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BREEAM Overview


BREEAM, which stands for Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method, is a widely used and respected sustainability assessment system for buildings. It sets standards for the environmental performance of construction projects and provides a framework to measure and certify the sustainability of buildings based on various criteria, including energy efficiency, materials used, water consumption, and ecological impact. BREEAM aims to promote and encourage sustainable practices in both the construction and operation of buildings worldwide.

Benefits of the BREEAM system

BREEAM certification isn't just a badge of honour; it's a strategic investment unlocking a multitude of tangible benefits for developers, investors, occupants, and the environment alike. Let's delve into the key advantages that make BREEAM a compelling choice for sustainable building practices:

Financial Rewards:

  • Reduced Operational Costs: BREEAM-certified buildings are known for their energy and water efficiency, translating to significant cost savings over the building's lifespan. Lower energy consumption, optimised water usage, and efficient waste management translate to reduced utility bills and minimised resource expenditure.

  • Enhanced Marketability & Value: Sustainable buildings attract tenants and buyers who value responsible practices and prioritise healthy, comfortable living environments. BREEAM certification can command higher rental yields, faster leasing times, and potentially increased property values upon resale.

  • Compliance with Regulations: As environmental regulations tighten, BREEAM certification can position your building ahead of the curve, ensuring compliance with current and future sustainability mandates. This proactive approach avoids potential penalties and fines associated with non-compliance.

Environmental Impact:

  • Reduced Carbon Footprint: BREEAM promotes energy-efficient designs, renewable energy integration, and sustainable material choices, significantly lowering a building's carbon footprint. This translates to a smaller environmental impact, contributing to a greener future and combating climate change.

  • Resource Conservation: BREEAM encourages water conservation strategies, responsible waste management, and utilisation of recycled materials. This minimises pressure on precious resources, promoting a more sustainable future for generations to come.

  • Enhanced Biodiversity: BREEAM encourages site ecology preservation and incorporation of green spaces, fostering biodiversity and creating healthier ecosystems within the built environment.

Occupant Well-being & Productivity:

  • Improved Indoor Air Quality: BREEAM prioritises good ventilation, efficient filtration systems, and the use of low-emitting materials. This translates to cleaner, healthier air, improving occupant well-being and reducing respiratory issues.

  • Enhanced Thermal Comfort: BREEAM promotes optimised building design, efficient insulation, and natural light access. This ensures comfortable temperatures year-round, reducing reliance on artificial heating and cooling systems, and contributing to occupant well-being and satisfaction.

  • Increased Productivity Studies have shown that occupants in sustainable buildings with good indoor air quality, natural light, and comfortable temperatures experience improved cognitive function, concentration, and overall productivity.

By embracing BREEAM, you unlock a comprehensive set of benefits that extend far beyond mere certification. You make a responsible investment, contribute to a greener future, and create a healthier, more sustainable, and ultimately more valuable building for all stakeholders involved.

History of BREEAM

BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) is more than just a sustainability rating system; it's a living testament to humanity's evolving relationship with the built environment. Its story, spanning over three decades, reveals a dedication to continuous improvement and a commitment to shaping a greener future for our planet.

From Humble Beginnings to Global Recognition:

The year is 1988. Environmental awareness is burgeoning, and the Building Research Establishment (BRE) in the UK recognises the need for a framework to assess the environmental impact of buildings. Thus, BREEAM is born, initially focusing solely on new office buildings. Its innovative approach, awarding ratings based on environmental performance across multiple categories, quickly gains traction.

Evolution through Iteration:

Throughout the 1990s, BREEAM undergoes rapid development. New versions cater to diverse building types, from superstores to industrial units, demonstrating its adaptability. The year 1998 marks a significant turning point with the introduction of a standardised structure and weighted categories, solidifying BREEAM's foundation.

Beyond Borders:

As the 21st century dawns, BREEAM's influence transcends national boundaries. International projects adopt the scheme, recognising its robust methodology and global relevance. With local adaptations and partnerships, BREEAM establishes itself as a leading international standard for sustainable construction.

