Creative Education
2012. Vol.3, Supplement, 1-8
Published Online December 2012 in SciRes ( DOI:10.4236/ce.2012.37B001
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
How Accurately Does Breeam Measure Sustainability?
Sarah Aspinall1, Begum Sertyesilisik2,3, Amr Sourani3, Ashley Tunstall4
1Interserve Construction Ltd, Wigan, UK
2Istanbul Technical University, dept. of Architecture, Istanbul, Turkey
3Liverpool John M oores University, School of Built Environment, Liverpool, UK
4Bechtel Corporation, Prishtina Kosovo
Received 2012
The aim of this paper is to review the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment
Method (BREEAM) in terms of how adequately it addresses sustainability. To achieve the aim, a litera-
ture review and semi-structured interviews with BREEAM assessors were conducted. Relevant literature
has been reviewed to establish the meaning behind the concept of sustainability and to compare
BREEAM with other environmental assessments in the built environment. An in-depth review of
BREEAM and sustainability was then carried out through a series of semi structured interviews with
seven experts in the field. It is concluded that BREEAM is an efficient tool in establishing the environ-
mental performance of buildings through design and procurement. However it does not address the con-
cept of sustainability in its entirety choosing to focus more on the environmental aspects. Some inconsis-
tencies in its methods were also observed.
Keywords: BREEAM; CASBEE ; Gree n Star; LEED; Sustainability
Construction in the UK is a significant industry with produc-
tivity worth over £100bn a year which accounts for 8% of GDP
and provides employment for around 3 million workers [1]. The
output of the construction industry has a major impact on abil-
ity to maintain a sustainable economy overall and has a major
impact to on the environment [2]. [3] reported that construction
business in the UK is responsible for nearly a third of all Indus-
try-related pollution incidents, with construction and demolition
waste alone representing 19% of total UK waste. Many build-
ings are environmentally inefficient and do not make best use
of limited resources such as energy and water. The energy used
in constructing, occupying and operating buildings represents
approximately 50% of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK [3].
[4] described how carbon emissions have pushed global tem-
peratures up by half a degree Celsius and if no action is taken
then figures will only rise. As a result of the Stern Review [4],
the Government introduced the Climate Change Bill with the
aim of reducing CO2 emissions by 60% by 2050. The UK is
committed to achieving the vision of becoming a world leader
in sustainable construction by reducing its carbon footprint and
its consumption of natural resources, while creating a safer and
stronger industry by training and retraining a skilled and com-
mitted workforce [2].
By 2016 the proportion of developed land in the UK is ex-
pected to rise from 10% to 12% which is higher than most other
countries in the world. In this context sustainability of the built
environment is critical to the nation and much can and should
be done to encourage higher environmental standards [5]. It is
due to this that building performance is now a major concern of
professionals in the building industry and environmental build-
ing performance has emerged as one of the major issues in
sustainable construction. The UK has set sustainability indica-
tors that act as a guide to the direction of future Government
policy. As a result a vast and expanding variety of tools and
techniques to promote and appraise sustainable construction
have emerged. The Building Research Establishment Environ-
ment Assessment Method (BREEAM) is one of the world's
leading and most widely used environmental assessment
method for buildings. BREEAM sets the standard for best prac-
tice in sustainable design and claims to have become the de
facto measure used to describe a building's environmental per-
formance. BREEAM is an ever evolving assessment tool that
seeks to quantify sustainability in order to measure it, but how
accurately does it truly measure sustainability? With the certi-
fication, advice and assessment fees alone costing a developer
circa £10,000 (not including the cost of design elements), it is
imperative that the method is investigated in order to justify
such expense.
Little research has been carried out specifically on BREEAM
and how proficient it is at addressing sustainability. The re-
search presented in this paper analyses BREEAM and ascer-
tains whether it is an accurate method of assessing building
performance in terms of environmental impact and overall sus-
tainability. The paper reviews the definitions of sustainability
and other environmental performance assessment techniques
and compares BREEAM against them. The paper then explores
whether BREEAM successfully assesses and measures sus-
tainability as defined.
Sustainability and Environmental Assessment
Methods Sustainability
Within the construction industry terms such as sustainability,
sustainable development and sustainable construction are used
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
interchangeably. These terms focus on the ecological, social
and economic issues of a building in the context of its
community. Literature on sustainability bemoans the fact that
the concept is broad and lacks a broad consensus; this is usually
followed by the authors own preferred definitions, which in
turn add to the lack on consensus [6]. The concept of
sustainability has been used by the environmental movement
since the 1970s. According to the Brundtland report,
sustainable development is a development which meets “the
needs of the present without compromising the ability of future
generations to meet their own needs”. The UN Division for
Sustainable Development has adopted this definition. The
Charted Institute of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) [7]
somewhat agrees with this definition however they also include
terms such as “satisfy their basic needs” and “enjoy a better
quality of life”.
According to [8], the term ‘sustainability’ originally belongs
to ecology and it referred to the potential of an ecosystem to
subsist over time. By adding the notion of development to the
notion of sustainability, the focus of analysis shifts from that of
ecology to that of society. The chief focus of sustainable
development is on society, and it aims to include environmental
considerations in the steering of societal change at the interface
between the social, the economic, and the ecological aspects.
