BREEAM Environmental Assessment Method

BREEAM is the Building Research Establishment’s (BRE) Environmental Assessment Method first launched in the UK in 1990. It sets best practice standards for the environmental performance of buildings through design, specification, construction and operation.

BREEAM sets benchmarks for standard categories of development (such as offices, retail developments, educational buildings and healthcare buildings) and offers a bespoke scheme for non-standard buildings. It can be applied to new developments or refurbishment projects. International schemes also exist for projects outside of the UK.

It allows clients, project teams and facilities managers to be certain that the required standard of environmental best practice is being adopted on their project. It can also be used as a marketing tool for potential purchasers or tenants.

Some clients may require the use of BREEAM. The BRE provide a limited list of links to some organisations that require BREEAM.

The government’s Common Minimum Standards referred to in the Government Construction Strategy require that an environmental assessment is carried out on all public projects, and states that...

“…where BREEAM is used, all new projects are to achieve an “excellent” rating….where an alternative environmental assessment methodology is used, projects should seek to achieve equivalent ratings.”

In addition, local planning authorities may require BREEAM certification (or equivalent) either as part of a local plan, or as a planning condition imposed on developments. This kind of requirement is likely to become more common given the presumption in favour of sustainability in the National Planning Policy Framework.

Assessments are carried out by trained assessors. BREEAM assessments are based on a scoring system carried out against nine criteria:

  1. Energy.
  2. Land use and ecology.
  3. Water.
  4. Health and well-being.
  5. Pollution.
  6. Transport.
  7. Materials.
  8. Waste.
  9. Management.

Each of the criteria is scored and then multiplied by a weighting. There are minimum thresholds that must be achieved, and additions can be made for specific innovations. The resulting overall score is translated into the BREEAM rating. BREEAM ratings include; unclassified, pass, good, very good, excellent and outstanding.

Two stages of assessment and certification are carried out; a design stage assessment resulting in an interim certificate being issued and a post construction assessment resulting in a final certificate being issued and a rating awarded. There can also be an optional pre-assessment report, which can help designers understand where the design needs to be improved to achieve the desired rating. In addition, there is a BREEAM In-Use scheme which allows an action plan to be produced to improve the management and performance both of the building in use and of client activities within the completed building.

Whilst BREEAM dominates the UK market, alternative methods of environmental assessment include; Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) in the USA, Greenstar in Australia, HQE in France and CASBEE in Japan.

In June 2012, a new BREEAM scheme for domestic refurbishment was introduced. As with other schemes, this new scheme allows domestic refurbishment schemes to be assessed and rated on a range from pass to outstanding.

BREEAM, designingbuildings, [online] Available at <> [Accessed June 2014]