BREEAM - a cog in the social value wheel?

BREEAM has come a long way since its launch in the UK in 1990, with an ever-increasing number of developers opting to have their newly-constructed or refurbished buildings as 'BREEAM certified', preferably with the highest ratings of 'Very Good' or 'Excellent' or even 'Outstanding'.

04 Jun 2019

What is BREEAM?

It is essentially a methodology whereby buildings are assessed and rewarded credits based on their environmental performance across a broad range of categories including 'energy', 'water', 'pollution' and 'health and wellbeing' amongst others. The score is then translated into an appropriate rating, allowing building owners or developers to demonstrate that their building is sustainable. The relevant stakeholders can then rest assured that the highest standard of environmental best practice has been adopted on their project.

Is BREEAM accreditation becoming more popular?

Recent years have seen an increase in BREEAM accreditation for building projects especially those in the public sector where in certain departments and for certain projects it is mandatory. Although optional in the private sector, having a BREEAM certification can be positive for a company's public image and can be used as a marketing tool for potential buyers or tenants.

In the broadest sense, design teams have increasingly taken BREEAM requirements into account during the design phase. Changes range from replacing oil boilers with biomass boilers, including finishes to rooms with emphasis on design that contribute to 'day lighting', upgrading of glass specification and external walls in order to improve acoustics, and water saving features and recycling. These are just to mention a few and they are indicative of the way BREEAM has been a driver in encouraging designers to consider sustainability in building works, with its associated metrics being a key to seeing what a successful building looks like.

How Does BREEAM impact on Social Value?

Although an existing tool such as BREEAM is helpful in assisting designers to create sustainable buildings and to measure and report on social sustainability elements, there is a compelling argument that social value cannot be measured through data since the idea of making people's lives better and improving community sustainability and wellbeing is lost when these factors are considered solely by way of metric values. The fact remains that it takes more than a rating to make a building successful. Perhaps the answer lies somewhere in between these two viewpoints. If BREEAM is viewed as a valuable cog within the larger wheel that is social value, then implementing its sustainability requirements is a critical step towards injecting social values into a project. Whilst BREEAM does not reflect everything that can be done on a project that will serve to add social value, it certainly provides a solid starting point.

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