The BREEAM Rating System explained

July 12, 2023

One popular method of assessing the environmental performance of buildings is the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM). BREEAM is a sustainability rating system used in over 80 countries to evaluate buildings' environmental performance, predominantly in the United Kingdom. This article provides an overview of BREEAM, its benefits, the certification process, levels of certification, how to improve a rating, and more.

What is Breeam?

What are the benefits of Breeam?

Is Breeam mandatory?

how do you get certified under Breeam?

What are the levels of Breeam certification?

How long does a Breeam certificate last?

How can you improve your Breeam rating?

How can building analytics improve a Breeam rating?

How many buildings are certified under Breeam?

What type of buildings can be rated under Breeam?

In what countries is Breeam used?

How does Breeam differ from LEED?

What is BREEAM?

Unlike MEES, ESOS, commercial EPC scores, BREEAM was not created by the UK Government. Instead, BREEAM is a sustainability rating system developed by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) in the United Kingdom in 1990.

The system evaluates the environmental performance of new and existing buildings, infrastructure, and master planning projects. BREEAM measures a building's environmental impact across ten categories, including energy, water, waste, pollution, transport, and ecology. The categories are weighted based on their environmental impact, and a building must achieve a minimum score in each category to achieve certification.

What are the benefits of BREEAM?

  • Complying with local and national sustainability regulations and requirements. In the UK, for example, up to 70% of local authorities currently require a BREEAM certification1. Likewise, there is a requirement for government buildings as part of the UK government’s Construction Strategy to undergo an environmental assessment2.
  • Demonstrating a commitment to sustainability and reducing environmental impact.
  • Improving the value of the building by increasing its marketability and attractiveness to tenants. BREEAM estimates that a certified building is 8-12% more valuable than a standard building.
  • Reducing operating costs through improved energy and water efficiency. BREAM can provide a framework that allows commercial building owners to understand how to make buildings more energy-efficient. This is especially important in light of the ongoing uncertainty around macroeconomic conditions and the rising cost of energy.
  • Improving indoor environmental quality, occupant health, and well-being. The value-add for tenants is significant, driving positive sentiment and lease renewal.

Is BREEAM mandatory?

BREEAM certification is not mandatory for all buildings in the UK. However, it is often required by local planning authorities for certain types of developments, especially for large commercial or public buildings. This can vary by location and project type, so it's always important to check with the local planning authority.

In addition, certain funders, clients, or other stakeholders may require BREEAM certification as a condition of their involvement in a project. For example, the UK's central government has required BREEAM certification for its own buildings and for those where it contributes significant funding.

How do you get certified under BREEAM?

To get certified under BREEAM, the building owner or developer must appoint a licensed BREEAM assessor. The assessor will guide the project team through the certification process, which includes submitting documentation and evidence of compliance with BREEAM requirements. The building will undergo an assessment, and a BREEAM rating will be awarded based on its performance across the ten categories.

What are the levels of BREEAM certification?

  • Pass: The building has achieved the minimum required score in each category.
  • Good: The building has achieved a score of at least 55%.
  • Very Good: The building has achieved a score of at least 70%.
  • Excellent: The building has achieved a score of at least 85%.
  • Outstanding: The building has achieved a score of at least 90%.

How long does BREEAM certification last?

The BREEAM In-Use certification is valid for a 3-year period after the certification date. By enabling cyclical reassessment and recertification, BREEAM enables continual monitoring, reporting and improvement of sustainability performance over time.

How can you improve your BREEAM rating?

