BREEAM moves into refurbishment

BRE Global, BREEAM, refurbishment
The refurbishment of Charles Darwin House in London, a 1950s office building, achieved a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating. (Photo: © 2011 Charles Darwin House)

BREEAM, the environmental rating scheme that has previously focused just on new buildings is developing approaches for assessing refurbishment projects. Gavin Summerson of BRE Global has the details.

Much of the UK’s building stock needs to be improved and made more energy efficient. Two new BREEAM Refurbishment schemes aim to help deliver higher quality and more sustainable refurbishment projects, measure the improved sustainability of refurbished buildings and give recognition to those achieving high environmental standards.

The refurbishment of a building provides a valuable opportunity to improve environmental performance and reduce energy use and other costs. Refurbishment also has a vital role to play in helping the UK to meet its commitment to an 80% cut in carbon emissions by 2050, because most current buildings will still be in existence at that time.

The latest in the BREEAM family of environmental rating schemes are being developed to help building owners, managers and occupiers to carry out higher quality and more sustainable refurbishments.

BREEAM is the environmental rating system — the most widely used of its kind in the world — which independently assesses the sustainability of buildings. The new BREEAM Refurbishment schemes will measure the impact on sustainability of a refurbishment project and help to ensure that the most effective methods and technologies are used. They will guide refurbishment designs by identifying the sustainability issues that should be taken into account in the areas of energy, water, waste, materials, management, pollution and innovation.

The new schemes will support initiatives such as the Green Deal and others that help to reduce fuel poverty, mitigate risks from flooding, fire and security, and enhance the health and wellbeing of building users. It will also help developers, designers and, in future, Green Deal advisors to demonstrate their environmental credentials. Certification to the scheme will provide a market-focused label for domestic and non-domestic buildings that have had more sustainable and higher quality refurbishments.

Two BREEAM Refurbishment schemes are being developed. One is for housing (BREEAM Domestic Refurbishment) and is nearing completion. The other (BREEAM Non-Domestic Refurbishment) is for commercial, public sector, industrial etc. buildings, and is at an earlier but key stage of development. It is a dedicated version of BREEAM for non-domestic buildings that builds on BREEAM’s current application to refurbishment.

The development of the BREEAM Non-Domestic Refurbishment scheme will soon be entering an intense period of trialling and consultation. This follows a customer feedback study of assessors and clients for more than 60 refurbishment projects certified in 2010/2011 — including buildings such as Charles Darwin House in London, which achieved BREEAM ‘Excellent’, and the Museum of Science & Industry in Manchester which achieved ‘Very Good’.

Preparations are now underway for a major programme of pilot schemes involving a wide range of projects, from full refurbishments of large buildings to the fitting out of much smaller structures. The study will include several different building types (office, retail, healthcare, school and others) located throughout the country. Preliminary meetings with participating organisations such as British Land, whose portfolio includes a number of central London offices, are being held, and work on the pilot projects is due to start in July this year.

In addition to the pilot projects there will be a wide-ranging open consultation — also due to start in July. Everyone with an interest in the scheme will be able to comment on its principles and key aspects, the way it will work and any changes that are being made. The aim is to give everyone a chance to have their say and to help shape the scheme. The scheme document resulting from this exercise and incorporating the lessons learned in the pilot projects will then go out for extensive peer review.

BREEAM Non-Domestic Refurbishment will measure a building’s environmental performance before and after refurbishment — as will BREEAM Domestic Refurbishment — in order to assess the impact of the project on sustainability. In the process, opportunities for cost effectively improving sustainability as part of the project will be highlighted.

One area in which the non-domestic version will differ from the domestic scheme is that it will be linked with BREEAM In-Use (there is no BREEAM In-Use scheme for housing) so the refurbishment assessment will also look at the performance of the building asset, how the building is being managed and how those issues can be improved.

The detailed mechanisms are still being finalised. For example, there may be a project credit for having a building management assessment carried out through BREEAM In-Use to identify potential improvements in the building’s management. The project will achieve a higher rating score if these issues are then addressed in the refurbishment.

The impact that the refurbishment has on the building’s value could also be assessed; there are increasing indications that more sustainable buildings have an enhanced market value. BREEAM Non-Domestic Refurbishment is expected to help provide detailed evidence of this.

BREEAM Domestic Refurbishment is at a very advanced stage of development, with its peer review process nearing completion and its launch date shortly to be announced.

The scheme will be used to cost-effectively improve a range of projects.

• Making various alterations to a home — for example, replacing windows and fitting new insulation.

• Conversions and change-of-use projects — such as converting a large dwelling into smaller ones, or an old hospital into housing.

• Refurbishment and regeneration schemes covering large numbers of homes.

Certification of a refurbishment project will be provided by a fully trained and competent person who is either a:

• BREEAM Domestic Refurbishment assessor — who can independently assess a refurbishment project of any size at design and post-refurbishment stages, or a

• BREEAM Domestic Refurbishment professional — who can issue a self-declaration certificate to a small-scale refurbishment project (only at the post-refurbishment stage) that they have been involved with, following a similar approach to the Domestic Energy Assessor model.

Anyone wanting to qualify as a BREEAM Domestic Refurbishment assessor can attend a training course — details of which can be found at www.breeam.org/events. Information on the training courses for BREEAM Domestic Refurbishment Professionals will be announced in due course.

For more information about the BREEAM Refurbishment schemes go to the web site below. 

BRE Global, BREEAM, refurbishment
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