The BREEAM Benchmark: Get An Outstanding Rating For Your Development

Posted by Chris Marsland on 07-Jun-2016 10:42:40

BREEAM is the world's foremost environmental assessment method and rating system for master-planning projects, infrastructure, and buildings. This is how you can get an ‘outstanding’ rating for your project…


Environmental performance assessments are now at the top of the list of major considerations when designing a new building development or a programme of refurbishment fit-out works in an existing building.

BREEAM (Building Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Methodology) has become the recognised way of providing evidence of a non-domestic commercial or industrial building’s environmental performance and sustainability. So how do we get an ‘excellent’ BREEAM rating?


1. Check the planning requirements

Most planning applications require an energy strategy and a sustainability statement as supporting evidence.

This ensures that you have considered all areas where energy can be saved, confirming that your building systems will consume energy efficiently and use low-carbon, low-energy sources. In fact, BREEAM may actually be a specified requirement.


2. When should I get started?

As early as possible in the design and procurement process. BREEAM comprises a design assessment and a post-construction assessment; but a pre-assessment will help identify key areas of environmental impact and confirm the minimum standards that need to be included in your design brief to achieve an ‘outstanding’ rating.

Ideally, you don’t want to retrospectively review your design and introduce changes at a later stage as this will have a significant financial impact and cause delays.


3. Choose the right BREEAM scheme

BREEAM is a benchmark rating scheme for new construction and refurbishment fit-out projects – providing comparison with other BREEAM rated buildings. 

The scheme has ten environmental performance sections, where credits are awarded for each based on evidence of best practice performance levels. (Note: there are differences in weightings and credits available between new construction and fit-out projects.)


BREEAM section No. of section categories Section weighting % (fully fitted) No. of credits available Overview of category requirements
Management 5 12 21 Sustainable management practices, e.g. life-cycle costs
Health and wellbeing 6 15 21 Increased comfort, health and safety, e.g. visual comfort and indoor air quality
Energy 9 15 31 Design of energy efficient solutions, e.g. reduction of energy use and carbon emissions
Transport 5 9 12 Better access for sustainable transport, e.g. public transport accessibility
Water 4 7 9 Sustainable water use, e.g. reducing demand for water consumption
Materials 6 13.5 14 Impact of construction materials, e.g. reduction in life-cycle impacts, responsible material sourcing
Waste 6 8.5 9 Sustainable management of waste, e.g. construction waste not sent to landfill
Land use and ecology 5 10 10 Land use, habitat protection, long-term biodiversity, e.g. minimising impact on existing site ecology
Pollution 5 10 13  Prevention and control of pollution, e.g. impact of refrigerants, NOx emissions, surface water run-off
Innovation  5  10  10  Opportunities for exemplary performance and innovation, e.g. use of innovative systems and technology


4. Calculating your score

A qualified BREEAM assessor will audit your building in accordance with the assessment criteria for the ten performance sections and their categories. 

An example of how a building’s BREEAM rating is calculated is given in the BREEAM technical manual.

The number of credits awarded is converted into a percentage of credits achieved. For example, five credits awarded out of a maximum ten available is 50% credits achieved. This is multiplied by the section weighting to give a section score.

The ten section scores are added together to give an overall section score (percentage). (Note that to achieve a particular performance level, BREEAM credits can be ‘traded’ to offset non-compliance in one area with compliance in another.)

This score is compared to the BREEAM rating benchmark levels to give the BREEAM rating. To achieve an ‘outstanding’ BREEAM rating, the overall section score needs to be greater than 85%.


5. Check the minimum standards for an ‘outstanding’ rating

However, even if your score is greater than 85%, you must still achieve all of the following minimum standards:


BREEAM issue

Minimum standard requirement

Man 03

Responsible construction practices

2 credits for considerate construction

Man 04

Commissioning and handover

Building User Guide required

Man 05


1 credit for seasonal commissioning

Ene 01

Reduction of energy use and carbon emissions

8 credits

Ene 02

Energy monitoring

1 credit (first sub-metering credit)

Wat 01

Water consumption

2 credits

Wat 02

Water monitoring

Specification for mains water meter

Mat 03

Responsible sourcing of materials

All timber and timber-based products legally harvested/traded

Wst 01

Construction waste management

1 credit

Wst 03

Operational waste

1 credit

LE 03

Minimising impact on existing site ecology

1 credit



6. Work on the main categories

Check if your local authority has any specific requirements. Energy, water, pollution, materials and the benefits of innovation are important categories, but all other aspects of BREEAM need to be covered and are valuable.

Evidence of climate change resilience, such as urban greening (green roofs), and resource efficiency (reuse / recycling of on-site building materials), are ways of gaining maximum credits.


7. Focus on energy

Energy accounts for the largest amount of section credits (31) and has the joint-highest section weighting (15%).

Compliance with the Building Regulations Part L is required for an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), so designing for an EPC ‘A’ rating is a good starting point.

Think about:

  • Energy efficient measures: air tightness, energy efficient equipment, and lighting.

  • Demand management measures: natural ventilation and solar shading.

  • Low-carbon and renewable technology: district heating networks, Combined Heat and Power (CHP), heat pumps, and solar panels.

  • Carbon offsetting (if applicable)


8. Consider Combined Heat and Power (CHP)

Combined Heat and Power (CHP), otherwise known as cogeneration, and trigeneration (for heat electrical and chilled water generation) systems can have a significant effect on improving your energy efficiency. This will reduce your CO2 emissions and reduce your energy costs.

BREEAM category Ene 01 has up to 12 credits for a building’s energy performance ratio, and CHP is proven to one of the best ways to minimise primary energy consumption and CO2 emissions in this category.


9. Review innovation in your design

An additional 1% is added to your BREEAM score for each ‘innovation’ credit (up to maximum 10%). Using an alternative fuel for a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) unit, such as Biogas or Anaerobic Digestion gas, may achieve an extra innovation credit. However, the security of this type of fuel supply minimises this in the market.


10. Complete your post-construction assessment

Make sure any construction phase works are completed in line with the design brief, so that evidence is available for the post-construction BREEAM assessment.

An ‘outstanding’ rating building project

The Central Bank of Ireland’s headquarters is one example of a new design building that achieved a BREEAM ‘outstanding’ rating at design stage.

The scheme received scores of 91.3% for energy and 88.89% for pollution by specifying a high-efficiency Combined Heat and Power (CHP) system and an advanced ventilation system for the building. In addition, the building achieved an 88.89% rating for its transport design.



  • Start BREEAM as early as possible, even if not specified in the planning requirements. improving environmental performance will save energy and money in the long term.

  • Check your pre-assessment rating and see where energy performance measures can improve the rating.

  • Focus on energy – the largest amount of section credits available.

  • Consider low-carbon technology, such as Combined Heat and Power (CHP), to gain credits and improve your building’s energy performance ratio.

  • Combined Heat and Power (CHP) will minimise primary energy consumption, reduce CO2 emissions and reduce your energy costs.

Discover the importance of low-carbon technology when planning a modern, energy efficient building of the future. Download your free report: Building for the future: how decisions at the planning stage can help you create an energy efficient building fit for the 21st century.

Building for the Future

Topics: Policy & Legislation, Building Design

Chris Marsland

Chris has worked in the CHP industry since 1998, before that he spent 12 years heading up the Product Development Team in an industrial process control company. He is a Chartered Engineer and a member of The IET. His role at ENER-G covers CHP New Product Design, Development and Production as well as supervising ENER-G’s R&D team.