Improving a BREEAM rating requires careful consideration of several factors that influence the environmental performance of a building. Here are some ways to improve a BREEAM rating:

  1. Energy Efficiency: Reducing energy consumption through the use of efficient building services, such as HVAC, lighting, and appliances, can have a significant impact on the BREEAM rating.
  2. Water Efficiency: Using efficient plumbing fixtures and fittings and recycling rainwater can help reduce water consumption, which can improve the BREEAM rating.
  3. Materials and Waste: Choosing sustainable materials, reducing waste through recycling and reuse, and implementing construction waste management plans can all contribute to a higher BREEAM rating.
  4. Transport: Encouraging the use of public transport, bicycles, and electric vehicles can reduce carbon emissions and improve the BREEAM rating.
  5. Ecology and Biodiversity: Incorporating green spaces, wildlife habitats, and green roofs can enhance the biodiversity of a building site and improve the BREEAM rating.
  6. Pollution: Reducing pollution through measures such as air filtration systems, low-emission vehicles, and monitoring of indoor air quality can contribute to a higher BREEAM rating.
  7. Health and Wellbeing: Promoting occupant health and well-being through measures such as natural light, access to outdoor spaces, and ergonomic design can also improve the BREEAM rating.

It's worth noting that the specific strategies to improve a BREEAM rating will vary depending on the building type, location, and other factors, so it's important to consult a qualified BREEAM assessor to develop a customised plan.

How can building analytics improve a BREEAM rating?

Building analytics can help improve a building's BREEAM rating by providing insights into its environmental performance and identifying areas for improvement. Here are some ways building analytics can be used to improve BREEAM rating:

  1. Energy Consumption: Building analytics can monitor energy usage and identify areas where energy is being wasted. This information can be used to optimise building systems and reduce energy consumption, which can improve the BREEAM rating. Think of a traditional building energy management system's benefits, but with an added fault detection and diagnosis component.
  2. Indoor Air Quality: Building analytics can track indoor air quality parameters such as temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide levels. This information can be used to optimise ventilation systems and maintain healthy indoor air quality, which can contribute to a higher BREEAM rating.
  3. Water Management: Building analytics can monitor water usage and detect leaks, which can help reduce water consumption and improve the BREEAM rating.
  4. Waste Management: Building analytics can track waste generation and identify opportunities to reduce waste through recycling and reuse. Effective waste management can help improve the BREEAM rating.
  5. Occupant Comfort: Building analytics can monitor factors that impact occupant comfort, such as temperature, lighting, and noise levels. This information can be used to optimise building systems and enhance occupant comfort, which can contribute to a higher BREEAM rating.
  6. Renewable Energy: Building analytics can assess the potential for renewable energy generation, such as solar or wind power, and help identify opportunities to incorporate these technologies into the building design. This can help reduce carbon emissions and improve the BREEAM rating.

How many buildings are certified under BREEAM?

BREEAM is an internationally recognised measure of a building's sustainability. Some 535,000 buildings have been BREEAM certified, with a further 2,217,000 registered for certification3.

What types of buildings can be rated under BREEAM?

BREEAM can rate various building types, including offices, retail centres, industrial facilities, schools, healthcare facilities, and residential buildings.

In what countries is BREEAM used?

BREEAM is used in over 80 countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, China, and Singapore. BREEAM is the predominant assessment method in Europe, with a has a vast market share of 80%4.

How does BREEAM differ from LEED?

BREEAM and LEED are two leading green building certification systems, each possessing distinctive qualities and procedures. Regionally, BREEAM is well-established in Europe, while LEED, primarily adopted in North America, enjoys international recognition.

The certification process also differs between them. BREEAM employs licensed assessors who scrutinise the building's alignment with the credit criteria, reporting their findings to BREEAM’s parent company, BRE, for further assessment. On the other hand, the process with LEED involves the building design team gathering and submitting evidence to the USGBC, which upon meeting their demands, grants the certification.

Moreover, the certification levels vary between the two. BREEAM's scale ranges from 'Pass' to 'Outstanding', whereas LEED identifies projects as Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum. Lastly, the scoring systems differ. BREEAM employs a weighted system, assigning different sustainability issues varying degrees of importance. In contrast, LEED operates on a point-based system, requiring projects to reach a specific point threshold to earn certification.

For more information on LEED certification, check out our blog: “The LEED Rating System Explained.”

For more information, head to ​BREEAM.

Here at CIM, we're actively helping the world's built environment to achieve net zero emissions and accelerate progress toward ambitious targets. Learn how we can help improve your BREEAM rating by watching a demo session of our innovation PEAK Platform here.

Shane Madigan
July 12, 2023