“BREEAM is a painful process”, “BREEAM doesn’t add any value”, “BREEAM is too expensive”.
These are just a snippet of comments that can be heard from developers, project teams, and contractors alike who have had painful experiences of BREEAM and have found themselves pulling their hair out whilst trying to pull together the final pieces of information to “get it over the line”.
Much of the reasoning behind this conviction is design teams not integrating BREEAM at an early stage in the design process. And we’re not talking about post-planning, I mean right at the start during Project Feasibility (RIBA Stage 1). In the same vain, we find that initial ambitions of excelling in BREEAM often lose momentum as wider projects milestones and targets take precedent during critical stages of the process, e.g. planning submission, tender (Pre-Qualification / Invitation to Tender / tender review period etc.) and Contract.
With these factors in mind, and without the right ammunition, you could be gearing yourself up for the following pitfalls:
Missed early stage “easy win” credits
- Lower than expected BREEAM score
- Non-compliance with Contract and /or planning conditions
- Increased capital cost
- Underperforming building
- Poor user experience
- A “thorn-in-your-side” BREEAM Assessor requesting information after project completion
How to avoid these pitfalls
Embrace BREEAM. Rather than taking a passive approach and waiting until BREEAM is borne out of the planning conditions, project teams should at least be adopting the principles of key early stage BREEAM credits. That is to say, by at least putting processes in place, a competent BREEAM Assessor should be able to collate various strings of evidence together to demonstrate that the principle of the credit/s have been achieved.
At CarbonPlan we believe that the key to ensuring that a project is on track to achieving the required BREEAM rating, is by appointing a BREEAM Accredited Professional from the outset. Their role can vary quite significantly depending on their appointment scope and capabilities, but at Carbon Plan we typically advise on appointment of the following service offerings:
1. Set the BREEAM rating
“Good/Very Good/ Excellent / Outstanding” – This may seem obvious, but whichever rating it is, it must be clearly defined and the project team must be aware.
2. Identify Time Critical Credits
Here is the cold, hard truth: over 25% of the overall available BREEAM credits must either be awarded or initiated prior to the close of RIBA Stage 2 (Concept proposals).
This typically means that before anyone is in contract, and the project through planning, there are a number of time critical credits which must be actioned and documented. This is of particular importance when BREEAM “Excellent” or above is required.
3. Risk evaluation
Your BREEAM AP must be proactive. They should continuously be reviewing key project information e.g. feasibility studies, ecology, FRA, transport assessment etc. By doing this, they should be able to provide a high level assessment on the achievability of “site determined” BREEAM credits i.e. Flood risk, pedestrian, vehicle and cycle access, ecological value of land, contaminated land.
4. Capital cost vs. percentage contribution
The BREEAM assessment is split into various categories, each with its own percentage weighting and credits available. Each credit therefore has a percentage contribution. Your BREEAM AP should be able to provide you with an options analysis comparing capital cost against the percentage contribution per credit (£/%age point). Minimising costs often prevails, so the ability for a Project Manager or QS to compare different credit options against the cost is crucial.
Let’s consider the following scenario:
A Primary School is being assessed under the BREEAM 2014 New Construction (Education) criteria. The required rating is BREEAM “Excellent” (70.0%) and the current pre-assessment has indicated a targeted score of 69.7%. This means that the scheme must find at least a further 0.3% to meet “Excellent”. If we presume that the following BREEAM credits have not been targeted:
- Option 1) Man 04 Commissioning and handover – Thermographic Survey;
- Option 2) Hea 02 Indoor Air Quality – Development of an Indoor Air Quality Plan.
Option 1 provides a percentage contribution of 0.57%, with a capital cost budget of £3,000.
Option 2 provides a percentage contribution of 0.83%, with a capital cost budget of £1,000.
Without expanding on the details of what each credit encompasses, simply put, Option 2 provides a cheaper route to compliance with BREEAM “Excellent” (70.0%), whilst also providing an additional 0.26% leverage, or “buffer”.
