Assessments part 2
Assessments part 2

BY IN Uncategorized On 06-07-2015

Useful tips for completing BREEAM Assessments part 2

The following tips provide an insight into some of the most common issues arising during BREEAM assessments, including BREEAM strategies, targeting of essential credits, minimum evidence requirements, risk management procedures, and much more. Each tip is based on the author’s views, knowledge, and experience of delivering BREEAM assessments, and how the pitfalls associated with credit validation can be avoided. It assumed the reader has a basic understanding of the BREEAM process and the sequence of certification. It is emphasised that no distinction has been made between any of the construction procurement routes, although this will have some bearing on the overarching BREEAM strategy.

Tip 6: Avoid confusing CIBSE Commissioning Codes & BISRA Guides with post-construction M&E Sign-off Certification

Confusing CIBSE Commissioning Codes and BISRA Guides with post-construction M&E sign-off certification is a common problem that can be easily avoided. M&E sub-contractors will often submit NICEIC documentation, gas safety certificates, chlorination documentation, etc. as a means of demonstrating compliance with the BREEAM criteria; however, the requirements for compliance go way beyond post-construction certification, and include a wider range of requirements that M&E teams must comply with.

The BREEAM criteria for commissioning includes design of M&E systems, installation procedures, operational function under full load conditions, and much more. To achieve compliance, commissioning of energy systems must be completed in line with CIBSE Commissioning Codes, BISRA Guides, Building Regulations, and any other relevant standard applicable to the building. This means that where a building has mechanical and/or electrical systems installed, there will be a relevant CIBSE Commissioning Code and/or BISRA Guide that must be adhered to, in order to validate the targeted credit[s].

For example – “CIBSE Commissioning, Code C,” provides guidance on establishing a commissioning team, commissioning management, phased inspections, control strategy checking, lighting controls, witnessing, documentation handover, etc. M&E teams must comply with the guidance provided within this document at the post-construction stage. NICICE documents, gas safe certificates, chlorination certificates, etc. in isolation do not achieve the BREEAM criteria. Evidence must be presented to the assessor during the commissioning stage, which proves that the relevant CIBSE/BISRA Code/Guides have been followed.

Tip 7: Avoid confusing the Building User Guide with the O+M manual

The Building User Guide and O+M manual are two different documents that are often confused with one another, which is understandable, as there is some level of overlap between the two. The confusion is usually created due to a misunderstanding as to what level of content should be included within the BUG, and this can lead to delays in validating the assessment at handover, and frustration within the project team. A BUG should be an easy-to-follow document that provides simple instructions to non-technical building users and visitors, enabling them to access the building as per the original design intent.

The Building User Guide is a regularly targeted credit that often falls between the gaps of responsibility, in particular, where no individual has been tasked at the outset of a project to draft and complete the document. It often becomes the task of the M&E team to produce the BUG, although this approach can create its own problems, as the BUG is not an O+M Manual, i.e. it includes basic M&E information only that refers to the O+M Manual, should greater clarity be required.

A BUG should be an informative, non-technical document that includes the following content as a minimum; an overview of the environmental strategy, information on nearby transport links, water and energy efficiency systems, location of control switches, access to shared facilities, action on visitor arrivals, safety & emergency instructions, incident reporting, access to local amenities, training information/links, references and contact details, maintenance requirements, etc.

It is recommended to produce a draft copy as early in the construction stage as possible; and thereafter update it as the development progresses, making the process of issuing the document at handover much easier to complete. A good approach is to appoint an individual who can direct, control, and prepare the BUG in line with the building’s design and construction specifications.

Tip 8: Ensure sub-meters can record space heating & domestic hot water separately, in particular on BREEAM [Very Good] buildings

Sub-metering of energy systems, in particular, space heating and domestic hot water is an issue that often arises during post-construction site visits, whereby on inspection of the plant/plant-room, it is established that the sub-metering arrangements do not achieve the BREEAM criteria. This situation can become a real problem where an assessment has a specified rating of “Very Good”, or above as sub-metering of space heating and domestic hot water is a minimum requirement. Sub-metering not designed and installed in line with BREEAM can trigger expensive uplifts and/or disruptive retrospective action.

Sub-metering specifications should be confirmed at the earliest stages of a development to ensure they are BREEAM compliant. However, where a development is procured on a design-and-build basis, this can be difficult to achieve, as the detailed design of sub-meters is often not known until the later stages. In this scenario, and to avoid any doubt, M&E teams should be made aware of the obligations at each key meeting in order to safeguard the credits, and this will help avoid difficulties arising during the post-construction stage.

Where a building has simple heating systems, such as combination boilers, micro CHP units or a mixture of energy systems, the possibility of non-compliance is further exacerbated. Therefore, special attention should be paid to the requirements; this could prevent retrospective installation measures at handover.

