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The 6 BREEAM Certification Levels – How To Be Outstanding

BREEAM or “Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method” is one of the most popular sustainability certification systems for the real estate industry. It is used all around the world and has made a substantial contribution to the creation of more energy-efficient, environmentally friendly, and socially responsible buildings.

While many new developments have received a sustainability ranking from this organisation, getting one of the top levels is a challenging and time-consuming task. But what is necessary to achieve the best possible score? 

In the following article, we will discuss this question and give valuable tips for your next development project.

What Are The 6 BREEAM Certification Levels?

There are currently six different BREEAM certification levels. With “Outstanding” (score of ≥ 85%) being the best and “Pass” (score of ≥ 30%) being the lowest certified one.

  1. Outstanding ≥ 85%
  2. Excellent ≥ 70
  3. Very Good ≥ 55
  4. Good ≥ 45
  5. Pass ≥ 30
  6. Unclassified < 30
green city with smart buildings

The 6 BREEAM Certification Levels

There are currently six different BREEAM certification levels. The highest being “Outstanding” and the lowest “Pass”. If a building is not able to get a certification, it will receive the ranking “Unclassified”. Depending on what ambitions you have with your real estate development project, getting a higher score will always be beneficial for your company’s image and attract more tenants.

However, there are additional benefits that we discussed in one of our recent posts. Now, let’s take a closer look at each of the BREEAM certification levels.

1 | Outstanding

≥ 85

To receive the most sought-after ranking called “BREEAM Outstanding”, a building must receive a score of at least 85%. The organisation also calls this category the “innovator”, as it requires the developer, architects, and engineers to think outside the box in order to create one of the most sustainable properties. In the UK, only less than 1% of all registered non-domestic buildings are able to achieve this level. 

It requires careful planning of each process during the design, procurement, construction, and delivery phase of the building. We will go over how to accomplish this kind of rating in greater depth in the upcoming chapter.

2 | Excellent

≥ 70

The second best BREEAM certification level is called “Excellent” and requires a score of between 70% and 84%. It is still considered a very good rank and is achieved by many modern buildings such as the Valley Amsterdam or 20 Fenchurch Street in London

This level is considered “best practice” by BREEAM because it employs proven modern technologies and concepts to increase sustainability performance. These structures, on the other hand, appear to be lacking in novel ideas, not in terms of design or construction, but in terms of environmental, social, and economic sustainability. Despite this, only 10% of newly designed and BREEAM-registered properties attain this performance.

3 | Very Good

≥ 55

“Very Good” is the third-highest BREEAM certification level. In order to achieve it, your development project must at least have a score of 55% and not more than 69% (while achieving a higher score would of course be more beneficial). It is defined as “advanced good practice” and thus means that sustainability has been considered a priority for the project, but not all the expected methods or concepts have been applied. 

Furthermore, these properties often did not include innovative solutions but instead stuck to what has proven to be good. While most of BREEAM’s minimum standards have been achieved, some such as stakeholder participation or construction waste management are often missing. Around 25% of new commercial properties are able to achieve this level.

4 | Good

≥ 45

To get the BREEAM “Good” certification level, the building must have a score between 45% and 54%. The distinction between the lower levels is no longer apparent, as it usually only refers to a few points that are absent. Due to budget restrictions, planning challenges, or other company principles, sustainability has not been given top priority in the project.

Despite this, the structure is able to consume less energy, waste fewer resources, and be more efficient than others. Therefore, only 50% of the commercial properties that get certified by BREEAM receive a “Good” ranking. 

5 | Pass

≥ 30

In order to pass the BREEAM certification in general, a project must have a score of at least 30%. This means that the minimum requirements have been achieved and efforts have been made towards sustainability. 

The organisation describes this certification level as “standard good practice”. While there may have been more concepts, designs, technologies, and practises used, the project demonstrates some efforts to reduce energy and resource consumption. Around 75% of new commercial buildings in the UK achieve this BREEAM certification level.

6 | Unclassified

< 30

If a property is unable to acquire any ranking, it will simply be labelled as unclassified. This can occur if the minimal requirements for sustainable construction practices are not met, or if the overall score is less than 30%. However, in the following chapter, we’ll go over the key criteria that can help your real estate development project succeed.

