BREEAM Environmental Assessment Method

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.

CREST Centre - South West College - Passivhaus Certified, BREEAM excellent and Zero Carbon


Paul McAlister Architects were delighted to win an open tender for the provision of architect led design team services for the provision of the new CREST Centre for South West College Enniskillen. This project is one of the most sustainable projects in Ireland and will be the first commercial building in Northern Ireland that will achieve the Passive House Certification. The project is distinguished as it will achieve all of the following three sustainable credentials:

  1. Passivhaus Certified for Energy efficient envelope and ventilation system
  2. BREEAM excellent in terms of the BRE sustainable benchmark for UK commercials buildings
  3. The building will also be Zero Carbon, this means that the building can provide, by renewable energy, it own source of heat and lighting.

Whilst a combination of these sustainable criteria has been attempted in other parts of the UK, this will be the first example in Northern Ireland or Ireland and will become a benchmark building for sustainability.

South West College is one of six Further and Higher Education Colleges in Northern Ireland and was formed as a result of the merger of the former Colleges of Fermanagh, Omagh and East Tyrone on 1 August 2007.  South West College services the geographical area of Counties Tyrone and Fermanagh.  There are five campus locations at Cookstown, Dungannon, Omagh, two at Enniskillen (main campus and Technology and Skills Centre) and a number of out centres.  The College has approximately 500 full-time staff and a similar number of part-time staff and an annual budget of £39M. The college offers a wide range of vocational and non-vocational courses, training courses such as Training for Success, Steps to Work and provides a service to the community, local schools, business and industry.  It provides courses ranging from basic skills to Higher National Diploma and Degree Level programmes.

The CREST centre will provide industry Research & Development, demonstration and testing facilities for new renewable energy products and sustainable technologies. The facilities will be used by small companies within the region who have ideas for new products but who currently do not have the physical and/or technical capacity to develop, test and commercialise these. Within CREST facilities and staff will be accessible to develop, demonstrate and test new technologies and show how these can be integrated practically and sensibly to achieve energy savings. The CREST centre will form one component of a wider bid for European funding to support Research & Development in renewable energy and smart technologies within small businesses in the border regions of Northern Ireland, Ireland and western Scotland.

The CREST centre will comprise of three areas; the Pavilion, Research & Development Lab and Hub. The Pavilion will be newly developed and the Hub and Research & Development lab will be integrated into the existing Skills Centre building.

The Hub will form the central office area within the CREST centre and will comprise modern office and meeting space where the CREST team will meet with companies to discuss their requirements and outline the services available. Within the reception area of the Hub, real time visual data monitoring screens will be located. These will display easy-to-understand graphs and tables to analyse the energy performance of a variety of renewable energy installations (e.g. wind turbines, solar panels) located within the region and provide useful data such as information on CO2 savings and energy output. The CREST centre in Enniskillen will form the core of a larger network of satellite facilities in Sligo, Cavan and Dumfries in Scotland, and modern electronic communication facilities will be required within the Hub to link with these sites (e.g. Videoconferencing, web conferencing etc). The hub will be accommodated in the existing building which will require adaptation. Within the Research & Development lab a range of advanced prototyping, testing and development facilities will be available to enable staff at the centre to support companies with practical hands-on new product development. The Research & Development lab will comprise a large workshop facility which can be divided into smaller project workspaces. It is envisaged that some of the CREST projects will involve the development of highly innovative ideas for which IP protection will be required and thus some of the project workspaces will need to be screened from public access to prevent disclosure issues. Equipment within the Research & Development lab will include a laboratory scale wind turbine, biomass heating apparatus, heat exchangers, heat pumps, solar heating and photovoltaic and various monitoring, testing and ancillary equipment. This lab facility is to be accommodated within existing accommodation which will require adaptation. The Pavilion area of the CREST centre will provide demonstration and testing facilities to showcase innovative products and processes and the use of renewable technologies in construction. The Pavilion will be designed to engage industry through experiencing (seeing, touching) new sustainable technologies and materials allowing for a deeper engagement in and understanding of the techniques on display. Products and processes will include new construction technologies – building materials e.g. hempcrete, insulation etc. and renewable energy applications e.g. heat pumps, solar panels. It is planned that the Pavilion will be a dynamic facility which will allow for annual/biannual reconfiguration to include emerging technologies.


Making new BREEAM Leaner and Greener

The 2011 update of BREEAM will produce a streamlined methodology for assessing new non-domestic buildings, presented in a single document and more closely aligned with emerging European Standards. Other major changes will reflect the new carbon reduction requirements of Part L and a greater focus on the sustainable management and handover of buildings after construction during the initial phase of occupation An updated and significantly streamlined BREEAM methodology for UK non-domestic buildings will be released this spring. BREEAM's regular biennial revisions are designed to ensure that it remains up-to-date, representative of best environmental practice and a driver for innovation in sustainable building design and construction.

BRE Global began work on revising and updating the current BREEAM 2008 UK version (launched in August 2008) in the spring of 2010. A key part of this exercise was a wide consultation with BREEAM users and specifiers, assessors and other industry stakeholders. "The feedback we received from individuals and organisations was essential in shaping the update of the UK scheme and also our thinking on our longer-term direction," explains BRE Global chief executive, Carol Atkinson.

