What is BREEAM?

First launched in 1990, BREEAM was the world’s first environmental assessment method for new building designs. It uses a balanced scorecard approach with tradable credits to enable the market to decide how to achieve optimum environmental performance for the project. Over the years BREEAM has been regularly updated and applied to an ever growing range of development types, designs and lifecycle stages. BREEAM is now applied in its various forms in over 50 countries.

In 2011 BREEAM committed to widening the group of stakeholders involved in its future development, both strategically and at the local level. In doing so it aims to be a vehicle for design support, as well as assessment, across all development life cycle stages and infrastructure, including the master planning of large scale developments. In BREEAM Communities the environmental assessment method is expanded to more holistically approach sustainability with greater consideration of the social and economic impacts of development. BREEAM is a continually evolving methodology. This places BREEAM in the forefront of sustainable development, with local schemes, processes, science and governance cooperating internationally under an overarching framework defined by core standards and core science.

Aims of BREEAM

BREEAM aims to ensure that its standards provide social and economic benefits whilst mitigating the environmental impacts of the built environment. In doing so, BREEAM enables developments to be recognised according to their sustainability benefits and stimulates demand for sustainable development.

Objectives of BREEAM

BREEAM has been developed to meet the following underlying principles:

  1. Ensure quality through an accessible, holistic and balanced measure of sustainability impacts.
  2. Use quantified measures for determining sustainability.
  3. Adopt a flexible approach, avoiding prescriptive specification and design solutions.
  4. Use best available science and practice as the basis for quantifying and calibrating a cost-effective performance standard for defining sustainability.
  5. Seek economic, social and environmental gains jointly and simultaneously.
  6. Provide a common framework of assessment that is tailored to meet the ‘local’ context including regulation, climate and sector.
  7. Integrate construction professionals in the development and operational processes to ensure wide understanding and accessibility.
  8. Adopt third party certification to ensure independence, credibility and consistency of the label.
  9. Adopt existing industry tools, practices and other standards wherever possible to support developments in policy and technology, build on existing skills and understanding and minimise costs.
  10. Use stakeholder consultation to inform ongoing development in accordance with the underlying principles and the pace of change in performance standards (accounting for policy, regulation and market capability).

What is BREEAM Communities?

Building on the high level aims and objectives of the various standards in the BREEAM family, BREEAM Communities is an independent, third party assessment and certification standard based on the established BREEAM methodology. It is a framework for considering the issues and opportunities that affect sustainability at the earliest stage of the design process for a development. The scheme addresses key environmental, social and economic sustainability objectives that have an impact on large-scale development projects.

BRE recognises that the selection of an appropriate site for development is a critical factor in determining how sustainable a new community will be. In the UK, the process of selecting sites for development is largely determined by local planning authorities, developers and landowners, therefore the issue of site selection is not currently covered by BREEAM Communities. This scheme covers the assessment and certification of the designs and plans for new development and regeneration projects at the neighbourhood scale or larger, to influence decisions that will have a fundamental impact on sustainability. At present, post-construction certification is not included in this assessment; however BREEAM may develop further stages of performance evaluations for communities in the future.

There are three steps involved in the assessment of sustainability at the masterplanning level:

  1. Following site selection there is a process whereby the developer must show the suitability and need for specific types of development on the site as part of a planning application. Strategic plans for the wider area, usually contained within the local authority's planning policy documents, should indicate the housing, employment or services that are required. The new development will need to respond to these local requirements in order to receive planning permission. In this scheme the process described above is assessed under Step 1: Establishing the principle of development. During this step, the BREEAM Communities framework emphasises the opportunities to improve sustainability at the site-wide level, such as community-scale energy generation, transport and amenity requirements. All issues within this step contain a mandatory element reflecting what should be considered standard practice for developments which aspire to high sustainability standards.
  2. The next step, Step 2: Determining the layout of the developmentincludes detailed requirements regarding how people will move around and through the site and where buildings and amenities will be situated.
  3. The final step, Step 3: Designing the details involves more detailed design of the development including: the design and specification of landscaping, sustainable drainage solutions, transport facilities and the more detailed design of the built environment (but excluding detailed building design).

Figure 1: Steps in the BREEAM Communities process

Masterplanning is an iterative process characterised by developing plans, consulting stakeholders and revising plans. The steps and the organisation of this manual aim to assist project managers in linking masterplanning with the assessment process and ensure that issues are addressed at the appropriate time in the masterplanning process. However, it may be the case that activities are carried out in a different order to that presented in this technical manual. Design teams for smaller sites in particular may find that Steps 1 to 3 in the manual overlap considerably with less distinction between the actions taken at each stage.

