BREEAM Green Building Rating System Arrives in US
BREEAM, the leading UK green-building rating system, has crossed the pond and is looking to take on its US counterpart LEED.
BREEAM, the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology, is managed by London-based Building Research Establishment, or BRE, and used in countries around the world. BREEAM has been the dominant environmental assessment system for buildings in the UK for almost two-dozen years.
According to a BRE spokesperson, BREEAM has completed more than 542,868 certifications and has more than 2,242,262 registered buildings in 77 countries. In contrast, US Green Building Council’s LEED has completed about 80,000 certifications and has about 1 million buildings in the process of getting certified.
The LEED green rating system is also used globally in about 150 countries — some studies say it’s the leading sustainable building certification everywhere expect the UK. And while others, like the Green Globes, have tried to encroach on LEED’s lead, for many in the US green building certification remains synonymous with LEED.
Today, BuildingWise, a US-based LEED certification consultancy, and BRE announced a new partnership that brings BREEAM to the United States. The partners say BREEAM USA will focus on the BREEAM In-Use standard to address the 5.6 million existing commercial buildings in the US that are not currently benchmarking their sustainability efforts using a “scientifically-based green building certification” such as LEED for Existing Buildings (LEED EB).
BuildingWise CEO Barry Giles is a founding member of the LEED EB Core Committee. “LEED EB has really only focused on the top 10, maybe top 5 percent of the marketplace, and new versions of LEED are making it harder and harder for existing buildings to get into the program,” Giles said in an interview with Environmental Leader. “There’s this huge market that’s not currently using a building certification program and BREEAM is a perfect tool for them.”
When asked if BREEAM will be competing with LEED in the US, BRE Group chief operating officer Niall Trafford said the two green building standards will simply be “working alongside” each other. “We already partner with and share the market place with LEED in a number of locations,” he said, adding that the move to the US and a recent entry into China is part of BREEAM’s expansion plan.
“BREEAM is the market leader in the UK,” Trafford said. “We have a growth ambition to improve our international presence to 35 percent of what we do, up from 18 percent of what we do. We launched in China in April. The other place we saw an opportunity was the US, around existing buildings.”
Scot Horst, USGBC chief product officer, says BREEAM coming to the US is “interesting” but doesn’t think it will affect LEED, which he says is the “international standard” for green building certification.
“The existing buildings market is a very difficult market,” Horst told Environmental Leader. “LEED brings value to assets. The main reason most portfolio owners and building owners use LEED is that they want to lease the space, especially to international tenants, and they are also interested in a continuous improvement process. Our challenge is figuring out how to get people started on that continuous improvement process.”
BRE and BuildingWise say you do this through BREEAM In-Use.
BREEAM In-Use is an online rating tool that allows users to register buildings and assess the facility’s performance. Users answer a series of specific questions — How much glazing is on the building’s exterior? How much water and energy does the building use? — and after filling out the questionnaire they receive an unverified score. The questionnaire stays open for a year, during which time users can adjust the data and/or hire a third-part licensed assessor to certify the building’s performance.
BREEAM In-Use helps building managers, owners and tenants reduce their energy, water and waste — and lower their operational costs, BRE says. BREEAM certification also makes a property more attractive to lease, sell and retain as building ratings and certifications are increasingly seen as a mark of quality and value.
And, Giles says, BREEAM In-Use is easier and less expensive than LEED EB. This is significant because despite numerous studies showing the financial benefits of green building, such as reduced energy costs and total lifecycle costs, the no. 1 obstacle to green building is higher perceived first costs. About 70 percent of US respondents say this is the biggest challenge, according to a report published earlier this year by Dodge Data & Analytics and United Technologies Corporation.
“If you consider LEED EB, there are a series of prerequisites for building to meet,” Giles said. “These are big thresholds for buildings to get over and they cost money. With BREEAM, we democratize the access. There are no prerequisites to get into the program. We are trying to make the entry point much easier for existing buildings, rather than set a series of standards that they have to meet before they can even play the game.”
Additionally, in working with about 150 buildings over 10 years to achieve LEED EB certification, Giles says he tells clients to budget about $100,000 to $120,000 for the “whole enchilada of getting into LEED EB.
“With BREEAM In-Use, a $1,000 fee will get them into the online program,” Giles said.
Horst says the charge that LEED EB is too cumbersome and expensive is not true. “Because we have the LEED Dynamic Plaque, which uses building data as a way to get credits in the LEED for Existing Buildings rating system. It significantly lowers the cost but doesn’t lower the idea of a quality rating.”
The LEED Dynamic Plaque is a near-real-time monitoring tool with integrated building automation technology from Honeywell that measures and provides building performance feedback.
“What you’ll see in Europe, for example, LEED is still seen as a premier brand beyond BREEAM In-Use,” Horst said. “BREEAM In-Use allows you to come into the system really easily without knowing if the building is really improving its performance but with the LEED Dynamic Plaque you know because the information is right there.”
One of the first buildings to undertake BREEAM In-Use is the BLOC in downtown Los Angeles. Currently, the BLOC is being upgraded into a “destination space” including a huge shopping mall, “creative-leaning” office building and Sheraton hotel.
Trafford says success for BREAM In-Use would look like “a couple hundred thousand buildings coming into the program over the next five years.”
Considering the massive amounts of energy, water and materials that buildings and their occupants consume over their lifespans, all of which places pressure on limited resources, a couple hundred thousand buildings trying to improve their environmental performance by using BREEAM In-Use sounds like a win for the rest of us, too.
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