Building sustainably with BREEAM


With over half a million certified buildings across 77 countries, the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) is easily one of the most widely used building sustainability assessment standards in the world. So why has the method proven so popular, and what are the advantages of targeting a top BREEAM certificate?

BREEAM basics

BREEAM was developed in the late 1980s through a partnership between the BRE, Stanhope Properties and ECD Energy and Environmental Consultants as a way to assess the sustainability of new offices. Since then, the assessment has evolved rapidly and now covers new, in-use and refurbishment building projects, along with community masterplanning and infrastructure development.

Sustainability is, of course, a somewhat vague term and a key factor in BREEAM’s success has been the pairing of clear, well-defined assessment areas (sections) with a straightforward credit scoring system. The current iterations of the UK new construction, refurbishment and fit out BREEAM assessments are separated into 10 sections:

  1. Management (Man 1 – Man 5)
  2. Health and Wellbeing (Hea 1 – Hea 6)
  3. Energy (Ene 1 – Ene 9)
  4. Transport (Tra 1 – Tra 5)
  5. Water (Wat 1 – Wat 4)
  6. Materials (Mat 1 – Mat 6)
  7. Waste (Wst 1 – Wst 6)
  8. Land Use and Ecology (LE 1 – LE 5)
  9. Pollution (Pol 1 – Pol 5)
  10. Innovation (Inn 1)

Each section is separated into a number of subsections with their own credited requirements. For example, our Kooltherm and Therma range products can contribute towards the award of credits within the following subsections of the Energy and Materials sections:

Ene 1 – Reduction of energy use and carbon emissions

This subsection considers the operational energy demand, primary energy usage and CO2 emissions from the building. Up to 12 credits are available for buildings which perform well across all of these areas, and whilst insulation products are not considered directly, a high level of fabric performance is one of the most effective ways to reduce energy usage, demand and CO2 emissions.

Mat 1 – Life cycle impacts

As the name suggests, this subsection looks at the long-term environmental impact of construction materials. Buildings are separated into elements (ie roof, external walls) with up to six credits available depending on the building type. Our Kooltherm and Therma range products can contribute through their BRE Green Guide summary ratings of A or A+.

Mat 3 – Responsible sourcing of materials

A couple of routes for demonstrating responsible sourcing compliance are available within this subsection, with a maximum of four credits available. Our OPTIM-R, TEK, Kooltherm, KoolDuct and Therma range products (manufactured at our Pembridge and Selby sites) can all contribute through their BES 6001 certification of ‘Very Good’ or ‘Excellent’.

Mat 4 – Insulation

This subsection looks specifically at the embodied impact of the insulation products with a single credit available. As with Mat 1 our products can contribute through their Green Guide summary ratings and a higher Green Guide rating, as many of our products achieve, will contribute to achieving credits in this area. More detailed information about the BREEAM credits Kingspan products can achieve is available in our technical bulletin.

Rating benefits

The credits for each section are totalled and then multiplied by an environmental weighting factor. This factor is designed to account for the relative importance of each section in different project types (ie fully fitted out or shell only). Section scores are then added together to produce a single overall score which can be translated into one of five ratings: Pass, Good, Very Good, Excellent, or Outstanding.

These ratings provide a concise summary of the long-term sustainable performance of each project, meaning the benefits are not only felt by occupants, but can also be clearly communicated to interested parties.

In addition, research from the BRE and Sweett Group has shown that there are clear financial advantages to targeting a top BREEAM rating. The research looked at new build office projects, revealing that whilst achieving an Excellent rating raised initial costs by 2%, these additional costs were paid back through utility savings in just two – five years.  As such, there is a clear case for going the extra mile to achieve a BREEAM Excellent or Outstanding rating.

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Kingspan Insulation is a market leading manufacturer of optimum, premium and high performance rigid insulation products and insulated systems for building fabric and building services applications.

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