The UK Government’s consultation paper Building a better
quality of life emulates that of [8] on sustainable development.
The UK Government states that sustainable development “is
about ensuring a better quality of life for everyone, now and for
generations to come”. It includes 4 main aims, namely [9]:
social progress which recognises everyone’s needs, effective
protection of the environment, prudent use of natural resources,
and maintenance of high and stable levels of economic growth
and employment.
Environmental Assessment Methods
Environmental assessment methods seek to quantify sus-
tainability by way of subjective scoring against a set of criteria.
During the last decade, the building sector has witnessed the
development of two types of environmental assessment tools,
namely; the tools purely based on criteria scoring and the those
tools based on life cycle assessment (LCA). The focus of this
research is on building environmental assessments tools which
are based on criteria scoring. The major principles of sustain-
able buildings are to reduce resource consumption, reuse re-
sources, use recycled resources, protect nature, eliminate toxic-
ity, apply life cycle costing, and focus on quality [10]. With
these principles in mind, most green building criteria scoring
systems deal with site selection, efficient use of energy and
water resources during operation, indoor environmental quality,
passive heating, cooling and ventilation, and the selection of
environmentally preferable materials [11]. Various rating sys-
tems are available e.g. BREEAM and CASBEE (Comprehen-
sive Assessment System for Building Environmental Effi-
ciency). Some of these systems were created by modifying a
single system, or integrating multiple systems [12]. Among the
most established environmental assessment methods other than
the UK’s BREEAM are LEED, CASBEE and Green Star.
LEED (the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is
a method that was developed in 1998 in the USA with a world
wide application. CASBEE is a method that was developed in
Japan in 2004 while Green Star is an Australian assessment
method that was launched in 2003 [13]. The methods are
briefly explained below.
BREEAM: The BRE (Building Environmental Efficiency)
launched the first version of BREEAM in the UK in 1990; it
has since then been launched internationally [14]. BREEAM
identified that there is a large difference between the environ-
mental impacts of a poorly performing building compared to
what is achievable using current best practice. BREEAM aims
at raising standards of the buildings [14]. Until the release of
BREEAM, there had been little attempt, if any, to establish an
objective and comprehensive means of simultaneously assess-
ing a broad range of environmental considerations against ex-
plicitly declared criteria offering a summary of overall per-
formance. The field of building environmental assessment has
matured remarkably quickly since the introduction of
BREEAM and the past 13 years have witnessed a rapid increase
in the number of building environmental assessment methods in
worldwide use [15]. BREEAM awards an environmental label
after assessing buildings against a range of environmental is-
sues covering impacts on the environment at global, local and
indoor levels. For each category, there are a number of ‘credits’
available. Where buildings have attained or exceeded various
benchmarks of performance, an appropriate number of credits
are awarded. The relative importance of the credits awarded
under each category is taken into account in the final score,
which is interpreted in the form of an overall rating of pass,
good, very good, excellent and outstanding (introduced in Au-
gust 2008 revision). The scores are based on the following cri-
teria [14]: Management, Health & Wellbeing, Energy, Trans-
port, Water, Materials, Waste, Land Use and Ecology, and Pol-
lution. All BREEAM products are regularly updated to take
advantage of new research and technology to reflect changing
priorities in regulations and to ensure that BREEAM continues
to represent current best practice. The popularity of BREEAM
is increasing worldwide and is set to further increase in the UK
as more and more funding bodies are making BREEAM certi-
fication a prerequisite. The key drivers for using BREEAM are
to demonstrate the sustainability credentials to planning au-
thorities, investors and customers, reduce energy and other
running costs, improve staff productivity, make buildings more
lettable and potentially realise higher rental incomes, make
buildings more attractive to potential customers or tenants, pre-
empt legislation, set targets for improvement and to improve
the image and ethical investment policies. The time an assess-
ment takes to complete varies according to the agreement be-
tween client and assessor, and the fee can vary between £2,000
and £10,000 ($3971-$19857). There is also a QA / certification
fee which is paid through the assessor, to BRE. This fee varies,
between £740 and £1500 ($1469-$2979), according to the size
of the building being assessed.
LEED:LEED is an environmental assessment method that
has been developed by the United States Green Building Coun-
cil (USGBC) in 1998 with the aim of developing high-per-
formance, sustainable buildings and was largely inspired by and
based upon the UK’s leading model BREEAM. The USGBC is
a non profit organisation committed to expanding sustainable
building practices and its mission is to transform the way
buildings and communities are designed, built and operated,
enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy
& prosperous environment that improves quality of life [16].
LEED contains the following major categories: sustainable sites;
water efficiency; energy and atmosphere; materials and re-
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
sources; indoor environmental quality; and innovation and de-
sign process. Since the initial launch LEED has been used to
certify 1823 buildings in the US, under the 4 different ratings
available Certified (26-32 points), Silver (33-38 points), Gold
(38-51 points) and Platinum (52-69 points). There are no
weightings included in LEED, instead credits are worth one
point and where there are multiple performance levels each
level is worth one point. As there are no weightings the value of
each issue is purely dependant on the number of points avail-
able. The lack of category weightings combined with the
checklist approach that LEED uses to evaluate the impact of the
materials mostly increases the weighting of the materials sec-
tion in LEED compared to the other methods in this study. In
LEED the section is worth nearly 1/5th of the final score
whereas in both BREEAM and Green Star the materials section
is worth just 1/10th of the final score which more closely re-
flects the relationship between the embodied and operational
energy of a building. LEED is starting to appear as a method of
choice within the UK construction industry. As global corpora-
tions compare assessment tools and look to qualify their
worldwide building stock under one green rating, LEED is
becoming more popular and favourable. Unlike BREEAM,
which requires external assessment, LEED encourages con-
sultants to have their staff trained as LEED-accredited profes-
sionals, who present a LEED-assessed design to be independ-
ently certified. This method has encouraged US firms to be-
come more environmentally aware and influenced the speed of
the green agenda by architects, engineers and other consultants.