Continuous Innovation:

Driven by a commitment to progress, BREEAM consistently evolves. New assessment methods emerge, addressing complex challenges like embodied carbon and circular economy principles. Digital advancements are embraced, streamlining processes and enhancing data-driven decision-making.

The Legacy of BREEAM:

Today, BREEAM stands as a testament to the power of collaboration and innovation. With over 565,000 certified buildings in 77 countries, its impact is undeniable. From shaping UK legislation to influencing global best practices, BREEAM has demonstrably shifted the construction industry towards a more sustainable future.

Looking Ahead:

The future of BREEAM is bright. As environmental challenges intensify, BREEAM's robust framework and commitment to adaptation position it to play a leading role in addressing new concerns like climate change and resource depletion. Its focus on data-driven insights and continuous improvement ensures its relevance for generations to come.

Importance of BREEAM and its link to the UK legislation

BREEAM, the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method, isn't just a sustainability label; it's a vital tool aligning development with UK legislation and client expectations. Understanding this connection empowers informed decision-making for a greener future.

Legislative Push for Sustainability:

The UK Government's Construction Strategy sets a clear mandate: environmental assessments, aiming for BREEAM Excellent (or equivalent), are mandatory for all public projects. This reflects a national commitment to sustainable construction, recognising BREEAM's robust framework for evaluating a building's environmental impact across ten key categories, from energy efficiency to waste management.

Local Authority Backing:

The influence goes beyond central government. Local authorities are increasingly incorporating BREEAM into their local plans and attaching it as a condition for granting planning permission. This ensures developments align with local sustainability goals and contribute to a greener built environment.

Statistics reveal a growing trend of local authorities mandating BREEAM assessments in planning applications. Around 70% of local authorities across the UK explicitly reference BREEAM in their planning policies. Notable examples include the Greater London Authority, Manchester City Council, and Bristol City Council, all incorporating BREEAM requirements into their sustainability guidelines for developments.

Client-Driven Demand:

Beyond legislation, clients are increasingly prioritising sustainability. Many include BREEAM certification as a requirement, reflecting their commitment to responsible development and the tangible benefits it offers, such as:

  • Reduced operational costs: BREEAM-certified buildings are known for their energy and water efficiency, translating to lower operating expenses over time.

  • Enhanced marketability: Sustainable buildings attract tenants and buyers who value responsible practices, potentially resulting in higher rental yields and property values.

  • Improved occupant well-being: BREEAM promotes better indoor air quality, natural light access, and thermal comfort, contributing to a healthier and more productive work environment.

Navigating the BREEAM Landscape:

With its growing influence, understanding BREEAM is crucial for developers, architects, and contractors. Numerous resources are available, including the BRE Group website and accredited professionals who can guide you through the process. Remember, achieving BREEAM certification isn't just about compliance; it's an opportunity to showcase your commitment to sustainability, enhance project value, and contribute to a greener future aligned with UK legislation.

How does BREEAM compare with LEED?

Building sustainable structures is no longer a choice, it's a necessity. To assess and certify these efforts, various sustainability rating systems have emerged, with BREEAM and LEED being the two most prominent. Understanding their similarities and differences is crucial for navigating this landscape and selecting the right option for your project.

Shared Goals, Different Approaches:

Both BREEAM and LEED aim to promote environmentally responsible construction by evaluating buildings across various categories like energy efficiency, water use, and material selection. However, their approaches diverge in key aspects:

  • Geographic Focus: BREEAM holds strong dominance in Europe, while LEED enjoys wider recognition in the US and Canada. However, both have gained international presence.

  • Certification Process: BREEAM relies on licensed assessors for evidence gathering and reporting, while LEED allows self-assessment with the optional involvement of accredited professionals.

  • Criteria and Performance Metrics: BREEAM utilises quantitative standards, while LEED often employs percentage-based thresholds. BREEAM tends to be more rigorous and academic, while LEED offers greater flexibility.

