With environmental, social and governance issues becoming more central to organisation's decision-making and greater awareness of building's contribution to carbon footprint, issues of sustainability are becoming more imperative for the construction sector. BREEAM is one of the sustainability assessment methods which is now being more commonly used in construction projects.

BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) is a well-established method of assessing, rating and certifying the environmental, social and economic sustainability of buildings.

Certification can take place at various different stages of a development, from design and construction to operation and refurbishment, and the BREEAM standard to apply depends on the nature of the particular development.

BREEAM Sustainability Categories & Ratings

BREEAM measures sustainable value in a range of categories including: Energy, Health & Wellbeing, Innovation, Land use, Materials, Management, Pollution, Transport, Waste and Water.

Licensed BREEAM assessors use scientific sustainability metrics and indices to award 'BREEAM credits', and a category score is then calculated which then contributes to a building's overall performance rating.

The different BREEAM ratings range from 'Acceptable' (applies to 'In-Use' schemes only) to 'Pass', 'Good', 'Very Good', 'Excellent' and 'Outstanding', and a BREEAM Certificate is awarded at the end of the assessment process.

Pros and Cons of BREEAM

Many in the construction industry favour the use of BREEAM. Buildings constructed to achieve a high BREEAM rating are said to not only provide a range of benefits to those who live and work within them, including increased comfort and in turn productivity, but evidence also suggests that such buildings are more attractive to investors, purchasers and tenants.

Conversely, some have criticised the use of BREEAM for potentially incurring higher upfront capital costs as a result of building to the required standards. BREEAM assessments have also been accused of being overly complicated to administer. As a result, it is not unusual for developers to engaged BREEAM advisors to advise the design team and to monitor BREEAM compliance.

Incorporating BREEAM in Construction Documents

We are increasingly seeing BREEAM provisions included in build contracts and professional team appointments, particularly for public sector development projects.

BREEAM requirements are often incorporated into build contracts by way of a bespoke clause included in the Schedule of Amendments (if an SBCC Contract is used) or Z clauses (if an NEC Contracts are used). This will typically provide that the contractor appointed is to ensure that the works, once completed, achieve a certain BREEAM rating (usually no less than 'Good' or 'Very Good').

Similar clauses can also be found within design consultant appointments.


Harriet Rutherford

Senior Associate