There are currently an estimated 25,000 accredited profession-
als in the US [17].
CASBEE: CASBEE is a relatively new system developed for
the Japanese market. The family of assessment tools is based on
the building’s life cycle: pre-design, new construction, existing
buildings, and renovation. CASBEE presents a new concept for
assessment that distinguishes environmental load from quality
of building performance. CASBEE results are presented as a
measure of eco-efficiency or Building Environmental Effi-
ciency (BEE). Results are plotted on a graph, with environ-
mental load on one axis and quality on the other the best
buildings will fall in the section representing lowest environ-
mental load and highest quality. Each criterion is scored from
level 1 to level 5. The CASBEE technical manual [18] presents
detailed definitions of each level for each criterion and includes
reference material and calculation tools where needed. CAS-
BEE major categories of criteria include: building environ-
mental quality and performance; and building environmental
loadings. In the manual, downloaded from the CASBEE web-
site, there is little information on how the credits are actually
assessed, other than the performance levels required.
Green Star: The Green Building Council Australia (GBCA)
[19]’s objective is to promote sustainable development and the
transition of the property industry by promoting green building
programmes, technologies, design practices and operations.
After an industry survey conducted by the GBCA, Green Star
was developed to be a comprehensive, national, voluntary en-
vironmental rating scheme that evaluates the environmental
design and achievements of buildings in order to: establish a
common language; set a standard of measurement for green
buildings; promote integrated, whole-building design; recog-
nise environmental leadership; identify building life-cycle im-
pacts; and raise awareness of green building benefits. Green
Star has built on existing systems and tools from overseas mar-
kets including the British BREEAM system and the North
American LEED system. In addition, VicUrban, in its work
with the Melbourne Docklands' ESD Guide, provided the intel-
lectual property to assist in the development of a local system.
Green Star has established individual environmental measure-
ment criteria with particular relevance to the Australian mar-
ketplace and environmental context. Green Star covers a num-
ber of categories that assess the environmental impact that is a
direct consequence of a projects site selection, design, con-
struction and maintenance. The nine categories included within
all Green Star rating tools are: management; indoor environ-
ment quality; energy; transport; water; materials; land use and
ecology; emissions; and innovation. These categories are di-
vided into credits, each of which addresses an initiative that
improves or has the potential to improve environmental per-
formance. Points are awarded in each credit for actions that
demonstrate that the project has met the overall objectives of
Green Star. Once all claimed credits in each category are as-
sessed, a percentage score is calculated and Green Star envi-
ronmental weighting factors are then applied. Green Star envi-
ronmental weighting factors vary across states and territories to
reflect diverse environmental concerns across Australia. The
Green Star Certified Ratings available are: 4 Star Green Star
Certified Rating (score 45-59) signifies 'Best Practice'; 5 Star
Green Star Certified Rating (score 60-74) signifies 'Australian
Excellence'; and 6 Star Green Star Certified Rating (score
75-100) signifies 'World Leadership'. Although Green Star
certification requires a formal process, Green Star tools can be
freely downloaded and used as guides to track and improve
project environmental performance. As with LEED, 2 points
are awarded where a member of the design team has received
Green Star training and has achieved Accredited Professional
status. Although an assessment can be carried out by any
member of a project team, no score can be publicised unless the
Green Star assessment is certified. In order to certify an as-
sessment the GBCA commission a third party assessment panel
to validate the self assessment rating and recommend, or op-
pose, a Green Star certified rating. Certification will only be
awarded if a project achieves a score of at least 45 (Four Stars).
The mechanisms used to calculate a whole building rating are
identical to those employed by BREEAM in the UK.
Research Methodology
The aim of the research was to analyse BREEAM and ascer-
tain whether it is an accurate method of assessing building per-
formance in terms of environmental impact and overall sus-
tainability. An extensive literature review has been conducted
to ascertain the meaning of sustainability within the construc-
tion industry and to determine how sustainability can be meas-
ured. Furthermore, the most commonly used worldwide envi-
ronmental assessment schemes were compared against the local
UK benchmark BREEAM in order to ascertain where the
BREEAM approach sits within the industry. In order to deter-
mine whether BREEAM successfully considers and measures
sustainability as per the established definition, the primary data
collection method used was in-depth, semi structured inter-
views. Questions were sent out to interviewees in advance. The
questions were provisional and the overall aim of the interview
was to gain as much knowledge from the expert as possible.