How To Achieve A High BREEAM Level?

Getting a high BREEAM certification level is a process that must be planned carefully and throughout the whole lifecycle of a building. While every property development project has very individual requirements towards sustainability such as its location or design, there are certain factors that will have a positive impact on the BREEAM level. 

How To Achieve BREEAM Outstanding?

A score of at least 85% is required to receive the “Outstanding” certification. Your proposal must demonstrate a creative approach to sustainability and make use of high-quality technologies and design concepts. The BREEAM website lists the minimal standards for this category, which comprise one or more points for each category. 

By taking a look at the certification scoring system, it will be easier to understand how the final level is calculated. Currently, there are 9 different categories that contribute to the total rank. Each of these has a different weight, thus being more important. The most significant categories are energy (15%), health and wellbeing (15%), materials (13.5%), and management (12%). Furthermore, there is the possibility to gain an additional 10% for the extra section “innovation”.

1 | Meet The Minimum Requirements

First and foremost, it is critical to understand the BREEAM Outstanding certification’s minimum requirements. As previously stated, the project must receive a specific number of points in each category. The organisation has provided detailed guidelines for a developer to follow in order to figure out what the exact steps are to do this. They are available for each section, such as reduction of CO2 emissions, water quality, operational waste, and more.

2 | Use BREEAM From The Beginning

It is vital to employ the BREEAM system from the beginning of the development process in order to have a chance of receiving the most sought-after certification level. It will be easier to get more points if their requirements are incorporated into the very first design and planning stages.

Some construction projects overlook this crucial phase, resulting in long-term sustainability mistakes that are not reversible and, as a result, cost valuable points.

3 | Have A Sustainable Procurement Strategy

Another factor to consider right from the start is having a long-term procurement strategy in place. Consider how you can add value to each of the project’s stakeholders. Also, make a list of your needs for each product or service that will be used in the development. Materials and technologies are included, as well as engineers, architects, planners, consultants, contractors, and others. It is also critical to document and track all of the project’s steps in a transparent manner.

4 | Do Not Underestimate Resource Consumption

By carefully following the previous steps, an accurate monitoring system should be in place that can track the consumption of resources and energy throughout the construction and operating phase. Still, it is necessary to emphasise that the projected usage should never be underestimated as external factors like the local environment and also tenant behaviour can have a negative impact.

5 | Utilise Smart Building Technology

One way to increase the efficiency of a commercial building is to make use of smart technology. These solutions are working with the Internet of Things IoT to analyse data and make intelligent decisions. Sensors installed throughout the facility collect data such as occupancy, air quality, climate, lighting conditions, and more. This technology can save energy and improve tenant comfort by analysing patterns and behaviour.

6 | Prioritise Energy

The highest weighting in the BREEAM ranking is related to energy. It can potentially give 15% when fully fitted out, or 14.5% if it is only the shell. The energy category consists of 9 factors called “Ene 01” – “Ene 09”. It requires that the project actively analyses energy use and emissions while also implementing low-consumption devices.

The majority of energy use in a commercial building is accounted for by HVAC, refrigeration, and lighting systems. As a result, the developer’s attention to these issues must be a top priority. Smart technologies combined with a sophisticated passive design concept will enable your project to obtain the highest BREEAM certification level.

7 | Be Innovative

Being innovative is essential if you want to obtain that last few extra points that could make or break your project’s success. There is no set definition of what it means to be innovative, but the building should, in general, employ unique concepts to raise sustainable performance to new heights.

This could imply using new sustainable building materials or techniques, such as Cross-Laminated Timber or 3D Printing. BREEAM has compiled a list of successful applications that can serve as a source of inspiration. 

Conclusion

Getting one of the BREEAM certification levels will certainly bring many valuable benefits to a real estate development project. While achieving the outstanding score is difficult and requires significant efforts towards sustainability, by utilising BREEAM from the beginning and carefully planning each step it can be a success.

If you want to learn more about sustainability, smart buildings & cities, commercial real estate, and PropTech, feel free to take a look at our other blog articles.

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