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Do our assessment methods work?

23 Jul 2013 at 11:41 AM

We recently attended a BRE / University of Reading Workshop which explored the landscape of sustainable development.

The workshop specifically considered how current assessment methods like BREEAM shape the social, economic and environmental outcomes in large scale developments.

We heard from developers, planners, assessors and academics about their experiences in using assessment methods such as Code for Sustainable Homes and BREEAM, and so we wanted to share some common threads, thoughts and findings with you…..



It emerged that successful assessments, which commonly overachieved on their target level had a very tight fitting team and methodology.

The ‘tight fit’ requires integration of BREEAM into design and construction decisions at all levels, firm ownership within the client and a genuine sustainability commitment from all parties. These successful assessments also relied upon a hands on, proactive assessor who often worked with both client and contractor.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is the ‘bolt on’ assessment, where a disparate project team lacks a sustainability commitment and ownership. The team is often inexperienced and lacks continuity on the project.

These findings certainly strike a chord with us and our own experiences of both Code and BREEAM assessments!

  • A BREEAM certificate does not add £££ value to the finished product – Sustainability, good construction and post occupancy evaluations are what really drive value
  • BREEAM is a very useful, simple tool to communicate sustainability – which is otherwise a complex issue for tenants and owners to understand
  • Occupiers mostly care about thermal comfort and daylighting – but is the daylighting credit too difficult to achieve?
  • BREEAM is too broad and complex in its current format – 2014 changes may be a ‘crunch point’
  • BREEAM is not flexible enough – assessor needs more autonomy to make ‘local’ decisions
  • Post Occupancy Evaluations (POE) are key – But what do you do with the information? Dearth of POE evidence out there

BREEAMAssessment resize

New Build Homes

  • Housebuilders seek standardisation above everything else – standardisation drives profit for shareholders
  • House builders want a rating system to exist for this reasonCode or HQM should not disappear under the Housing Standards Review – requirements for performance above the regulations should evolve
  • There are two types of ‘green’ consumers of homes – cost conscious and ‘committed greens’
  • The cost of Code or HQM assessment is being absorbed in different places – In the north the developer may pay the premium, but elsewhere where land prices are expensive it is the land owner (seller)
  • Schemes above the Building Regulations are a valuable tool to drive the NPPF – and encourage sustainable development under local plans

Attendees at the workshop included Skanska, Network Housing Group, BRE, Mott Macdonald, Synergy BSS, Prologis, Zero Carbon Hub as well as leading representatives from Reading, Sheffield Hallam and Northumbria Universities.

We also heard from Steve Quartermain, Chief Planner for CLG.

By Pete Mitchell

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