Over 20 BREEAM assessors and industry professionals were
contacted via email and telephone to take part in the research
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
investigation. Only 7 of them agreed to be interviewed (Table
1). This amount was acceptable due to the fact that qualitative
research stresses in-depth investigation where the emphasis is
on quality rather than quantity, the objective was not to maxi-
mise numbers but to become “saturated” with information on
the topic (Padgett, 1998). All 7 interviews were recorded using
a Dictaphone and as a backup of this material notes were taken.
The interviews were transcribed immediately to avoid the un-
necessary loss of any data. The transcripts were then analysed
based on an inductive approach geared to identifying patterns in
the data by means of thematic codes. QSR NVivo was used to
identify patterns and common themes in the interview data by
assigning nodes to passages in order to interpret this in the form
of meaningful findings. The identity of each interviewee was
coded to allow individual identification and ease of presentation.
The company names are not provided due to anonymity.
Results and Discu ssions
(Q1) (A), (B), (C), and (F) had the most experience in
BREEAM all with 8-10 years experience. (D), (E), (F), and (G)
the experience ranged from 1 4 years.
(Qs 2&3) (B) indicated that a small number attempt to
achieve a BREEAM Excellent. All interviewees mentioned that
the most popular rating aimed for is “very good” and that the
rating which a developer sets out to achieve is usually achieved
unless there are special circumstances. (A) emphasized that if a
“very good” rating is set out to be achieved, then the companies
tend to aim for a score between 70 and 74% as they don’t want
to invest any more money than what they have to. (G) stated
that BREEAM is just seen as a means to an end in terms of
achieving funding rather than developing sustainable buildings.
(Qs 4&5) The results for questions 4&5 varied considerably.
(B) and (C) reported that in their experience the majority of
projects were from private developers whereas (A), (D) and (G)
have been more involved in State led projects (i.e. schools,
hospitals and defence projects). (A), (E), and (F) identified that
due to the current economic climate the amount of private de-
velopers has decreased in the past years.
Table 1.
Interviewees’ characteristics.
Prefix Occupation Experience in
assessing BREEAM
(A) Energy and Sustainability Associate
Director 9 years
(B) Principal BREEAM Consultant 10 years
(C) MICE BREEAM & Eco Homes
Licensed Assessor 8 years
(D) Sustainability Manager 1 year
(E) Principal Consultant 3 years
(F) Regional Design Ma nager 8 years
(G) Regional Site Manager &
Environmental Promoter 3 years
(Q6) It was unanimous in the results that although some had
used other environmental assessment methods from the UK
such as NEAT (previous healthcare tool), none of them had
used any other international tool. (A) and (D) were aware of
LEED but had no working knowledge of the method. (D)
commented that LEED is more accepted in international circles
than BREEAM and that the BRE are working very hard to try
and change that. (D) stated that BREEAM is prepared to be
adopted for different circumstances whereas LEED is the same
wherever you are in the world in terms of the weightings and
(Q7) Sustainability was referred to as a meaningless “buzz
word” and that “sustainable development” was the preferred,
more relevant, term. It was found that all 7 responded in the
same way, speaking about the combination of factors; envi-
ronmental (G) and (F); social (A) and (D) and economic (A)
and (D). (E) and (F) referred to how we should not compromise
future generations. (C) stated that environmental issues are just
a small percentage of what sustainability is all about. (B) be-
lieved that sustainability is making the best building you can,
with the least impact on the environment within the financial
(Q8) All of the interviewees believed BREEAM largely
concentrated on just one aspect of sustainability which is the
environmental impact of buildings. All interviewees believed
that BREEAM did not pick up enough social and environ-
mental aspects of sustainability. However it was important to
note, as commented by (A), that BREEAM was initially pro-
duced to assess the environmental impact of buildings. How-
ever, (A) and (B) suggested that BREEAM needs to further
develop to include more social and economic categories. (C)
stated that practicably “they have got it just about right”. How-
ever, (C) remarked that there are no monetary issues within
BREEAM. (C) stated that: “For instance if you build something
that is an excellent building but the cost of it is so high that you
cannot let it or sell it then its unsustainable, that’s the worst
case of un-sustainability to build something that is not fit for
use and if its too expensive for use then its not fit for use, this is
something that BREEAM does not cover”. (D) and (G) stated
that in some cases BREEAM had become a box ticking exer-
cise purely carried out to satisfy funding conditions. (A), (B),
and (G) claimed that it is difficult when using BREEAM to
adopt site specific issues with the credits due to the inflexibility
of the structure. (G) also stated that when a credit requires the
services of a specialist such as an ecologist or acoustician, there
is sometimes conflict between the experts’ opinion and what
the BRE requires.
(Q9) Overall the opinion was that BREEAM is a tool that
will develop over time. All interviewees believed that the cor-
rect step in that development was to bring in the post construc-
tion review and mandatory credits. The post construction as-
sessment was seen as an insurance that developers and their
contractors had carried out what they stated at the design stage
of the project which is important when attempting to create
more sustainable buildings. (A) and (B), two of the most ex-
perienced BREEAM assessors, thought that the Energy credit
E1 which states to achieve a very good certification that a
minimum of 6 credits needs to be achieved on that element is
set very high. (A) commented that there are items in BRE
which should have been mandatory to achieve certain levels. (A)
questions whether the energy credit is set at the right level be-
cause the energy rating on a certificate varies depending on the
building type. (A) stated that there is an argument that maybe 5
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
credits should be mandatory for energy 1.
