefits like increased property value, operational cost savings, and market differentiation.


How does the BREEAM assessment process work?

The BREEAM assessment process includes several stages: Pre-Assessment, Design Stage Assessment, Post-Construction Review, and In-Use Assessment. It evaluates buildings across categories like energy, health and wellbeing, materials, waste, and more.


What challenges might be faced in achieving BREEAM certification?

Common challenges include the initial costs of sustainable measures and the need for comprehensive documentation. These can be mitigated by early engagement with BREEAM assessors and integrating sustainability principles from the project’s outset.


Can you provide examples of BREEAM-certified buildings?

Yes, notable examples include The Crystal in London, One Angel Square in Manchester, and Bloomberg HQ in London, all of which achieved high BREEAM ratings for their sustainable design and operation.


How does BREEAM benefit building occupants?

BREEAM-certified buildings enhance occupant well-being through better indoor air quality, natural lighting, and ergonomic design, leading to healthier and more productive environments.


Is BREEAM used internationally?

Yes, while BREEAM was developed in the UK, it is now used in over 90 countries, influencing sustainable building practices worldwide.


How can I get my building BREEAM certified?

To achieve BREEAM certification, engage with a licensed BREEAM assessor early in your project. They will guide you through the assessment process, help set sustainability targets, and ensure compliance with BREEAM criteria.

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