The categories in BREEAM Communities

The issues within this manual are grouped into five assessment categories which are considered through appropriate criteria in Steps 1 to 3 described above. It is difficult to categorise sustainability issues definitively, as they often affect all three dimensions of sustainability (social, environmental and economic). By assigning categories, BREEAM seeks to provide some clarity about the intention of each issue. A sixth category promotes the adoption and dissemination of innovative solutions. The categories are listed below with a brief description of their overall aims:

Governance (GO)
Promotes community involvement in decisions affecting the design, construction, operation and long-term stewardship of the development.
Social and economic wellbeing (SE)
Considers societal and economic factors affecting health and wellbeing such as inclusive design, cohesion, adequate housing and access to employment.
Resources and energy (RE)
Addresses the sustainable use of natural resources and the reduction of carbon emissions.
Land use and ecology (LE)
Encourages sustainable land use and ecological enhancement
Transport and movement (TM)
Addresses the design and provision of transport and movement infrastructure to encourage the use of sustainable modes of transport.
Innovation (Inn)
Recognises and promotes the adoption of innovative solutions within the overall rating where these are likely to result in environmental, social and/or economic benefit in a way which is not recognised elsewhere in the scheme.

Table - 1 sets out the issues assessed under each category and the steps that they are considered in.

Table - 1: BREEAM Communities 2012 steps, categories and assessment issues

Step 1 Step 2 Step 3
GO 01 – Consultation plan

GO 02 – Consultation and engagement

GO 03 – Design review

GO 04 – Community management of facilities

Social and economic wellbeing

SE 01 – Economic impact

SE 02 – Demographic needs and priorities

SE 03 – Flood Risk Assessment

SE 04 – Noise pollution

SE 05 – Housing provision

SE 06 – Delivery of services, facilities and amenities

SE 07 – Public realm

SE 08 – Microclimate

SE 09 – Utilities

SE 10 – Adapting to climate change

SE 11 – Green infrastructure

SE 12 – Local parking

SE 13 – Flood risk management

SE 14 – Local vernacular

SE 15 – Inclusive design

SE 16 – Light pollution

SE 17 – Training and skills

Resources and energy

RE 01 – Energy strategy

RE 02 – Existing buildings and infrastructure

RE 03 - Water strategy


RE 04 – Sustainable buildings

RE 05 – Low impact materials

RE 06 – Resource efficiency

RE 07 – Transport carbon emissions

Land use and ecology

LE 01 – Ecology strategy

LE 02 – Land use

LE 03 – Water pollution

LE 04 – Enhancement of ecological value

LE 05 – Landscape

LE 06 – Rainwater harvesting

Transport and movement
TM 01 – Transport assessment

TM 02 – Safe and appealing streets

TM 03 – Cycling network

TM 04 – Access to public transport

TM 05 – Cycling facilities

TM 06 – Public transport facilities

The importance of consultation and engagement

Consultation and engagement are widely recognised as essential processes in the development of a sustainable community. In BREEAM Communities there are many assessment issues that require some form of consultation with community representatives and other stakeholders. A consultation plan is required in step 1 of the manual. By its nature, consultation is a variable activity and differs depending on the development project. For this reason the scheme focuses on a robust consultation plan that is created by the design team to allow for different project priorities. The consultation plan sets out the timescales and method of consultation as well as who will be consulted and what they will be consulted about. This plan is implemented throughout steps 2 and 3. Table - 2 sets out the issues in BREEAM Communities that contain an element of consultation.

Table - 2: Assessment issues with a link to consultation

Step Issue
Step 1

GO 01 - Consultation plan

SE 02 - Demographic needs and priorities

SE 03 - Flood risk assessment

RE 02 - Existing buildings and infrastructure

LE 01 - Ecology strategy

Step 2

GO 02 - Consultation and engagement

GO 03 - Design review

SE 06 - Delivery of services, facilities and amenities

SE 07 - Public realm

SE 11 - Green infrastructure

SE 12 - Local parking

LE 05 - Landscape

Step 3

GO 04 - Community management of facilities

SE 14 - Local vernacular

SE 17 - Training and skills

TM 05 - Cycling facilities

TM 06 - Public transport facilities

How does BREEAM Communities fit with statutory and legislative requirements?