(Q10) The data showed a mixture of responses to this ques-
tion. It is clear that there is not one particular reason why
BREEAM has been driven in a certain direction. (D) stated
climate change and increased knowledge concerning climate
change as one of the reasons why the August 2008 revision had
become very much stricter on the Energy credits with the aim
to reduce carbon emissions. It was felt by (A) and (D) that it
was a natural progression for BREEAM as it seeks to deliver
best practice; therefore BREEAM needs to adapt to stay ahead
of the legislative minimum. (C) thought that the BRE needed to
bring all their systems in line in a more standardised way and
make them more robust. (C) in particular believes that a great
deal of changes have been introduced due to assessor feedback.
(C) argued that: “The BRE were having a lot of trouble control-
ling QA because every scheme is different. They have stan-
dardised the tool and the system. Credits change as industry
changes because of changes in technology and in legislation.
The reason that they brought the mandatory in was to bring it in
line with the code (for sustainable homes).” The majority men-
tioned that they were looking for the mandatory post construc-
tion review. (E) commented that the build-up of significant
criticisms of the scheme, (e.g. no requirement for CO2 im-
provement for ‘Excellent’) and the introduction of new issues
(e.g. EPCs, Site Waste Management) were the key drivers to
update the 2006 version of the method. (A) stated that the in-
tention of BREEAM is that anything that is current standard
practice or a legislative minimum standard would not score a
credit under BREEAM. (D) believed the two major drivers
were climate change agenda and making the system more ro-
(Q11) The interviewees spoke of the BREEAM in use and
the post occupancy evaluation available from the BRE. All of
the interviewees mentioned that BREEAM was designed to
create sustainable buildings and is more concerned with the
design and construction element. The Energy Performance
Certification that was launched in August 2008 will go some
way in measuring the energy efficiency of buildings against
their potential however some of the industry experts feel that
this step is too far ahead and is something that BREEAM was
not meant to achieve. (D) commented that BRE so far do not
monitor buildings. (D) thinks the next thing on the horizon
from BRE will be the POE (the post occupancy evaluation) to
have a robust system. (C) remarked that they are struggling to
actually implement BREEAM in use, and that there are very
few buildings that have gone for an assessment under that
heading. (C) further stated that the majority of companies
which would consider that are very large companies with mas-
sive building stock.
(Q12) (C), (D), (E), and (G) are open to the fact that
BREEAM certification can reduce the operational cost of a
building however (A) and (B) believed that there is not enough
evidence to support the concept. (F) claims that the BRE have
promoted BREEAM as a cost neutral item and that industry
reports and current experience do not come near to supporting
this. (A) believed that it is very difficult to claim that BREEAM
will reduce operational costs. (C) believed that there is signify-
cant evidence that sustainable buildings reduce the long term
running costs. The interviewees suggested that instead of car-
rying out a full BREEAM, a non certified equivalent may be
the most appropriate approach, e.g. carrying out sustainability
brainstorming or using a sustainability checklist can give a
developer 80% of the benefit by implementing the recommend-
dations without 20% of the cost.
(Q13) (B), (E), (F), and (G) were in the opinion that the BRE
do not benchmark BREEAM against any other method. The
BRE see themselves as the leading environmental assessment
method in the UK. (A) stated that other environmental assess-
ment methods benchmark themselves against BREEAM. (A)
further stated that some international organisations in the UK
prefer to use LEED; some might say that this is because LEED
is a much more straightforward method than BREEAM and not
as demanding. (D) commented that BRE see themselves as the
ultimately benchmarkers. (C) believed that all the other options
in the industry measuring sustainability are no where near as
sophisticated as BREEAM. (C) stated that BREEAM is being
rolled out internationally. (C) further stated that despite they
used other tools, there is nothing that they have come across
that is comparable to BREEAM.
(Q14) All of the interviewees mentioned that in addition to
energy related concerns BREEAM also considers many other
environmental concerns. (A) stated that unless there is a change
in policy at a governmental level Part L can not be incorporated
in BREEAM. (D) emphasized that building laws may be
toughening up on carbon emissions and construction quality
however BREEAM always maintains its status ahead of the
building regulations as a standard of best practice. (D) further
stated that if building regulations become tougher then so will
(Q15) The majority of interviewees [(A), (B), (D), (E), (F),
and (G)] were of the opinion that the BRE do not do enough in
terms of acquiring feedback etc. (E, G, A) thought that commu-
nication from the BRE is quite limited and impersonal. How-
ever, (C) has had a very different experience with the BRE,
stating that the BRE are very good at listening and have intro-
duced changes as a result of their feedback.
(Q16) The main changes to BREEAM desired were aimed
towards the procedure of the assessment itself and not necessar-
ily to do with the categories that BREEAM include (technical
issues). All interviewees believed that the BRE had got the
assessment about right in terms of the content but had a prob-
lem with the ambiguity of the manuals used for assessment. All
interviewees were in the opinion that the manuals are not user
friendly and fraught with differences in interpretation. (A)
commented that the BREEAM manual is written in a much
clearer fashion avoiding the need for interpretation. (A) further
recommended that experienced assessor should be available in
the BRE to provide interpretation on certain credits. (A) thinks
that BRE do a good job with regard to the technical detail of the
credits. (A) stated that there has been some confusion in some
of the credits, especially when the credits refer to employing an
expert. For example a point may be obtained under a BREEAM
classification but an expert may have a different opinion to the
BRE so who is right in that instance? Cost was also perceived
as an issue. (C) stated that the people asking for the certifica-
tions are not following it through with acquiring certification.
