BREEAM Advice – Ten Top Tips
BREEAM Advice – Ten Top Tips
It is true to say that many people find achieving a BREEAM rating a difficult and frustrating process; However, this does not necessarily have to be the case. The following is a list of our top 10 tips for making a BREEAM assessment run smoothly:
1. Plan ahead
Starting the BREEAM process as early as possible in the design stage gives the design team the scope to consider all the credits right from the outset. This helps to make certain that no credits are accidentally overlooked and also ensure that as many of the ‘easy win’ credits are integrated into the design from the very start.
It is generally the case that if credits have to be ‘bolted on’ late in the design stage, that these credits will be expensive and may not offer any real improvement to the sustainability of the development. To help you with this, it is recommended that you appoint an assessor as soon as there is a reasonable chance that a project will happen (RIBA Stage A/B).
2. Choose your assessor wisely
The majority of BREEAM assessors quote their fees on a lump sum basis and, in reality; their fees remain similar regardless of whether they are appointed at the start of the design process or late in the construction stage. The main difference is the amount and type of help they can provide.
It is important to check what you are getting for your money. A good assessor will include for all works which they feel can be reasonably expected on a project and will aim to stick to their lump sum fee. However, it is becoming more and more common for assessors to quote cheap and charge for extra services such as additional meetings, reports and advice. Therefore it is recommended that you check exactly what you are getting for your money before choosing the cheapest price.
Details of our fees/services can be provided on request, please contact Paul Read if you feel that we can be of further assistance.
3. Use your assessor
BREEAM assessments have to be undertaken by a licensed BREEAM Assessor. It is well worthwhile selecting an assessor who is not only licensed but is also a full time BREEAM specialist. We would also recommend appointing an assessor who is independent and not connected to any members of the design team.
A good BREEAM assessor will work with the design through all the various elements of BREEAM and will be on hand to help you with any problems and to keep you up to date with how the assessment is progressing. It is important that you keep your assessor informed as to how the project is developing in order that they can pick up on potential issues before they turn into major issues.
4. Understanding and commitment
It is important that all members of the design team ‘buy into’ the BREEAM assessment process as, the lack of understanding/commitment of just one design team member can potentially cause the project to run into difficulties. This also applies when it comes to appointing sub-contractors as they may not be familiar with the concept of BREEAM.
Again, choosing the right BREEAM assessor can help you overcome these difficulties as they can provide help when preparing text for employer’s requirements/specification documents. In addition, it is worthwhile seeing if your assessor is willing to hold workshops with the design/construction teams in order to help them understand the BREEAM process and what is required from them.
5. Assign responsibilities
It is important to decide which credits are to be pursued and to assign the appropriate actions accordingly. This should be done and agreed as early in the design process as possible and should be reviewed on a regular basis.
Having a list of set aims and objectives means that all members of the design team know what is expected of them and gives them a responsibility for delivering it. Problems generally occur where ‘maybes’ are left unresolved and/or where each person believes that an action is the responsibility of another.
6. Act promptly
Where feasible, it is good to get as much information to the assessor as quickly as possible. There are several reasons why this makes sense including the following:
- It ensures that all credits are considered as early as possible and are not overlooked
- It allows the assessor chance to highlight any issues before they become major problems.
- It gets the BREEAM out of the way and allows the design team to focus on the design.
- It enables the construction budgets to be determined with more certainty as there is less chance of unknown costs arising.
In addition to the above it also gives the client / funding body / planners confidence that the final rating will be achieved.
It is also recommended that the Post Construction Review is completed as soon after construction as possible as the longer it is left the more likely it is that information will become unobtainable.
7. Submit the right information
One of the main issues with completing a BREEAM assessment is the provision of suitable evidence. To award a BREEAM credit the assessor must have an auditable trail of evidence which clearly shows that the specific BREEAM requirements are achieved.
The BREEAM assessor will generally give the design team a detailed breakdown of the specific performance criteria for each credit as well as a list of the relevant evidence requirements. This information is usually an abbreviated version of the BREEAM scheme guidance document.
Problems usually occur when the design team have not considered the evidence requirements at an early enough stage and therefore have not produced the appropriate documentary evidence. To award a credit, the BREEAM assessor must have the correct evidence covering all the credit requirements
We recommend that the design team work with the assessor to ensure that everyone is aware of what is required.
8. Submit the information in the right format
Different assessors will recommend that information is presented and provided in different ways. At Peak Sustainability we recommend that information is provided in an electronic format, complete with a cover note/letter, as soon as it becomes available. The reasons for this are as follows:
- Sending information as soon as it is available means that the assessor can review the documents and raise any issues while the information is still fresh.
- Drip feeding documents means that the assessor isn’t overloaded with information and can keep response times to a minimum.
- Sending documents electronically allows the assessor and design team to keep records of what has been sent and when.
- Using a cover note / e-mail means that the design team can explain exactly what they are hoping will be signed off and helps avoid confusion (especially if the evidence is in the form of a complex drawing etc)
Some assessors prefer evidence to be compiled into a single ‘BREEAM file’ and presented at the end of the project. We strongly advise against this as, if there is a problem with the evidence, it can often be too late for easy corrections to be made.
9 Get it right first time/Cutting corners costs money
Your assessor will aim to provide the design team with sufficient guidance to help you ensure that your development conforms to the standards required by BREEAM and that the design team are in a position to provide the necessary evidence to achieve the credits. Generally, if the assessor’s guidance is followed and the evidence is provided in the form and to the level of detail requested then the particular credit will be achieved.
It is sometimes the case that the credit requirements can be misunderstood, or, they can seem very expensive / onerous. In these cases it is not uncommon for design team members to cut corners and/or choose a non compliant option. Unfortunately, what generally happens in these cases is that the design option/evidence isn’t suitable and further work has to be done to incorporate the compliant alternative/provide appropriate evidence. However, in the worst case scenario, if it isn’t resolved at the appropriate time, using a non compliant option can cause the credit to be lost or can involve major retrospective works to be undertaken.
If a credit is unexpectedly lost due to a misunderstanding or as a cost cutting measure, please inform your assessor straight away, so that they can assess the impact of this and advise you accordingly.
10 Don’t make assumptions, ask your assessor
It is fair to say that BREEAM and assumptions don’t mix. Therefore if a credit is confusing you, or, you are unsure what is required then the best advice is, ask your BREEAM assessor.
Remember: The BREEAM assessor is there to help you.
If the answer to your query isn’t obvious from the BREEAM guidance, then your assessor will hopefully be able to provide an answer using their experience of previous projects or using the BREEAM Assessors Extranet and, if not, they can submit a technical query to the BRE on your behalf.