BREEAM Crossing the Pond and Aims for LEED | GBRI

What is it?
BREEAM (the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology) is the standard green building rating system in the United Kingdom. The Building Research Establishment (BRE), based in London, manages the implementation, development and assessments of BREEAM. Founded in 1990, BREEAM is earliest sustainability assessment tool for buildings.

BREEAM proclaims the largest market share in the UK. 542,868 certifications were completed, and 2,242,262 buildings were registered across 77 countries. US Green Building Council (USGBC) certified a total of 80,000 buildings with 1 million currently in the process of certification. LEED receives use in over 150 countries, opposed to BREEAM’s 77. LEED earns the status as the international standard in every country except for the United Kingdom, where BREEAM earns top market share. BREEAM also achieved 80% market share in Europe. The international presence of BREEAM rests around 18%. BRE seeks to raise the percentage from 18% to 35%.

On June 8th, 2016, with the aid of BuildingWise, a LEED consultancy firm, BREEAM announced plans to enter the US market. BREEAM targets the sector of the built environment they feel LEED currently underserves–existing buildings. Citing LEED’s penetration of only the top 5% of existing building penetration, BREEAM envisions great opportunity to expand the number of buildings actively pursuing sustainable building practices. 5.6 million buildings in the US are at present not measuring sustainability efforts.

Difference from LEED
BREEAM strives to lower the bar for entry into tracking sustainability performance. To achieve this, a major difference between BREEAM and LEED must arrive. The major difference rests in the lack of prerequisites. Any building seeking to track sustainability performance is able to use BREEAM.

BRE firmly cites the lack of prerequisites significantly lowers the overall costs of BREEAM. Most existing buildings with little or no sustainable technologies in place earmark $100,000 to $120,000 dollars. The amount to achieve prerequisites are the primary hurdle for the adoption of the LEED EB into the 5.6 million buildings currently not seeking LEED certification.

Cost is not the only difference between LEED and BREEAM. Online assessment tools distinguish BREEAM from LEED. Using the online assessment tool allows an owner to judge a buildings performance. This questionnaire consists of specific questions, including energy use, water use, and level of window glazing. The online assessment is available for one year. Tracking the building performance over the course of a year allows the accounting of the difference of seasons. If so desired, a building can receive professional accredited assessment from BRE.
Striving to eliminate a large initial investment, BREEAM In-Use only requires a $1,000 fee to use the online program. An association between research done by Aecom and priced by Sweet Group pegs the investment to achieve the “excellent” for BREEAM rating, which required an increase of cost between 4.8% and 10%. The buildings studied were a distribution warehouse, supermarket, office, secondary school, and mixed use development. The warehouse was the cheapest to retrofit, costing a 4.8% increase, a mixed use building tool 5%, and the secondary school required 5.8%. The office building required 9.8% as the supermarket saw an increase of 10.1%.
Impact of BREEAM
BREEAM has the ability to disrupt and increase the adoption of sustainable building practices. There is a large portion of currently standing buildings not seeking LEED certification. Buildings not currently engaging with LEED certification have the most to gain from the addition of BREEAM to the US built environment landscape.

BREEAM In-Use gives actual rating of the current energy use, water use, and building design. Rating the performance of a building without requiring the construction of improvements to receive assessment becomes a major selling point. Achieving the knowledge and first steps towards sustainable building becomes more democratic and attainable as the price of entry is lowered.

The largest hurdle for the introduction of sustainability assessments rests with the large cost of entry into the LEED ecosystem. BREEAM In-Use affords a building several benefits including;

  • Reduced operational costs
  • Increased efficacy
  • Increased asset value
  • Increased market demand
  • Attracting tenants
  • Improved productivity, satisfaction, and health of inhabitants
  • Reduced gap of entry into sustainable practice
  • 3rd party certification
  • Promotes corporate social responsibility, sustainable business leadership

LEED holds the distinction of world leader in sustainably minded design. BREEAM appeals to builds which cannot or do not desire seeking out LEED certification. Positioning BREEAM as an alternative and easily attainable, BRE poises to claim a large portion of American sustainable building certification. In the end, if BREEAM is successful, average citizens will benefit from the increase in existing buildings’ increasing sustainability and health by embracing different certifications.

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