(C) comme nted that it would make the system bette r to be a lot
cheap for developers and would encourage more developers to
get on board with the scheme. (C) mentioned that the BRE is
very “London Orientated” and all training/steer groups etc in-
volves individuals travelling down to London for every occa-
sion. (C) stated that this is frustrating to assessors and does not
seem very much in line with that they are aiming to achieve
“sustainability”. (B) believes that as a scheme BREEAM is
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
very good. However, (B) stated its shortcomings as follows: it
can be generic on occasions and extremely frustrating; there is
little inflexibility in their approach. (B) recommended that
changes should be made on the ecology section as it is based
purely on increasing the number of the types of plants focusing
on the quantity of plants rather than quality. Accordingly, (D)
stated that the manuals can sometimes create problems particu-
larly around the ecology points because ecology is a notori-
ously complex area and it is difficult sometimes in the way
BRE set things up and define things. (D) recommends that the
BRE could do with a proper discussion/forum system for these
items and that they need to embrace more modern technology
and develop a BRE forum. (D) highlighted that the main factor
that will improve sustainability is the Post Occupancy Evalua-
tion which is a requirement to get a much more direct assess-
ment of building sustainability. (E) desires a simpler target
scheme using energy, water, ecology and culture and letting
building regulations and planning cover the rest. (G) was not
sure if the correct controls would be there if changes could be
made to make the process cheaper and more attractive to im-
The main difference between the assessment methods is the
process of certification. BREEAM has trained assessors who
review the evidence against the credit criteria and report it to
the BRE, who validate the assessment and issue the certificate.
While LEED does not require training, there is a credit
available if an accredited professional. This is also the case in
CASBEE. The role of the accredited professional is to help
gather the evidence and advise the client. The evidence is then
submitted to the USGBC which does the assessment and issues
the certificate. Although LEED and Green Star have been heav-
ily based on BREEAM, Green Star takes into account the di-
verse nature of its country of origin, Australia. The multiplicity
in the UK is not as apparent as Australia but BREEAM does
not take any location variances in account within its method.
CASBEE has a very different approach altogether. Weightings
are applied at the individual credit level. This addresses the
problem that occurs when credits are deemed to be irrelevant to
specific projects. More than half the credits in CASBEE do not
have a BREEAM equivalent. It is therefore much more difficult
to compare the rating bands of the two systems. Overall it is
tougher to meet the highest rating in BREEAM than it is to
meet the requirements of the alternative schemes when building
in the UK. If a building is designed to meet the highest LEED
or Green Star rating it is only likely to achieve a BREEAM
rating of Very Good or Good which are the second and third
highest ratings respectively. The two most popular schemes
BREEAM and LEED share many common components. Both
believe that early involvement of the assessor or accredited
professional at the design stage is beneficial to the project and
the final rating. Both schemes drive the market to improve
building design. The judging criteria also keep pace with
legislative developments and current best practice. There are
differences in the way LEED calculates credits. The rating sys-
tems discussed all require varying levels of specialised sustain-
able design knowledge to be effectively used.
Data obtained through interviews revealed that most of the
experts interviewed believe that BREEAM is a very good tool
for assessing the environmental performance of buildings and
that it is the only method that should be used in the UK spe-
cifically. Many of the interviewees alleged that the BRE does
not tackle the whole of what sustainability is all about and that
there is a distinct lack of economic and social aspects within the
method that are significant in the overall concept of sustainabil-
ity and sustainable development. There are some aspects of
social wellbeing evident when evaluating indoor environment
quality and items such as transport and cycle facilities, however
it was recognised that there is no economic consideration at all.
There is no category for a developer to consider whether a
building is economically sustainable and if it is needed at all. It
is consistently reported that there is not enough housing in the
UK, however many city centre developments such as apart-
ments and office spaces stay empty for months or even years.
This is an element that is definitely missing from the current
BREEAM. It needs to start considering if a building is really
needed and if so is it fit for use. There is nothing more
un-sustainable than to build something that is not fit for use or
is too expensive to build, let or maintain.
Some of the interviewees stated that in some cases BREEAM
had become a box ticking exercise purely carried out to satisfy
funding conditions. The developer would then achieve the de-
sign and procurement certificate, issue this as evidence to the
funding body, receive the funding and then never follow
through with post construction certification. This is an error on
the part of the funding bodies. The developer might not have
carried out what was intended at the design stage and therefore
the building may not be considered sustainable under full
BREEAM certification.
Throughout the interviews, it was stated that the manuals
used to assess BREEAM are too generic and inconsistent.
Some claimed that it is difficult when using BREEAM to adopt
site specific issues with the credits due to the inflexibility of the
structure. It was also stated that when a credit requires the ser-
vices of a specialist such as an ecologist or acoustician, there is
sometimes conflict between the experts’ opinion and what the
BRE requires. As these inconsistencies cause frustration to the
BREEAM advisor and the client, they should be addressed in
any new revisions of BREEAM.