Special Note: there is an additional obligation to sub-meter major fans, although under BREEAM 2011, there is no definition as to what constitutes a major fan. To address this issue, under BREEAM 2014, a major fan is defined as “fans within air handling units, including multiple fans contained within a single unit”. The requirement does not include small fans such as those found in single rooms”.

Tip 9: Be aware of Site Waste Management Plans & BREEAM targets

Most contractors have robust policies put in place to deal with the removal of construction waste from site, and thereafter, the collection of data in order to confirm the amount of waste recycled. However, this issue primarily rewards for the reduction of waste before it is generated via good design measures, innovation, and sound construction practices. On many occasions, waste data sheets are produced during site meetings with the amount of recycled waste proudly highlighted, although three out of the four available credits are for waste reduction, and not for waste recycling.

BREEAM waste credits are split into two main parts: the reduction of waste via the construction process, and the diversion of any unavoidable waste from landfill. Waste generated from the demolition and/or excavation process should not be included in the BREEAM figures. A further area of confusion is the amount of waste allowable under the different versions of BREEAM as the targets have been revised over time.

For example, under BREEAM 2008, to achieve three credits, the amount of waste allowable is <4.7 tonnes per 100m2 of gross internal floor area [or less]; under BREEAM 2011 and 2014, this figure has been reduced to <3.2 tonnes, i.e. a tougher target, and one the site teams need to be aware of.

Under BREEAM 2014, a demolition audit must be completed to determine the amount of materials recoverable for subsequent high grade/value applications. The audit must be referenced within the Resource Management Plan [RMP], and issued to the BREEAM assessor for validation during the early stages of construction.

Special Note: On all versions of BREEAM, if 80%> of any unavoidable waste is recycled, one credit is achieved; if 90%> of waste is recycled, an innovation credit is achieved.

Tip 10: Identify fall back credits

As described above, BREEAM pre-assessments are live documents that are subject to change, variation, and amendment with the progress of a development. On many occasions, an assessment will reach the post-construction stage only to find out that several credits have become non-compliant, for one reason or another, which can lead to delays at handover, contractual disputes, and financial problems. In the worst case scenario, this could result in a failure to achieve the specified BREEAM rating for the building.

The identification of fall back credits is an advanced risk management skill that should be adopted on all BREEAM assessments. The aim is to include backup credits that can be activated, should they become required without any significant uplift in costs. The main reasons for taking this approach is to counter the inevitability that some credits will be lost due to unknowns and/or unexpected results that arise during the construction stage. This includes issues, such as reduced SBEM scores [that can go down for a variety of reasons], reduced CCS scores [in particular on rural sites], bus and rail timetables changes, consultants are not appointed on time, appointment of non-compliant BREEAM consultants, etc.

The most effective way to ensure assessments are risk managed effectively is to target fall back credits early on, during the pre-tender phase [this is difficult to achieve on BREEAM Excellent buildings as most credits will have already been targeted]. Fall back credits should not be confused with credits tagged as “further potential”, as they are not potential credits. Fall back credits are actual credits that can be validated at any time during a development. This can include credits such as Man1 [gathering of energy data], Man1 [seasonal commissioning], Ene1 [reduction of emissions, i.e. an uplift in scores via improved energy systems and/or renewables], Le4 [uplift in landscaping planting], and more.

Tip 11: Remember the aim and purpose of BREEAM:

It is easy to lose sight of the purpose of BREEAM, especially when there are difficulties in achieving compliance at the post-construction stage. Therefore, a reemphasis on the value BREEAM is bringing to a development is encouraged at key stage meetings in order to maintain momentum and keep the team informed.

In addition, it is important to note that BREEAM is a performance-based method of certification, with the main purpose of mitigating the life cycle impacts that arise from construction projects in a robust and cost-effective way. As with the communication of most construction projects, command and control, management skills and leadership should be the focus, as without these, there will be problems.

It is hoped that the above tips have provided you with a greater insight into each of the topic areas and the potential pitfalls that can develop during an assessment. It is stressed, the points outlined are general issues only, and are by no means exhaustive as many other could have been included.

For more information on how TWC Consulting can assist you with your BREEAM assessments, and how to obtain a quotation for our services, please contact a member of our team on 0844 272 8871 or email us on

thomas claffey

Author Thomas Claffey is a well-known and respected Sustainable Building Designer and BREEAM Assessor providing advice and guidance on all types of developments across the UK. Currently, Thomas is working with main contractors, private and public sector clients, business owners, and managers on how to get the most from BREEAM assessment using advanced construction strategies, value-engineering workshops and credit offsetting.

The distinct advantage Thomas brings comes from his full understanding of the construction process and knowledge of the legal and mandatory requirements that must be implemented on all construction projects.


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