A major element of the 201 1 update has been the re-classification of a number of existing BREEAM environmental assessment issues to ensure an efficient, relevant and flexible methodology that focuses on the key issues. This has led to the consolidation of several assessment issues into a smaller number of new, re-focused categories. For example, the current BREEAM Offices 2008 includes 13 assessment issues in the 'health and wellbeing' section; under the 2011 version there will be about half that number, focusing on key environmental areas and impacts.

"This does not mean that we are unnecessarily cutting assessment criteria from the scheme and diluting the method," says Tim Bevan of BRE Global. ''What we have done is reviewed the existing assessment criteria and identified the key priority issues that define a sustainable building, ensuring that criteria focus on the key aspects of those sustainability issues. "Indoor air quality is a key issue for occupants' health and wellbeing, for example. It is affected by a number of factors, such as ventilation, VOCs and external pollution. Previously, these would have been listed as separate assessment issues, but they are now consolidated as one - indoor air quality - in the 'health and wellbeing' section:'

The result is that in BREEAM 2008 there were around 100 individual assessment issues, while in the 2011 version this has been reduced to around 50.

The re-classification process has enabled BRE Global to align the BREEAM methodology more closely with emerging European Standards on the sustainability of construction works, and their metrics and terminologies. "This will enable a version of BREEAM that is compliant with those standards whilst maintaining a flexible assessment and rating system that is easy to use," says Bevan.

The consolidation of assessment criteria has also enabled BRE Global to present the BREEAM methodology in a single document, rather than several documents each covering a different building type - offices, industrial units, schools, etc.

Bevan continues: ''We have been able to pull all the separate schemes together so there is one scheme document for all non-domestic buildings, instead of a shelf-full of very similar documents. To have done that with the current version would have produced a complex and confusing manual. Now, a design team will be able to consult a single BREEAM manual whether they are designing offices, retail premises or school buildings:'

BREEAM will maintain its flexible and robust approach in defining differing sustainability attainment levels, where necessary, for different types of non-domestic buildings and end-users. For example, the levels of acoustic quality required in schools will still be different to those required in offices - although many other issues will be common to all building types.

BREEAM 2008 can be applied to both new buildings and refurbishments. The updated 2011 version, however, will focus specifically on new buildings and will be known as 'BREEAM New Construction'.

A new BREEAM scheme focusing specifically on assessing refurbishments and fit-outs of non­domestic buildings will be developed to cater for the wide-ranging refurbishment projects that are undertaken. It will be similar to the BREEAM Domestic Refurbishment scheme, which has recently been tested in an extensive pilot project and is now nearing completion.

Until the new refurbishment scheme is available, it will be possible to continue using the BREEAM 2008 version to assess refurbishments and fit-outs or, where deemed appropriate, the BREEAM 2011 version can be used to assess major refurbishment projects.

One of the aims of the BREEAM 2011 update is to encourage those responsible for designing and constructing the building to take a greater role in its post-construction commissioning, handover and initial period of occupation.

A building is a complex mix of interacting structures, systems and people. Common sense tells us, and experience confirms that if a building is not operated as envisaged, it will not perform in the sustainable manner in which it was designed.

"In the 2011 version we have strengthened the criteria and increased the rewards for the sustainable procurement and handover of the building - in particular, introducing new credits for committed occupant aftercare, building performance monitoring and post-occupancy evaluation," says Bevan. "These often-overlooked aspects are vital in transforming a sustainable, BREEAM-rated building from design concept to operational reality:'

In addition to strengthening the sustainable procurement criteria in the 'management' section of BREEAM, BRE Global has updated its approach to end-user consultation. To this end, a new assessment issue, 'stakeholder participation', has been added to the BREEAM 2011 version. It aims to foster the design, planning and delivery of accessible, functional and inclusive buildings in consultation with current and future building users and other stakeholders.

The 2010 version of the Building Regulations Approved Document Part L2A in England and Wales requires a 25% aggregate improvement in C02 emissions from buildings (i.e. percentage reduction on 2006 Building Regulations for non-domestic buildings).

In response to this, and to align with the government's goal of achieving zero-carbon buildings, the assessment issue, 'reduction of C02 emissions', in the 'energy' section will be significantly amended. The awarding of credits in the BREEAM 2011 version will now be based on a zero-carbon hierarchy of:

  1. Reduced energy demand (built form/fabric efficiency)
  2. Reduced energy consumption (systems efficiency)
  3. Reduced carbon (use of low- and zero-carbon energy).

Building performance will be assessed against three steps based on the hierarchy:

  • Energy-efficiency of the building - a performance measure of the assessed building's actual energy demand relative to a minimum standard, i.e. Building Regulations compliance (Part L2a 2010 notional building).
  • Energy consumption of the building - a performance measure of how efficiently the assessed building meets its energy demands, i.e. its energy consumption relative to the notional building's energy consumption.
  • Carbon performance of the building - a measure of the building's performance in terms of carbon dioxide emissions.

Although BRE Global is changing how BREEAM credits are awarded for energy-efficiency/carbon emissions performance, it will continue to align with the industry methodologies/software and their outputs used to determine Building Regulations compliance, i.e. the National Calculation Method (NCM).

Simon Gill, BRE