The findings revealed ambiguity in the BREEAM process as
the majority of the assessment criteria are down to the interpret-
tation of how a sentence or paragraph has been read by the
individual. The experts recommended that the BREEAM
manuals should be written in a much clearer fashion and that
assessors should be available within the BRE with t he abi lity to
use their interpretation with regards to certain credits where the
assessment criteria is open to subjectivity. It was also men-
tioned that the BRE are tackling this issue and in the 2008 revi-
sion sought to bring all the schemes in line in a standardised
form. This sought to eliminate the subjectivity of BREEAM
and variance across the BRE assessors. It had been suggested
that the BRE were having difficulty controlling the Quality
Assurance (QA) across a broad range of projects due to the
uniqueness of projects. The BRE standardised the schemes and
also brought in the innovation credits in order to provide some
flexibility to the s chemes.
The findings revealed that the BRE are not particularly in-
terested in the environmental performance of buildings once
they have received their post construction certificate. The cost
of carrying out a BREEAM certificate can cost around £10,000
for certification, advice and assessment fees. The cost may not
be as significant on a large project; however on much smaller
schemes it may not be cost effective or appropriate to carry out
a full certified BREEAM. It was suggested that instead of car-
rying out a full BREEAM, a non certified equivalent may be
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
the most appropriate approach. This could enhance the sustain-
ability performance of the project without incurring the BRE
costs. More developers could consider this option when choos-
ing how to introduce sustainability to their buildings.
Sustainable development (or sustainability) has been histori-
cally referred to as meeting the needs of the present without
compromising the ability of future generations to meet their
own needs. Therefore it is often associated with terms such as
“maintaining” and “prolonging”. The term is now not just seen
to be about protecting the environment but is also concerned
with protecting the economy and the society. This reveals the
need to balance conservation of environmental resources with
the issues of economic growth and social welfare.
Sustainability is a concept which is very difficult to quantify
and measure. In recent times the sustainability agenda has be-
come more important. The construction industry has come un-
der pressure to become more sustainable and therefore envi-
ronmental assessment methods have emerged in order to at-
tempt to measure the sustainability of buildings. Buildings sus-
tainability can be measured via criteria scoring, which is a sub-
jective method that is open to skewed results. Environmental
assessments have been developed in a world wide context and
are being used by many industry and sustainability experts. The
UK Government in particular has been using environmental
assessment methods for over a decade and their popularity is
only set to increase. Sustainability seeks to uphold our envi-
ronment, economy and society. As particular focus has been on
creating more sustainable building stock, environmental as-
sessment tools have become the solution to measurement.
However with a generic tool such as BREEAM it is difficult to
adopt site specific issues with the credits due to the inflexibility
of the framework. It is difficult for developers to stretch them-
selves in areas outside what is in the framework (the set crite-
Three other environmental assessment methods from other
countries were analysed and compared against the UK’s pre-
vailing method, BREEAM. The comparison showed that all
methods were based on scoring certain criteria. The criteria set
in each method were very similar, concentrating on the same
categories. Other methods had been created based on BREEAM
as this is the oldest established method in use. The UK Building
Regulations are set much higher than other countries, therefore
the interviewees revealed the tendency that a BREEAM certifi-
cation was much more demanding and difficult to achieve than
any of the other methods compared, thus generating a much
more sustainable building stock.
The results revealed that BREEAM is perceived as a very
useful tool when addressing the environmental performance of
buildings; however it is perceived that it does not address the
whole concept of sustainability and sustainable development. A
chief focus of sustainable development is on society, as it aims
to include environmental considerations in the steering of
societal change at the interface between the social, the
economic and the ecological aspects. BREEAM fails to include
sufficient social and economic components to address the
whole of concept of sustainability and sustainable development.
Manuals were thought to be too subjective and ambiguous
which has led to inconsistent judgments by the interviewed
BRE assessors. There has been an attempt in the August 2008
to standardise the schemes under BREEAM and introduce some
flexibility through client innovation. However, it was discov-
ered that some BRE assessors do not have the experience to
recognise true sustainable innovation and that the whole proc-
ess has become too much of a box ticking exercise. BREEAM
effectively assesses the issue of sustainability with regards to
construction. It may not have been the intention for BREEAM
to look at post occupancy in terms of environmental impact
however the results of this research show that this may be
something that should be made mandatory. In conclusion,
BREEAM is a necessary tool in today’s sustainability con-
scious society. There are some slight improvements identified
that the field experts would like to see introduced, however it is
felt that the BRE have got the method about right in terms of
categories, weightings, credits and mandatory credits. It has
already been stated that the method will continue to be revised
and evolve with the aim of continuously improving and main-
taining its lead on current legislation and offering best practice.
The current research has revealed certain issues that require
attention in relation to environmental assessment methods in
the built environment. Strategically there needs to be a focus
aimed at promoting the use of not certified equivalent environ-
mental assessment methods as a more sustainable approach to
building assessment.
The UK Government should adopt a uniform approach and
make the use of environmental assessments methods (either
certified or non-certified) mandatory to all new construction
projects and be included as part of building regulation compli-
Developers should prove by certification or other means that
sustainability and sustainable construction has been considered
in the design and construction of all future building stock. This
is imperative if the Climate Change Bill, with the aim of re-
ducing CO2 emissions by 60% by 2050, is to be realised.