The issues in 'Step 1: Establishing the principles' cover assessments and strategies that are generally required for outline planning permission for larger developments in the UK. However, this does not mean that completion of step 1 will ensure that all of the requirements for outline planning permission have been completed.

In order to simplify the assessment process as far as possible, BREEAM Communities utilises the studies and strategies that are prepared to meet UK and EU legislative requirements by accepting them as a part of the evidence required to achieve credits. For example, the work done for an Environmental Impact Assessment would be appropriate evidence for many of the land use and ecology assessment issues. A full list of the documents typically required for planning applications that are also applicable to this scheme is available in Appendix A - The BREEAM evidential requirements. To achieve a rating, the scheme requires the developer to go above and beyond the minimum requirements set out in national and international regulations and policies.

The issues in step 1 do not replace legislative requirements such as the need to undertake Environmental Impact Assessments1See European Directive 85/337/EEC on "The assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment" as amended by Directives 97/11/EC and 2003/35/EC.. Similarly, where BREEAM Communities is used to inform a large programme or plan, the scheme does not replace the requirements for Sustainability Appraisal or Strategic Environmental Assessment2 See European Directive 2001/42/EC (the Strategic Environmental Assessment or SEA Directive) "on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment". . Figure 2 demonstrates how these requirements align with and complement BREEAM Communities.

How does BREEAM Communities fit with building level assessments?

The assessment issues within BREEAM Communities address sustainability at the site-wide scale. Topics like energy and surface water run off can have a significant impact when they are planned on a larger scale than an individual building. For example, site-wide energy technologies such as district heating systems are viable where they serve multiple buildings with different heat requirements across a 24 hour period. BREEAM Communities was created to ensure that such opportunities are considered at the early stages of the design process. Individual building design issues are not assessed at this stage. However, the assessment issues in BREEAM Communities complement issues within many other BREEAM schemes.

BREEAM Communities and viability

BREEAM Communities addresses the long-term economic success of a development through the assessment of a number of issues, including:

Consideration of the economic impact of other factors (such as ecology, resources, transport and social wellbeing) is given through full assessments of site constraints and opportunities in relation to resources and services that extend beyond the development. These assessments are developed into strategies that guide decision making throughout the masterplanning process. The BREEAM Communities approach takes account of the economic effects of increasing demand on resources, services and land into the future as well as the direct and indirect costs associated with the impacts of climate change.

BREEAM Communities does not set guidelines for the development economics of a site. This is the responsibility of the local authority and the developer, as every development has unique circumstances that determine site level viability. BREEAM Communities is designed to be flexible whilst ensuring it drives real and measurable improvement in a non-prescriptive way. Flexibility is also achieved by limiting mandatory standards (as much as possible) to issues that are normally required for planning applications for developments at this scale.

When to engage with the BREEAM Communities scheme

To get the most benefit from using BREEAM Communities it is important to appoint a BREEAM Communities Assessor early in the project. This will have a variety of benefits, including:

Figure 2 shows the relationship between BREEAM Communities, the design process (through the Urban Design Compendium and RIBA Outline Plan of Work) and statutory requirements.

Masterplanning process

Figure 2: BREEAM Communities and the masterplanning process

How to use the BREEAM Communities technical manual

This BREEAM Communities technical manual has been created:

  1. to enable qualified and licensed BREEAM Communities assessors to complete BREEAM Communities assessments
  2. as a reference for clients and members of the project team whose development proposal is being BREEAM Communities assessed.

The technical manual is split in to eight parts:

  1. Introduction
  2. Scope of BREEAM Communities
  3. Scoring and rating
  4. Step 1: Establishing the principle of development
  5. Step 2: Determining the layout of the development
  6. Step 3: Designing the details
  7. Innovation
  8. Appendices

The Scope of BREEAM Communities section details the types of development projects and stages of assessment that BREEAM Communities can be applied to. This can be used by clients and BREEAM assessors to check whether this is the correct BREEAM scheme to use for their project.

The Scoring and rating section outlines the BREEAM Communities rating level benchmarks and mandatory standards. It also describes the individual BREEAM Communities assessment issues and BREEAM Communities credits, including 'innovation credits' and how performance against these is calculated and expressed as a BREEAM Communities rating.

Steps 1 – 3 include a detailed description of each of the forty assessment issues. Each issue defines the aim, a level of performance (the assessment criteria) against which the assessed development proposal demonstrates compliance, and the appropriate evidence required to achieve the corresponding number of available BREEAM Communities credits.