  • Specific Focus: BREEAM emphasises a broader range of factors like health and well-being, while LEED prioritises energy efficiency.

Choosing the Right Fit:

The best choice for your project depends on several factors:

  • Project Location: Consider the dominant system in your target region for wider recognition and easier implementation.

  • Project Type: Both BREEAM and LEED offer variations catering to different building types. Choose the one best aligned with your specific project.

  • Project Goals: Evaluate which system's criteria and focus areas better align with your sustainability priorities.

  • Complexity and Resources: BREEAM's assessor-driven approach might be simpler for complex projects, while LEED's self-assessment route could be cost-effective for smaller ones.

Beyond Competition, Collaboration:

It's important to remember that BREEAM and LEED are not competitors, but rather complementary tools. Their combined expertise contributes significantly to advancing sustainable building practices globally.

BREEAM Assessment Types

BREEAM is more than just a single rating system; it's a multifaceted framework offering diverse assessment types tailored to various building projects and stages. Understanding these options empowers you to select the most suitable path for your sustainability journey.

Catering to Diverse Needs:

The core strength of BREEAM lies in its ability to adapt to different building types, project stages, and ambitions. Here's a breakdown of the key assessment types:

By Building Type:

  • New Construction: Designed for assessing the environmental performance of newly built structures across various sectors, from offices and homes to schools and hospitals.

  • Refurbishment & Fit-Out: Focuses on evaluating the sustainability measures implemented during the renovation or fit-out of existing buildings.

  • In-Use: Assesses the ongoing operational performance of existing buildings, helping identify areas for improvement and optimise their environmental impact.

  • Communities: Evaluates the overall sustainability of planned or existing communities, encompassing infrastructure, public spaces, and individual buildings.

  • Infrastructure: Specifically designed for assessing the sustainability of infrastructure projects like roads, railways, and bridges.

By Project Stage:

  • Design Stage: Conducted early in the design process to evaluate the potential environmental impact and identify opportunities for improvement.

  • Post Construction: Assesses the final building against the predetermined sustainability targets set at the design stage.

  • Post Occupancy: Evaluates the building's performance in actual use, providing valuable insights for continuous improvement.

By Ambition Level:

  • Bespoke: Offers customisation for unique projects or those exceeding standard BREEAM requirements.

  • Simple: Streamlined option for smaller, less complex projects.


Choosing the right BREEAM assessment type is crucial for maximising its effectiveness and ensuring it aligns with your project's specific goals and context. Consulting with BREEAM-accredited professionals is highly recommended for navigating the selection process and ensuring a successful journey towards sustainable construction.

Core BREEAM Themes

BREEAM isn't just a single metric; it's a holistic assessment framework delving into ten distinct categories, each scrutinising a crucial aspect of a building's environmental impact. Understanding these categories empowers informed decision-making and paves the way for creating truly sustainable structures.

Energy: As the heart of sustainability, this category scrutinises a building's energy consumption, encompassing design strategies, renewable energy integration, and efficient equipment. Minimising energy use translates to reduced carbon emissions and operational costs, making buildings environmentally and financially responsible.

Health & Wellbeing: BREEAM acknowledges the profound link between buildings and occupant well-being. This category assesses factors like indoor air quality, thermal comfort, access to natural light, and acoustic performance. By fostering healthy environments, buildings can optimise occupant productivity, satisfaction, and even health outcomes.

Innovation: Recognising that sustainability is a continuous journey, BREEAM incentivises pushing boundaries. This category rewards projects that implement innovative solutions beyond standard practices, encouraging exploration of cutting-edge technologies and design approaches that pave the way for a more sustainable future.

Land Use and Ecology: Every building sits within a larger ecosystem. This category examines the impact on land, its ecological value, and potential for site biodiversity enhancement. Responsible land use minimises negative impacts and embraces opportunities to restore and regenerate nature, fostering harmony between buildings and their surroundings.