The BRE should look into the content of the manuals and
certification procedures of the method to eliminate inconsisten-
cies in credits and address the quality control issues reported by
the BREEAM and sustainability experts. There needs to be
procedures in place to control the subjectivity of the method
such as monitoring assessor qualification and training in order
to reduce discrepancies between BRE assessors and advisers.
The sustainability of buildings should be addressed once they
are occupied by either the building owner/occupier. More needs
to be done to ensure that once constructed buildings are being
operated in the most sustainable manner as much of the energy
consumed by buildings are related to the occupation and opera-
tion stage.
The main limitation of the current study is that only seven
interviewees participated in the research. For this reason, the
findings can not be generalized. However, they provide useful
insights and valuable perspectives. Further studies should be
carried out to increase the efficiency of environmental assess-
ment methods.
Appendix: Interview Questions
1. How many years experience do you have in BREEAM as-
2. What have the results been for those projects?
3. What were the desired outcomes for the projects at design
4. What proportion of the projects were state led and what
were private led?
5. What sectors were the projects from Health/Educa-
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
6. Have you used any other available systems to measure
sustainable performance of buildings? Such as the GB Tool
(Green Building Tool), LEED (Leadership in Energy and En-
vironment Design) in the USA, CASBEE (Comprehensive
Assessment System for Building Environmental Efficiency) in
Japan, HQE (High Environmental Quality) in France and the
most recently developed model VERDE method in Spain.
7. What does “sustainability in the construction industry”
8. Do you feel the BREEAM sufficiently address the key is-
sues of sustainability?
9. Do you agree with the revised August 2008 BREEAM
weightings and new mandatory requirements?
10. What do you think were the key drivers to update the
2006 version of the method?
11. Once a building has been through the assessment process
and been certified how does BRE monitor how sustainable the
building is performing against its potential?
12. Do you think that some Employers believe that the up-
front cost of BREEAM is offset by the assurance that opera-
tional costs will be reduced? Is it a fact that revenue costs cover
the capital cost of the building?
13. Does BRE benchmark their assessment method against
other methods in the industry?
14. Part L of the Building Regulations was revised in 2006 in
order to improve energy efficiency by capping carbon emis-
sions designed into the building and imposing minimum con-
struction quality criteria. How does this regulation line up with
15. Do you get actively involved with focus groups etc to put
forward your views for adapting and changing BREEAM? If
not would you see this as a positive move?
16. Are there any changes to the method that you feel per-
nally would be beneficial and make the industry more sustain-
Vadera, S., Woolas, P., Flint, C., Pearson, I., Hodge, M., Jordan, W.,
Davies, M. (June 2008) Strategy for Sustainable Construction.
Available: Last accessed
20 December 2009.
HM Government (2008)
Environment Agency (2003). Position Statement: Sustainable Con-
struction Environmentally Sustainable Buildings: Challenges and
Policies - a report by the OECD cited at:
39.aspx [accessed 25/1/12]
Stern, N. (2006) The Economics of Change The Stern Rev iew. Cam-
bridge: Cambridge University Press cited at: [accessed: 9/1/12]
Saunders, T. (2008). A Discussion Document Comparing International
Environmental Assessment Methods for Buildings. BREEAM Pub-
Bell, S. and Morse, S. (2008) Sustainability Indicators. Measuring the
immeasurable? Earthscan.
CIBSE (2007) Introduction to Sustainability. The Chartered Institution
of Building Services Enginee rs London.
Reboratti, C.E. (1999) ‘Territory, scale and sustainable development’,
in E. Becker and T. Jahn (eds) Su stai n ab ility and the Social Scien ces:
A Cross-disciplinary Approach to Integrating Environmental Con-
siderations into Theoretical Reorientation, London: Zed Books.
Dickie, I. and Howard, N. (2000) Assessing environmental impacts of
construction. Industry consensus, BREEAM and UK Ecopoints. Di-
gest 446.
Kibert, C. (2007). Sustainable Construction. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley
& Sons, Inc
Cole, R.J. (2000). “Building Environmental Assessment Methods:
Assessing Construction Practices.” Construction Management and
Economics, Vol. 18, pp 949957.
Fowler, K.M., & Rauch, E.M. (2006) Sustainable Building Rating
Systems Summary, PNNL 15858 . Pacific Northwest Nation al Labor-
Sinou, M., and Kyvelou,S. (2006). Present and future of building per-
formance assessment tools . Management and En vironmental Qualit y:
An Internat ional Journal, 17 (5), 570-586.
Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method
(2008). Cited at: [accessed 30/1/12]
Cole, J R (2005) Building Environmental Assessment Methods: Rede-
fining Intentions. Building Research and Information, 33 (5), Sep-
tember-October, pp. 455-467. Routledge, part of the Taylor & Fran-
cis Group.
USGBC. (2007). LEED for Homes Program Pilot Rating System.
Washington, DC:USGBC.
Building Services Journal (2008). Arup is taking the LEED, February
2008 cited at: [accessed:
Japan Sustainable Building Consortium (JSBC). (2006). Assessment
Tool of CASBEE cited at: [accessed 9/
Green Building Council Australia (GBCA). (2009) Green Star Rating
Tools. Cited at:
/953.htm [accessed 25/1/12]