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BREEAM New Construction 2018 – Part One

October 03, 2018

The new BREEAM 2018 requirements will impact development viability and planning strategy. Richard Knight explains why.

By Richard Knight

The aim of BREEAM is to enable buildings to be recognised according to their environmental benefits. It seeks to provide a credible, environmental label for buildings and to stimulate demand for sustainable buildings via a flexible non-prescriptive assessment method.

The latest incarnation of BREEAM (New Construction 2018) which was launched in March 2018 continues to push these aims, but, in striving to push boundaries may have inadvertently affected the financial viability of schemes before they get off the ground.

As is typical when BRE launch a new version of a scheme there are updates to metrics, policies and standards within the methodology to push development towards higher standards. However, unlike previous versions, the 2018 version seems to have gone far beyond just updating standards and has now introduced credits relating to new and currently unconventional planning and construction practices.

It has always been widely recognised that there is much benefit in embedding sustainability within a project from the outset to reduce the need for expensive (and sometime unsightly) extras added late in the day. The 2018 methodology continues to require this early engagement at Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Stages 1 and 2 but now imposes these requirements to practices that are typically not undertaken (and in some cases unable to be undertaken) until detailed design.

To date, most BREEAM strategies utilise reports which are produced as part of the planning application package such as Flood Risk Assessments, Travel Plans and Design & Access Statement and shoe-horning these into the BREEAM criteria.

Historically this approach has worked for ratings up to Very Good, with only minor tweaks being required to these reports to match all BREEAM requirements.  However, with the onset of the 2018 methodology, the need to produce bespoke BREEAM credit winning reports has increased to the point at which almost 30% of credits available require some sort of action at RIBA stage 1 and 2.

These actions range from the appointment of a Suitably Qualified Ecologist to provide guidance all the way through, to conducting a Life Cycle Assessments of building materials at RIBA Stage 2. Despite BRE's insistence that industry wide consultation on all aspects was undertaken, the feeling within the BREEAM assessor community (and our client base) is that these new requirements do not reflect the reality.

The typical built environment project has a stringent development stack when it comes to financial viability with the general approach being to minimise cost and risk prior to granting of planning consent. With the introduction of a vast swathe of credits requiring BREEAM specific reports and studies, this will add to the planning cost and put the viability of schemes to the test.

In part two, Richard will look into the challenges and opportunities presented by BREEAM 2018.

Originally published by PBA, now Stantec.

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