Luz Arquitectos

1. Advantages of sustainable construction

A building has a fairly high annual expense. It is a cost that investors take into account. Sus

tainable construction and high energy efficiency are interesting for reducing the expenses of a building. Green buildings are a solution to the problem of high energy consumption. The advantages of an ecological building are well studied and are known to users and investors. Here I highline some of the adventages:

The operating cost is reduced

Comfort and hygiene are increased

Users and workers in green buildings are more efficient in their tasks

Less emissions of carbon dioxide

Although we already know that obtaining a sustainability certificate and reaching an ecological standard in a building means an increase in investment costs.

There are many systems to assess the sustainability of a building, for example, Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM), Leedership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Nachhaltiges Bauen (DGNB), WELL, Passivhaus, etc.

This text focuses on the BREEAM certification because of its popularity. However, we will analyse LEED, Passivhaus and WELL certifications in the same way later.

2. Why is it good to have a sustainability certification for a building?

First, certifying means following a process, a well-defined methodology. Which is a way to have a step-by-step guide to achieve a sustainable project in a real and fluid way.

Second. In a certification, the objectives are established in a way that can be measured in a tangible way, so that sustainability can be easily evaluated and compared between buildings. Therefore, the building data is measurable and as user you can evaluate the quality of what has been achieved.

And finally, you can check the quality. In other words, it is possible to ensure and corroborate that the measures or objectives set have been successfully achieved. The final result of the project is not only in the hands of the planning team and the construction company, but an external entity controls the entire design and construction process so that the final result meets the objectives that have been defined in the project. This entity has to justify everything carried out on site in order for it to grant us the sustainability certification.

These are the most popular reasons developers choose to certify a building, ordered from highest to lowest decision weight.

  1. Changes in the market
  2. Lower costs in 10 years.
  3. Customer requirements.
  4. Healthier construction.
  5. Market requirements.
  6. Awareness that it is the right thing to do.
  7. Environmental regulations.
  8. Commitments and internal corporations.
  9. High value of buildings.

3. ¿What is BREEAM?

It started in the UK and is now popular around the world. BREEAM leads the list of sustainability certifications. For example, between 2013 and 2017, more than 10,800 certification assessments were issued in the design and construction process. This method was launched in 1990 in the UK through the Building Research Establishment (BRE). At the beginning it focused a lot on environmental aspects, but in the last decade economic and social aspects have been added. It is currently being applied in more than 77 countries around the world.

Some reasons to choose BREEAM

For the BREEAM certification, 10 categories are taken into account to measure the value of sustainability: management, health and well-being, energy, transport, water, materials, waste, land use and ecology, pollution, innovation. Each of these categories is divided into other specific questions in that field with a specific objective and a specific score.

During the certification process, a BREEAM consultant determines how much score is awarded to each of the categories. Record the points or credits in a table where they are weighted and adjusted to a scoring scale: excellent, very good, good, approved and not graded.

Does BREEAM meet Sustainable Development Goals?

The method demonstrates support for the sustainable development goals because through the set of 10 BREEAM categories, a large part of the sustainable development goals is contributed. As minimum, BREEAM contributes to the fulfilment of the following SDG sustainable development goals:

  • SDG 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
  • SDG 6. Guarantee the availability of water and its sustainable management and sanitation for all.
  • SDG 7. Ensure access to affordable, safe, sustainable and modern energy for all
  • SDG 9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure
  • SDG 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  • SDG 12. Guarantee sustainable consumption and production patterns
  • SDG 13. Adopt urgent measures to combat climate change and its effects
  • SDG 15. Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation and halt the loss of biodiversity
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4. Step by step to get BREEAM Certification

It always starts with choosing a recognized advisor. They are usually independent professionals and they are not related with clients, with planning team and with the promoter. Advisors are recognized by BREEAM as the valid interlocutors to represent the BREEAM certifying entity. They do the consulting and advisory work from the project phase to the execution phase and even in the maintenance phase.

The consultant person registers the project, performs a pre-evaluation and defines the strategy to be followed to achieve certification. The final evaluation is accompanied by a collection of evidence that the assessor defines in a report, so that a provisional certificate can be awarded in that design phase. Afterwards, to issue the Final Certificate in the post-construction phase, a verification of the report presented by the assessor is made, and the evidences are reviewed and all the justifications of the requirements are made so that the BREEAM endorsement grants the final certificate.

5. Recommendations, tips and advice to get the BREEAM certificate.

Comparisons and studies have been prepared that conclude with some ways that help to achieve a sustainable design and facilitate the scope of the BREEAM certification.

  1. The first thing is that the evaluation method must be planned and carried out from the first stage of its design in order to facilitate the inclusion of actions and recommendations by the BREEAM advisor. It is even possible to speed up and facilitate the execution of the ecological building.
  2. It is also observed that it is important to include in the execution of the project the figure of an industrial engineer and an ecologist. These two technicians help address the requirements of the assessment.

6. BREEAM differences regarding other certificates

On the one hand, it is characterized by being the first sustainability certificate for buildings in the world created in 1990. And it has international recognition, which produces an important visibility for the promoters of the building.

The most substantial difference with respect to other certificates is that BREEAM adapts its own requirements to the national regulations of each country.

Another characteristic is that in any case a BREEAM adviser is the one who coordinates all the information between the certifying entity and the drafting, construction and developer team.

A BREEAM advisor has an accreditation by ENAC, ISO17024 standard for personal certification,

This is also a substantial difference with respect to other sustainability certifications. For all this, there is no direct link between the certifying entity and the promoter.

7. Costs associated to BREEAM certification

  • What improvement measures do you make to the building to meet the requirements?

In summary, and based on various studies and comparisons in research articles, it is assumed that for the highest rating, BREEAM Interim Excellent, construction costs can increase up to a maximum of 10% compared to a non-certified building.

  • The cost of a BREEAM advisor is of free competition in the market.
  • The certification fees are published on the BREEAM website.

According to the US Green Building Council, maintenance costs in green buildings are almost 20% lower compared to ordinary commercial buildings. In addition, in the case of buildings in the process of modernization, already in the first year, the cost reduction can amount to up to 10%, which means that the repayment period for the improvement costs is closed in 7 years.

Note: The “green buildings” are causing a number of environmental benefits and are reducing sickness absence at work as they offer greater health and wellness in the building.

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Author: Pablo Vílchez García

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