New report proves value of BREEAM

Since BREEAM was first introduced in 1990 there has been much debate about its value.  However, a new report, commissioned by Schneider Electric and conducted by BSRIA, has offered new insight into the discussions around its cost to businesses and whether this is a major factor in the choice to opt into having a BREEAM accredited building.

While the initial perception by many is that achieving BREEAM can be a costly and expensive choice, the findings of the report actually revealed less than half of respondents incurred significant extra costs on their latest BREEAM rated project, and four in ten (40%) said they didn’t incur extra charges compared to a non-BREEAM project.  In fact, for some respondents the additional costs weren’t an issue since BREEAM is seen as an investment for the future, with payback coming from the reduced running costs of the building.

 Surprisingly, in light of the current economic climate, the report showed that for many the economic benefits of BREEAM were low down on their list of priorities; this is despite the fact that many of the benefits have a cost impact. However, the main reasons for going for BREEAM certification were company policy/CSR (47%), planning requirement (33%), and regulatory or procurement reasons (16%).  When put in the context of the founding aims of BREEAM, then the accreditation is encouraging organisations to reduce the lifecycle impact of their buildings, demonstrate their environmental commitments by having a credible label they can use and stimulate demand for sustainable buildings.

Positive outcome

A major positive to come out of the report was that there did not appear to be a significant link between the amount of cost increase and the level of BREEAM rating sought.  Instead a more deciding factor influencing the cost of the project was the point at which BREEAM was included in the design process.  A number of respondents collectively acknowledged that the earlier the decision is made, the better chance there is of keeping costs down.

 The picture wasn’t completely rosy though.  Respondents identified that BREEAM doesn’t consider operational costs and only 47% of those surveyed thought about operational costs versus capital build costs.  Therefore, as part of the process to improve the end user’s ability to measure savings, changes need to be made to ensure more focus is made on running efficiencies.  It’s also vital that the entire supply chain are privy to this insight as the report’s findings show the current level of awareness is low.  When asked if respondents knew if the client recovered the cost of BREEAM, 23% said they didn’t know.

Air pollution is a forgotten crisis

Poor air quality has been found to cause 29,000 premature deaths in the UK each year. Meanwhile the Government is failing to recognise the impact of its policies on air quality and is still failing to meet European targets for safe air pollution limits across many parts of the country. In response, CIWEM has joined as a partner in the Healthy Air Campaign to raise awareness of this forgotten crisis.

The Healthy Air Campaign is a coalition of NGOs tackling the public health crisis caused by air pollution. The aim is to encourage behaviour that helps cut air pollution and exposure to it and persuade the government to take action so the UK complies fully with international air quality law.

The impacts of air pollution on public health have long been known, yet the Government has failed to introduce measures to meet European targets for air quality. Instead multi-million pound infraction fines from the EU for failing these targets could be passed onto Local Authorities under new powers introduced by the Localism Act.

Next year responsibility for public health will transfer to local authorities, with each setting up its own Health and Wellbeing Board. Local authorities would potentially have infraction fines to pay at the same time as suffering from budget cuts. CIWEM is concerned that without raising the profile of air quality, it could easily become lost beneath the plethora of problems local authorities will also need to tackle.

CIWEM’s Executive Director, Nick Reeves OBE, says: “Ten years ago we thought most of our local air quality problems would be solved by now.  Today we know better. Road transport remains the main culprit and we need political commitment to the issue to improve. The government should not forget that a public health crisis has significant impacts on the economy. I am hopeful that the Healthy Air Campaign along with CIWEM’s support can bring the issue to the attention of the public, the media, and politicians. The Government needs to put the health of the nation first and take responsibility for educating the public about the health risks from poor air quality, and about how they could limit their exposure to it.”

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