The scenario above is of course a very simplistic one, with clear cut options, however this sort of options analysis is typical of what a good BREEAM AP should be providing to enable targeted ratings to be achieved cost effectively and de-risk a project.
5. Assign roles and responsibilities
There’s no better way for the BREEAM requirements to be ignored, than for the project team to open a pre-assessment with no clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Your BREEAM AP should explicitly identify these throughout the project. Where project team appointments are outstanding e.g. Principal Contractor, these credit requirements can be assigned by discipline.
Depending on the level of project team involvement, your AP may want to go a step further and assign requirements by name. Whichever the choice, each credit requirement must be clearly assigned with required timeframes/stages clearly communicated.
6. BREEAM Employer’s Requirements
Once the scheme is designed, out to tender, and contracts signed, there’s very little which can be done to improve the BREEAM score cost effectively, and from here on out the responsibility sits with the Principal Contractor to build a scheme which fully incorporates the already agreed BREEAM strategy.
There are several options for translating the project’s BREEAM requirements through to contract including: referencing the “Target Rating” within the General Preliminaries, and / or appending the BREEAM Pre-Assessment.
Monitoring and recording energy and water consumption, implement a compliant Site Waste Management Plan, submitting relevant responsible sourcing certification for all materials used in construction, commissioning, handover and training.
The list goes on, but these are just a snippet of BREEAM requirements novated to the Principal Contractor. But how can you be certain that these will be upheld once into contract?
I always encourage my Clients to appoint us to develop a bespoke, standalone BREEAM Employer’s Requirements document for inclusion within the tender package. This document clearly schedules out the BREEAM obligations pertaining to the Principal Contractor rather than being potentially “lost in translation” through the pre-assessment.
Regardless of the project scale, this service is invaluable to BREEAM compliance during the construction phase and we would typically encourage Contractors to seek advice from a BREEAM professional and / or appoint a BREEAM AP to act on their behalf during construction to: review evidence, provide on-going support, and liaise with the Client’s BREEAM Assessor.
This also gives the Client a “stick” should the Contractor fail to comply with the BREEAM requirements assigned to them.
Over 25% of the overall available BREEAM credits must either be awarded or initiated prior to the close of RIBA Stage 2 (Concept proposals).
Facing the harsh realities
Regardless of the targeted rating during the design stage, some credits inevitably are lost during the construction phase. In addition to potentially not meeting your Clients building performance aspirations, a major concern is failure to comply with a planning condition. Your Client can therefore quite easily find themselves facing a sizeable bill for more “bolt-on” credits including additional renewable technologies, Extended Aftercare for a minimum 3 years following occupation; post-construction Volatile Organic Compound and Formaldehyde testing, Post-Occupancy Evaluation by a Third Party.
Most BREEAM Assessors are aware of this probability, and will advise targeting a “buffer” of circa 4-5%. However even with a buffer strategy in place it’s not uncommon to see a project fall below the target rating threshold, typically when BREEAM “Excellent” or above is required.
This then begs the question: “if we have designed a scheme which is achieving BREEAM “Excellent”, then why is this not being achieved upon construction?”
There is no single answer to this question as it can typically come down to numerous factors. Nevertheless, by adopting the key processes and principles outlined in this article, you will be able to significantly improve the prospect of achieving the targeted BREEAM rating upon completion.
We have found those projects which typically excel in BREEAM are those which adopt the following principles:
- Embrace BREEAM from the outset – don’t wait until post-planning to start integration.
- Appoint a BREEAM AP to de-risk your project from the onset and ensure design team work with them
- Embed BREEAM into the Contract – Ensure the Main Contractor’s BREEAM obligations are properly translated into contract.
This “Embrace, Appoint and Embed” approach to the BREEAM process will no doubt equip you with the right tools and ammunition to integrate BREEAM effectively whilst delivering a well-performing and improved building (minus the headache).
By Senior Consultant & BREEAM AP at CarbonPlan Limited.
CarbonPlan have extensive experience in implementing effective BREEAM strategies to ensure your scheme is on track to meeting its performance requirements.