BREEAM or Dream?

Mitch Cooke set-up specialist environmental planning consultancy Environmental Perspectives in 2006 having previously led the environmental planning teams for WSP and WYG. In 2012, the company became Greengage Environmental LLP.

Interestingly, this week BRE Global (the international arm of Building Research Establishment) announced the launch of a new version of the BREEAM* Communities scheme. It is designed to help developers, local planning authorities and design professionals improve, measure and certify the sustainability of large developments. But in the absence of having any impetus on enabling housing developments, is this a realistic aim?

BREEAM Communities has been running for two years now and as far as I’m aware there are only two certified schemes: MediaCityUK, Manchester; and Masthusen, Malmo in Sweden. Clearly therefore its take up has been limited – maybe by the lack of real community planning or maybe it’s a scheme too far from the BRE?

It is not clear how many registered projects there are but the BRE claims the scheme is now increasing its influence internationally through a new bespoke assessment process.   At home, it seems the scheme may be increasing its prominence  as last year Bristol City Council become the first local planning authority in England to mandate BREEAM Communities in an adopted local plan, and according to the BRE others are now looking to follow suit.

For those familiar with the present scheme the changes to the 2012 version include a focus on the process of masterplanning to achieve sustainable outcomes as opposed to prescribing design solutions; and the scheme is now aligned with building level assessments, so credits achieved for a BREEAM Communities assessment can also be used to support the attainment of applicable credits for schemes such as BREEAM and the Code for Sustainable Homes.

The technical manual will be published in early September, with registrations open from 1 October, although with the current lack of community building maybe we will only see another two certified schemes before another revised version in two years’ time?

*BREEAM is an environmental assessment method and rating system for buildings.