Thursday, January 26, 2012

BREEAM - A Good Start Is Half The Job Done

For many development projects achieving a certain BREEAM rating is mandated through a planning requirement. Where in the past the planning requirement was often to achieve a "Very Good" rating, the current trend is for local planning authorities to ask an "Excellent" rating to be achieved. Where careful planning was already necessary to achieve the 55% score required for a "Very Good" rating, BREEAM "Excellent" puts the bar considerably higher at 70%. To avoid significant additional cost, hassle and programme issues it is critical to allow the early consideration of BREEAM and sustainability measures.

This article discusses three good reasons to consider the BREEAM requirements of a project at a very early stage in the project cycle.

One of the core aims of BREEAM is to drive the development and implementation of good and best practices in sustainable design and construction of buildings. Early consideration of BREEAM enables the cost-effective adoption of sustainability measures within the design of a building. During the feasibility study stage and the early design stage full integration of sustainability measures into the total design solution can be achieved. During construction any sustainability improvements will be isolated, add-on measures. The ability to control the cost of design is therefore highest in the early stages of a project and is inversely correlated with the cost of design changes.

BREEAM recognises the importance of early consideration of the sustainability performance of a project and includes a number of incentives to do so. There are a total of 12 credits available only if certain actions have been taken in the early stages of the project, equivalent to the RIBA stage A to C. Half of these credits would require action before adopting the design brief and should therefore be completed at RIBA stage B. These credits can make a significant contribution to the final score and losing the opportunity to achieve these can put a project at a disadvantage right from the start.

Both the BREEAM assessment and the planning application require a number of very similar studies to be carried out during the design and planning stages of the project. These include for instance a flood risk assessment, travel plan, ecology report and a renewable energy feasibility study. The requirements are often slightly different between the two processes. Adequate specification of the study requirements based on both the planning needs and the BREEAM targets can avoid doing the studies twice.

In summary: the benefits of considering BREEAM early in the project cycle are:

1. Allow sustainability measures to be integrated in the whole design
2. Qualify for a greater number of BREEAM credits
3. Align planning studies and BREEAM studies to avoid double work

David McGregor is a sustainability consultant with Planning for Sustainability. His specialisms include BREEAM and environmental impact assessments.