Materials: The materials used in construction significantly influence a building's environmental footprint. This category analyses the embodied carbon within materials, their sourcing, reuse potential, and recyclability. By opting for sustainable materials, buildings can significantly reduce their environmental impact throughout their life cycle.

Management: Sustainability doesn't stop at construction. This category focuses on ongoing operational practices, waste management, and maintenance strategies. Effective management ensures that a building's green credentials are sustained throughout its lifespan, maximising its positive environmental contribution.

Pollution: From air quality to water management, this category tackles various pollutants generated by buildings. It assesses measures to minimise air and water pollution, ensuring a healthy environment for occupants and the surrounding community.

Transport: Encouraging sustainable travel options is crucial for reducing a building's carbon footprint. This category evaluates accessibility to public transport, cycling infrastructure, and car parking strategies, promoting alternative modes of transportation and minimising reliance on private vehicles.

Waste: Construction and operation inevitably generate waste. This category examines strategies for waste reduction, reuse, and recycling, promoting a circular economy approach that minimises the environmental impact of waste generation.

Water: Water scarcity is a growing concern. This category assesses a building's water consumption, rainwater harvesting techniques, and wastewater treatment measures. By conserving water, buildings can contribute to a more sustainable future and reduce pressure on precious water resources.

BREEAM Scoring Method

The Ladder of Sustainability: BREEAM Rating Levels

BREEAM categorises building performance into five distinct levels, each representing a progressively higher level of environmental responsibility:

  • Unclassified: Awarded for projects that achieve less than 30% of the available credits. While not formally certified, this level acknowledges initial sustainability efforts.

  • Pass: Represents a 30%-44% achievement of credits, indicating a basic level of sustainability implementation.

  • Good: Awarded for projects achieving 45%-54% of credits, demonstrating a commitment to good environmental practices.

  • Very Good: Represents a 55%-66% achievement of credits, signifying a significant focus on sustainability throughout the project lifecycle.

  • Excellent: The highest achievable level, awarded for projects reaching 70%-84% of credits, reflecting exceptional leadership in sustainable building practices.

  • Outstanding: A rarely achieved distinction reserved for projects exceeding 85% of credits, showcasinga visionary commitment to sustainability and pushing the boundaries of environmental performance.

Weighting the Impact: Understanding Category Importance

BREEAM doesn't treat all categories equally. Each category carries a specific weight reflecting its relative importance to the overall environmental impact. These weightings, established by experts and stakeholders, ensure a balanced assessment across diverse aspects of sustainability. For example, Energy typically holds a higher weight than Materials, reflecting its significant contribution to a building's carbon footprint.

Calculating the Score: Unveiling the BREEAM Equation

The BREEAM score, ultimately determining the rating level, is calculated through a meticulous process. Here's a simplified breakdown:

  1. Credit Achievement: Each category contains numerous credits, specific actions or measures a project can implement to earn points. Achieving a credit translates to earning its associated number of points.

  2. Weighted Credits: The points earned in each category are multiplied by their respective weightings, reflecting their relative importance.

  3. Total Score: The weighted points from all categories are summed up to arrive at the final BREEAM score.

  4. Level Determination: The final score is then compared to established thresholds for each rating level, determining the project's BREEAM certification.

Breeam Assessment Stages

1. Pre-assessment:

Levels: This stage doesn't assign a formal BREEAM rating but helps determine a feasible target level (Pass, Good, Very Good, Excellent, or Outstanding) based on initial goals and strategies.

Calculation Methods: No formal calculations occur, but feasibility analysis and credit selection inform the indicative rating.

Additional Insights: Engaging BREEAM professionals early can significantly improve target setting and streamline the entire process.

2. Interim Certification:

Levels: An indicative rating based on design proposals and evidence submitted at RIBA Stage 4. This doesn't guarantee the final rating but provides valuable feedback for improvement.

Calculation Methods: The BREEAM assessor employs BREEAM-capable software such as InForecast to calculate the indicative score based on submitted evidence and planned measures. Uplift recommendations suggest additional opportunities for achieving a higher rating.

