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BREEAM - the driving force of sustainability in architecture

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The Built Environment

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breeam, sustainability

The overarching objective of BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) methodology is to support the development of sustainable buildings. The effectiveness of the methodology to achieve this objective is reflected in its rate of spread across the globe. BREEAM is now the world’s leading sustainability assessment method. The BREEAM methodology was first published by BRE (Building Research Establishment) back in 1990, for the assessment of individual new buildings in their construction stage. For the first few years following its launch, avant-garde architects found that the BREEAM assessment method was too restrictive; not allowing for the use of innovative processes, materials, techniques or designs. Over the past two decades the methodology has evolved and expanded in scope. Now it encompasses the whole life cycle of construction, starting at planning and ending in-use as new build or a refurbishment. Martin Townsend, sustainability director BRE Global explained, “BREEAM has been constructed so that, if you’re doing things that you feel are better, you still get credit. We introduced innovative credits so people can say, ‘We think we have a better way of doing things’, the help is there so people can do something better in the spirit of what the credit is trying to achieve.” The changes in BREEAM are based on knowledge gained from empirical evidenced research. Breeam excellent Wiltshire Town Hall Wiltshire Town Hall - BREEAM 'Excellent' rating Industry, commercial and political trust in the methodology has steadily grown with the improvements in its quality and scope. Economic considerations are an increasing factor in the decision to obtain BREEAM certification. Research has now revealed that projects obtaining an ‘Excellent’ rating only expend an additional 2.5% on capital costs. Even those projects that strive for an ‘Outstanding’ certification are confident of recouping their capital costs within a few years through lower energy and water bills. This reduction in risk has played a large part in driving the process towards building sustainability. Producing environmentally friendly and sustainable buildings has never been more pressing. Currently 191 countries are signed up to the Kyoto Agreement, which aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 83% from their 1990 baseline figure by 2050. As the built environment is estimated to be responsible for 36% of carbon emissions, the potential for carbon savings through sustainable construction is widely recognised. The fundamental importance of sustainability is reflected in the UK Government’s policy – The National planning policy framework 2012 . To fulfil the objectives within the policy framework, over 70% of local authorities now stipulate BREEAM as part of their local development framework. In London, the policy document ‘Sustainable Design and Construction – Supplementary Planning Guidance, April 2014’ (which forms part of the ‘London Plan’) goes even further. In London the construction industry is required to achieve a BREEAM rating of ‘Excellent’ or ‘Outstanding’ for all major new and refurbishment developments. To achieve these ratings developers must demonstrate a carbon saving which is 35% higher than that required from Part L of the current building regulations. Energy Performance Ratings image Energy Performace ratings  Though stringent, the achievement of these standards leads to many positive outcomes. The running costs of such buildings are dramatically reduced whilst the internal environment is significantly enhanced. There are now plenty of research projects showing the increase in productivity generated by an improvement in the general wellbeing of occupants of such buildings. Whilst the environmental benefits reaped from sustainable buildings will be felt for generations to come!