BREEAM 2018 – what is the opportunity?

With the recent launch of the draft BREEAM 2018 New Construction manual ahead of its expected full launch early next year, we take a look at how opportunities for updating the existing scheme to fit the current sustainability landscape have been met.

The Building Research Establishment (BRE) aim to review and update their BREEAM UK New Construction standard every 3-4 years to ensure it reflects current best practice, continues to promote exemplary environmental performance and addresses developments in technology, legislation and sustainability thinking.

Since its inception in 1990, there have been various versions of the BREEAM standard that have continually evolved to form the current scheme. In 2008, minimum standards and a post construction review were introduced to ensure a certain level of environmental performance was achieved in key areas and that this performance level was carried through to the construction of the building.

The 2008 and 2011 schemes were also characterised by the ability to use Green Building Guides and Green Lease Agreements to formalise agreements between the design team and contractor. These were subsequently removed from the 2014 manual as the inception of shell only, shell and core, or fully fitted assessments, together with the BREEAM In-Use and BREEAM Non-Domestic Refurbishment schemes, provided an improved suite of assessments that could more effectively cover the full building lifecycle.

With the BREEAM framework now fully established, the changes for the 2018 scheme are more technical in nature with the BRE identifying a list of key area for development. These topics have been considered below to understand how these key areas have been met.

Energy performance gap

The gap in a building’s energy performance between its design and final operation is one of the biggest current issues within the industry. There are numerous examples whereby the operational building does not achieve the performance of a modelled building (with a consequent effect on the BREEAM credits achieved).

BREEAM 2018 will award additional credits for more detailed energy modelling incorporating prediction and verification of actual performance, with the intention to provide a more accurate assessment and encouraging designers to take steps to close the performance gap. Credits are also provided for carrying out a risk assessment to identify possible barriers to achieving the desired performance, thus enabling these to be designed out earlier.

Embodied energy and materials

In the absence of any formal regulation for energy performance beyond building regulations, embodied energy is under increasing focus as one method that can contribute towards national climate change targets. Embodied carbon has been incorporated into the revamped Mat 01 credit, which is no longer based on outdated Green Guide ratings and instead requires lifecycle assessments for various building elements. The complexity, cost and timescales involved with this may limit its effectiveness, particularly for smaller projects.

A key result of this is that opportunities for improving material standards and the associated benefits may therefore be lost unless clients are engaged sufficiently to consider material selection and lifecycle assessment at very early stages.

Health and wellbeing

Health and wellbeing within buildings continues its growth as another hot topic, with various pieces of industry research highlighting the benefits of a ‘healthy’ building in terms of staff productivity, sickness levels and general mood.

The health and wellbeing category within BREEAM is already well established and covers the key issues including daylighting, air quality and thermal comfort. However, there are a number of additional issues that can be considered to provide greater verification of the wellbeing features incorporated into a building.

It is a positive step that the outdoor space credit previously removed since 2008, has been reinstated for 2018, highlighting the importance of providing such an area for building staff in particular.

It is clear from experience that clients are increasingly looking to other assessment methodologies such as WELL to provide verification for their building. Whilst there should be clear differentials between BREEAM and WELL, it may be that more of the wellbeing issues could have been incorporated into BREEAM 2018, thereby providing greater overlap as already established in a recent BRE study.

Transport

With climate change targets to meet, it is important that sustainable transport is inherent within every development. With the recent announcement by the government that it plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040, it is important that developments start to futureproof themselves by incorporating electric vehicle charging provision.

This has been acknowledged comprehensively in BREEAM 2018 by the traditional cycle spaces/facilities credit being expanded to include a variety of other alternative modes of transport and recognition being given for provision of electric recharging stations. Given that this is likely to be required by planning authorities more in the future, it is hoped that this will not be seen as an alternative to cycle provision (as it achieves equivalent BREEAM credits) but as an additional element of transport provision.

Resilience

Resilience to climate change is an overarching issue linked to a lot of topic areas. An adaptation strategy was included in BREEAM 2014 but this issue is arguably more important now since the introduction of Paris Agreement climate change commitments.

The importance of this can be seen elsewhere, such as the 2017 EIA regulations incorporating a requirement for a climate change adaptation and mitigation assessment. It is surprising, therefore, that no major changes have been made to the credits related to climate change adaptation; it could be argued that greater emphasis should have been placed on these, providing they are structured to be of benefit to the design and not just a box ticking exercise.

It is good to see the level of engagement the BRE has had with assessors and that they are constantly trying to improve communication lines with the people that have hands on experience of using the scheme. Changes such as less prescriptive evidence requirements, whilst potentially being seen as causing uncertainty, will hopefully lead to BREEAM being viewed less as an onerous compliance requirement and more as a valuable building design tool. In time, this may lead to greater uptake of the scheme by those that see the benefits and not just where required as a planning requirement.

A great opportunity exists with BREEAM 2018 to improve the scheme to ensure all buildings certified with it go beyond best practice and continue to strive for improved environmental performance across all newly constructed buildings.

The BREEAM 2018 draft manual has just been released for comment after 9 months of consultation and criteria development.

The BRE welcome feedback from all stakeholders by 3rd November 2017 before the final manual is expected to be published in early 2018. Greengage will provide more detailed analysis of some of the changes throughout the consultation period via our News pages, prior to responding to the consultation.

If you require a BREEAM assessment or have any queries on its applicability for your development, please contact rob.miller@greengage-env.com or call 0203 544 4000.