Additional Insights: Interim Certification demonstrates design team commitment to sustainability and allows for course correction before significant construction costs are incurred.

3. Post-construction Certification:

Levels: The final BREEAM rating is awarded after construction completion and verification of implemented sustainable practices.

Calculation Methods: The BREEAM assessor physically inspects the building and verifies implemented measures against submitted evidence. The BREEAM-capable software such as InForecast calculates the final score based on achieved credits across all categories.

Additional Insights: Achieving Post-construction Certification signifies demonstrably sustainable building practices and unlocks potential benefits like green leases, tenant attraction, and financial incentives.

Further Considerations:

  • BREEAM Innovation Credit: Projects exceeding standard BREEAM requirements can earn additional credits through innovative solutions, potentially achieving higher ratings.

  • BESPOKE BREEAM: Highly customised assessments are available for unique projects or those exceeding standard BREEAM criteria.

Remember, this information is a starting point. Specific criteria and calculation methods may vary depending on the chosen BREEAM scheme, building type, and project location. Consulting BREEAM professionals throughout the process is highly recommended for ensuring a smooth and successful journey towards sustainable construction.

Good Practice Advice


  • Set SMART sustainability goals aligned with your project and desired BREEAM rating.

  • Engage a BREEAM AP for guidance, scheme selection, and pre-assessment.

  • Benchmark similar projects with desired BREEAM rating.

Design and Construction:

  • Integrate BREEAM into design meetings - consider energy, materials, and waste.

  • Develop a Sustainability Management Plan (SMP) outlining sustainable practices.

  • Choose BREEAM-compliant materials with low embodied carbon and responsible sourcing.

  • Partner with BREEAM-registered contractors familiar with sustainable practices.

Post-construction and Certification:

  • Compile comprehensive documentation of design, materials, construction, and commissioning.

  • Conduct robust testing and commissioning of building systems and equipment.

  • Collaborate with your BREEAM assessor to address issues and finalise the assessment.

  • Celebrate your achievement and promote your BREEAM rating.


  • Communicate openly with all stakeholders throughout the process.

  • Seek continuous improvement for ongoing sustainability performance.

Bonus Tip: Consider exploring innovative solutions to unlock BREEAM Innovation Credits!

How We Can Help You Achieve BREEAM Success

At InForecast, we help you achieve a quick and cost-efficient end-to-end BREEAM assessment process. We help you achieve this by empowering our partner sustainability consultants with an InForecast AI-driven platform to achieve unprecedented efficiencies.

That means  that you benefit from:

Swift Assessments: Our AI-powered platform automates repetitive tasks, freeing up our licensed BREEAM assessors to focus on delivering swift and accurate assessments. Get certified faster and move your project forward without delay.

Streamlined Efficiency: By combining AI automation with expert guidance, we minimise resource expenditure, providing a cost-effective solution that adheres to the highest sustainability standards. Achieve BREEAM certification without breaking the bank.

Clear and Comprehensive Guidance: Our user-friendly platform and experienced consultants provide clear, step-by-step guidance throughout the BREEAM process. Gain a deep understanding of the requirements and address potential challenges effortlessly.

Proactive Progress Monitoring: Automated notifications and real-time dashboards keep you informed of your project's progress. Identify potential roadblocks early and ensure tasks are completed on schedule, reducing stress and uncertainty.

Enhanced Communication and Collaboration: Our centralised platform and intuitive communication tools bring all stakeholders together. Eliminate misunderstandings, promote seamless collaboration, and align everyone towards achieving BREEAM success.

Comprehensive Documentation Management: We centralise all BREEAM documentation, reducing the risk of errors and omissions. Enjoy a smoother certification process with complete peace of mind.

Ready to unlock the power of AI-powered BREEAM solutions? Contact InForecast today and experience the difference!

Monday, 19 February 2024

Written by:

Nick Stepanov, CEO

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