The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented public health crisis and the most significant shock wave since the Great Depression, exposing weaknesses in our economy and society. It has also demonstrated what society can achieve by working for a common goal against a common threat.
Demand for a return to a better normal is increasing with spotlights being shone on other global issues; the impending threat of climate change being most prevalent.
Without action the global climate change crisis will cause social and economic damages far greater than those caused by COVID-19. Together, buildings and construction are responsible for 39% of all carbon emissions in the world . Much like COVID-19, climate change is a global challenge which affects us all. It’s agreed, we must build back better.
BREEAM is ideally placed to help the built environment deliver this in a meaningful way and help the sector seize this opportunity.
BREEAM provides solutions
BREEAM was the world’s first sustainability rating and BREEAM standards are tailored to address the unique aspects of each life cycle stage in the built environment. Through their use, BREEAM standards support investors, developers, other clients and stakeholders to deliver and validate the sustainability value of their assets and, in doing so, create higher values and lower risks for business, people and our communities.
BREEAM works by bringing multiple disciplines together to focus on one common, holistic framework. It sets performance levels to support a consistent method but also offers tradeable measures to provide flexibility.
BREEAM has been considering its role and responsibility in the effort to build back better. BREEAM’s contribution can be explored in greater depth in our overarching briefing paper ‘Building Back Better with BREEAM: Supporting the green recovery’. This webpage acts as the BREEAM Building Back Better Hub where you will find an overview on various environmental, economic and social issues that BREEAM addresses. The BREEAM position on each of these issues is further detailed in the specific briefing papers for each. These will be released over the coming months as we work through the challenge that is the COVID-19 pandemic together. Each briefing paper can be accessed through the topic areas below, keep an eye on the Building Back Better Hub and our Twitter and Linkedin feeds for updates as new information becomes available. We will continue to work with our clients, stakeholders and assessors as we develop these ideas and endeavour to keep you informed as we progress our thinking around the green recovery to build back to a better normal together.
Net Zero Carbon
With buildings generating nearly 40% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions, meaningful action by the real estate and construction industries is critical to ensure the 2016 Paris Agreement target to limit on global warming to 1.5°C.
All BREEAM standards strongly incentivise carbon emission reduction, with flexible benchmarks relating to operational and embodied performance. BREEAM’s methodologies constantly evolve and adapt to reflect the latest science and industry thinking and are tailored for building/asset type and life cycle stage to better support challenging but achievable emission reductions.
During the summer of 2020, stakeholders were invited to complete a survey intended to gather views on net zero carbon and understand how BREEAM should support progress towards it. In response, we have developed a strategy based on six propositions for BREEAM and net zero carbon which can be accessed via the link below. To kick-start the delivery of the strategy, our next steps are as follows:-
- Work with, and support industry in achieving greater consensus on how to achieve net zero carbon;
- Develop and test proposals for a new ‘zero whole life carbon’ methodology; prioritising the new construction schemes;
- Map alignment between BREEAM schemes and carbon reduction pathways, starting with CRREM;
- Develop and test proposals for a new net zero carbon verification service, operationally as well as technically.
The circular economy refers to an economic state where resources are kept in a continuous circle of use. The current ‘take–make–waste’linear economies seen around the world consume large quantities of virgin resources to make products, only to permanently dispose of them at the end of their use. This represents a colossal loss of value in terms of the resources that the products contain and the extraction, energy and processes invested in them.
BREEAM is a powerful enabler for a circular economy in the construction and real estate sectors. Circular economy principles relating to sustainable physical resource use are rewarded through a range of credits across the family of schemes offered by BREEAM inspiring the built environment to build back better by rethinking current paradigms.
The pandemic has shone a bright spotlight on the importance of health and wellbeing within the built environment, where we work and play must be future proofed against a possible resurgence. As 90% of an organisation’s typical operating outgoing can be attributed to staff related costs and those living in western societies are estimated to spend 90% of their lifetime indoors an asset’s health related performance is more relevant, more crucial even, than ever before.
Improving indoor environmental quality and occupant health has been a main objective of BREEAM since it first launched in 1990. Over the years the breadth of performance measures covered has also grown including those directly related to air quality, visual and thermal comfort, active and healthy lifestyles, ecological enhancements and proximity to the outdoors, asset and site management.
Recent global events have drawn a spotlight on the deep-rooted inequalities that still exist in all communities and societies around the world.
BREEAM acknowledges the significant role it plays in shaping decisions in the built environment around the world and aims to shape standards to proactively encourage positive social impacts that provide universal and equal access, dignity and fair treatment to people in addition to addressing and mitigating environmental impacts.
BREEAM’s vision for a socially equitable built environment goes beyond fit-for-purpose to one that is socially sensitive and consciously contributing to the long-term economic growth, health and wellbeing, resilience and cohesion of people and communities.
Resilience is not just about the capacity of a system or building to survive and adapt, but it is also about growing value, regardless of the challenges experienced.
With the global COVID-19 pandemic the real estate sector is facing challenges with organisations reconsidering commercial and office space, seeking assurance around health and safety of their employees and consumer behaviour shifting towards online shopping, amongst others. Functional adaptability has become particularly important in this changing landscape.
Resilience has been part of the BREEAM standards since the beginning, though with a heavy focus on mitigation and in more recent times, with the integration of adaptation aspects to provide the balance needed as our climate changes. BREEAM also encourages a focus on risks connected to the transition to a low carbon economy, by encouraging the assessment and mitigation of the relevant technological, policy and legal risks.
Our time in lockdown has given us a powerful reminder of the profound value that natural spaces provide as places to connect, revitalise and inspire. It is hard to overstate the value that nature gives us.
The built environment plays a crucial role in protecting and recovering nature, from the way it procures products and services, to the habitats and ecological networks that are lost, damaged or disrupted.
BREEAM provides a meaningful and evolving pathway towards ecological protection, mitigation and recovery as part of development and management by complementing industry good practice, approaches to biodiversity recovery and providing the added value of independent assurance. BREEAM’s approach recognises the value of nature-based solutions by supporting flora and fauna, while providing functions that contribute to health and help people and their communities thrive.
What this space for BREEAM’s position on the Natural Environment
Quality and Whole Life Performance
The real estate and built environment sector are facing challenges with productivity, quality, performance and transparency which were widely recognised and documented before the COVID-19 pandemic.
BREEAM encourages the adoption of sustainable management practices in connection with design, construction, commissioning, and aftercare rewarding planned handover and commissioning processes that reflect the needs of the building occupants and through the provision of aftercare to the building owner and occupants during the first year of occupation.
The suite of BREEAM In-Use products encourages sustainable management practices throughout the life cycle of the asset, ensuring that both technical and non-technical building operators and users have appropriate guidance on how they can help maximise sustainable performance.
Watch this space for our Quality and Whole Life Performance briefing paper coming soon.