Why the scientific methodology behind BREEAM might not be good for CEEQUAL?

BRE have just announced that they have purchased CEEQUAL and will take over the running of the scheme.  CEEQUAL say “Over the next two years BRE will, with the involvement of the current CEEQUAL and BREEAM delivery teams and communities, combine the best elements and features of both approaches into a new and improved holistic scheme for industry that combines CEEQUAL’s team and process-focussed approach with BREEAM’s more asset-based scientific methodology

So why do I question BREEAM’s scientific methodology? The reason is that the scores for various credits seem to reward some actions in a way which does not reflect the actual environmental impact of the action.

BREEAM scores

As you can see from the table above, which covers Materials Related BREEAM 2014 credits, weighted for a Fully Fitted Out building, the greatest score can be obtained by using building elements with a Good Green Guide rating.  However, some of this score can come from the use of products with Environmental Product Declarations.  This might show that the product used is the terrible in terms of environmental impact, but the Mat 01 uplift points will still be awarded.

Where I really question BREEAM however is in the weighting given to construction waste.  It is possible to obtain 3.8% of a perfect BREEAM Score by reducing construction waste to exemplary levels (Wst 01).  This is excellent, and performance based.  But with construction waste being between 2 and 10% of materials used, does it really merit half the BREEAM score from specifying low impact building elements (8.8%)? Additionally, if you recycle exemplary levels of what construction waste you do produce, you are able to obtain a further 1.9%, meaning you can obtain almost as much reward for doing something good with less than 10% of the materials used, compared to the reward for what materials are used in the first place.  If BREEAM was scientific, it would not be possible to obtain more than 10% of the Mat 01 score from Wst 01.

Similarly, 1.9% is available by specifying exemplary levels of Recycled Aggregates.  Recycled aggregates are already considered within the Green Guide ratings for upper floors, concrete structure and hard landscaping, so this is a double counting of benefit.  On top, does the use of recycled aggregate really merit about 30% of the score for specifying low impact materials for walls, floor, roof and hard landscaping?

The same is true for insulation which has 1% compared to 6.8% for the other building elements. Many studies have shown insulation has a tiny influence on the embodied impact of the building – its major effect is in reducing operational impacts – but BREEAM focusses heavily on the embodied impacts of insulation using Mat 04 without any scientific basis.

Hopefully, through the process of consultation as BRE now develop CEEQUAL v6/BREEAM Infrastructure, it will be possible to ensure that the credit structure has a more scientific basis.  But evidence from BREEAM 2014 shows that credits are more often weighted towards aspects which can be easily measured, or which ensure BRE business from Green Guide ratings, rather than on the basis of impact.



About constructionlca

Co-author Green Guide to Specification, expert in Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), EPDs and sustainability for the construction materials sector Researching Building LCA and how we can increase uptake at the Open University. Tweets as @constructionlca
This entry was posted in BRE Global, Embodied Impacts, Environmental Product Declarations, EPD, Green Guide, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Why the scientific methodology behind BREEAM might not be good for CEEQUAL?

  1. Excellent summary of a few of the perverse outcomes of BREEAMs current approach. It is my understanding that BREEAM plan on moving on from the green guide and towards full LCA, however their cogs seem to move very slowly. Its a shame that the far more pragmatic DGNB in Germany didnt take on CEEQUAL…

  2. Indeed, considering the Dutch have to undertake a Building LCA as part of their Building Regulations and an Infrastructure LCA as a requirement of Green Public Procurement, it is a mystery why BREEAM is moving so very slowly toward using Building LCA as a tool to evaluate environmental performance over the life cycle.

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