Achieving the highest levels of green building standards such as BREEAM Outstanding, or LEED Platinum requires investment from clients and contractors. On average, the cost is 10-12% higher than  just meeting local building codes…But is it worth it?

BREEAM assesses design and construction teams’ work at all stages, and asks for proof, ensuring standards are kept high. The intermediate rating helps clients know their project is being delivered as designed, and the final rating proves it is built as intended.

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To really benefit from green building schemes and achieve the highest standards, the design and construction teams need to think about the whole life cycle of the building, build it to be more energy efficient and check its intended performance ‘in use’.

Using standards/schemes such as BREEAM can help overcome this gap by incentivising robust commissioning to ensure optimum operation of services, and a soft landing which ensures users understand controls and systems. Increasingly, Post-Occupancy Evaluations (POE) can be carried out to review the design and construction process and collect information on user satisfaction and building performance. This data can help improve future designs and allow optimisation of system settings.

Higher environmental ratings are often linked to savings in buildings operation, for example from energy and water (e.g. energy savings of the highest performing LEED buildings may be in excess of 35%, and water savings even higher, compared to similar uncertified buildings). But there are also other tangible benefits. A return on investment study for 33 LEED rated projects in the US, found that a capital  investment of 2% on top of normal construction costs could yield savings of ten-times the initial outlay over a 20 year life cycle when you take account of improvements in employee productivity and health.

BREEAM covers a plethora of ‘working environment’ issues relating to occupant health and wellbeing, ranging from the quality of indoor air and thermal comfort, to good day lighting. This is a considerable benefit for organisations, as buildings perform better in use, occupants are happy, healthier and more productive.
But there are also other benefits. There is a greater ‘kudos’ associated with a sustainable building, and it is well known that tenants are more likely to be attracted to green buildings than those that aren’t, which means more competitive rental incomes. Recent studies reveal that sale prices of BREEAM rated buildings are increased by about 15-20% and rental rates between 20-25% higher than conventional unrated buildings, with an average increase of about 3% rent per rating level for LEED-certified buildings. For developers, the ‘prime benefit of sustainable real estate’ is preservation or increase of the value of the building, followed by reputation, reduction of energy costs, emissions and operating costs. These benefits, as well as those mentioned above, act as a tangible stimulus for developers to invest higher green building ratings.
As the industry will need to meet tougher Building Regulations to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions in the built environment, the case for sustainable buildings will become even stronger. However, the construction industry will need to invest in up skilling their workforce to meet the increasingly high standards of sustainable buildings. And new leaner construction methods and technologies will have to be embraced to decrease the costs of building these highly sustainable projects and maintain developer interest.

About the author

Dr Hardip Mann

Senior Sustainability Advisor

After spending six years as the BRE’s BREEAM Quality Assurance Manager and Head of Technical Consultancy in their IAQ team, Hardip is a consummate expert in all things related to sustainable design strategy and indoor air quality.

Over a career that has spanned almost 30 years, Hardip has become one of the UK’s leading experts on BREEAM – he is a qualified BREEAM Assessor and a BREEAM Accredited Professional (AP). Since joining BAM he has worked with our customers to establish the most cost-effective and project relevant solutions to achieving their BREEAM and environmental targets at numerous sites, and he supports our tender teams with sustainable design strategy advice to satisfy the new, more demanding, BREEAM assessment. He has also provided BREEAM-related training to assessors and consultants, both at BRE and in commercial environments, undertaken research into BREEAM development and IAQ, and has published many peer-reviewed papers in this area.

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