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BREEAM Green Building Rating System Arrives in US

BREEAMBREEAM, 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.”

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One thought on “BREEAM Green Building Rating System Arrives in US

  1. USGBC are unwise to underestimate the significance of this – markets are fickle and like new shiny cheap things – BREEAM In-Use could gain massive traction really quickly and expand to other BREEAM versions. But as Scott notes the Existing Buildings market is a VERY hard market in which to make Green Building stick, because it is huge – 100 x the new build market, has gazillions of small players – tenant businesses for whom their building is something they take for granted while they concentrate on their main business. For this reason, the value proposition of a Green rating just aint there beyond the first flush of novelty. The Green plaque seems like a good idea, except that I’ll bet it very soon just blends into the background after a week or two. I’ve come round to thinking that an app on every employees desktop showing their environmental and cost footprint and appealing to personal motivations may be a better way to influence existing buildings. My biggest concern for Green buildings in US is that a BREEAM entry to the market just adds yet another fragmentation and confusion to the market. In my opinion USGBC badly needs to reestablish the alliances that it was founded under and reestablish its leadership and coordinating role. This must mean getting to grips with costs and complexity, refocus on the critical issues like climate change and delivery models that are cheap and quick and engage and reward its stakeholders. The only winners from more market confusion are those that oppose Green buildings.

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