The majority of BREEAM Communities issues are optional, meaning that a client/design team can pick and choose which to target in order to build their score and achieve the desired BREEAM Communities rating. However, some BREEAM Communities issues have mandatory elements meaning that to achieve a particular BREEAM rating certain criteria must be achieved (refer to Scoring and rating ).

Each BREEAM Communities issue is structured as follows:

Issue Information
This contains the step, category, assessment issue reference, title, whether the issue forms part of BREEAM Communities’s mandatory standards, and the total number of credits available.
This broadly outlines the aim of the issue.
Assessment Criteria
This section outlines the performance level benchmarks and criteria. Where the designs and plans for the development comply with the assessment criteria, as determined by the BREEAM Communities assessor, the relevant number of BREEAM credits can be awarded.
Compliance Notes
These notes provide additional guidance that supports the application and interpretation of the main assessment criteria, including how to assess compliance in specific situations. They are identified by a number that corresponds to the relevant assessment criterion.
This outlines typical examples of the type of information that must be provided by the design team/client and given to the BREEAM Communities assessor. This enables the assessor to verify the development’s performance against the assessment criteria and award the relevant number of BREEAM credits.
Additional Information
This section contains information that supports the application of the assessment criteria and compliance notes, including relevant definitions and any other relevant information.
The Appendices provide supporting information such as references or guidance referred to in BREEAM Communities. As the technical manual acts as a controlled document within the formal certification scheme, a Schedule of Changes appendix (Appendix B - Schedule of Changes to the Scheme Document) is also included for use when the technical manual is amended and re-issued.

Verifying a development’s certified BREEAM rating

The BREEAM Communities assessment process provides a means of evaluating a development’s performance against the scheme and its criteria using an independent third party auditor (the BREEAM Communities assessor). The BREEAM Communities certificate, issued by the National Scheme Operator (NSO - BRE Global in the UK), provides formal verification that the assessor has completed an assessment of a development in accordance with the requirements of the scheme and its quality standards and procedures. A BREEAM Communities certificate therefore provides assurance to any interested party that a development’s BREEAM rating, at the time of certification, accurately reflects its performance against the BREEAM Communities standard.

All BREEAM assessed and certified developments are listed on Green Book Live (along with a directory of licensed BREEAM Assessors). Green Book Live is a free to use, publicly available online database designed to help specifiers and end users identify products and services that can help to reduce their impact on the environment.

Anyone wishing to verify the BREEAM rating of a development can do so by either checking a development’s BREEAM Communities certificate, which will contain the BREEAM certification mark, (see below) or by searching Green Book Live for a specific listing.

BREEAM certification mark (sample)

Figure 3: The BREEAM Certification mark


Design team
The inter-disciplinary team of professionals informing the design and planning of the development.
Documentary evidence
‘Documentary evidence’ may be any documentation confirming compliance. Across the assessment, evidence includes a mix of letters, emails, briefs, strategies, site plans and specification text as appropriate. The assessor must satisfy themselves that the evidence is robust and traceable. A letter of intent from the developer is not acceptable where the requirement is for ‘detailed documentary evidence’.3 This definition is slightly amended from the Code for Sustainable Homes Technical Guide, Department for Communities and Local Government, November 2010 (See Appendix A - The BREEAM evidential requirements for more information)
This is an organisation or individuals with the responsibility for delivering the development being assessed.4 This definition is slightly amended from the Code for Sustainable Homes Technical Guide, Department for Communities and Local Government, November 2010
Any settlement or land that does not meet the definition of urban below. This definition applies to the expected post-development population.
Site boundary
This will normally be the land enclosed in the 'red line' planning application boundary.
A settlement with a population of 10,000 or more located within a tract of predominantly built-up land. This definition applies to the expected post-development population.
Written confirmation/commitment from the developer
This must be in the form of a letter on company headed paper and must be signed by a senior individual who is deemed responsible for the development by the board of directors or equivalent senior management group of that developer. The letter must refer to specific criteria within the issues and explain how the criteria or design stage commitment have been satisfied. The letter must be explicit in terms of the assessment and the site under development.5 This definition is slightly amended from the Code for Sustainable Homes Technical Guide, Department for Communities and Local Government, November 2010

BREEAM Communities technical manual
Reference: SD202 – Issue: 1.2
Date: 14/08/2017
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