Why achieving BREEAM USA certification is a worthy goal

The BREEAM standard for green building certification is still relatively new to America and naturally there have been a lot of questions about the program.  We frequently hear a number of concerns:

  • How solid is this new rating system?
  • Why should my company risk using BREEAM?
  • How does a BREEAM certification bring value to my property?

To answer those questions, let’s go back to the beginning.

BREEAM is owned by BRE, the Building Research Establishment, which has been raising the standards of the built environment for nearly 100 years. BRE is a Charitable Trust which uses the profits from BREEAM and other BRE products to fund scientific research that helps improve the built environment, the BREEAM standards and other BRE components. BREEAM launched in 1990 as the very first green building rating system and is based on sound science — something other green building rating systems cannot necessarily claim.

BREEAM is backed by peer-reviewed academic research and provides results in real time. It’s a very low-risk proposition for any company.

As to the value question? BRE America was formed in 2016 to bring the BREEAM standard to the American marketplace. After all, buildings built in the US should also be able to benefit from a green building rating system that is available to all buildings — regardless of size, age or performance level. Class A buildings have long been able to tout their success with a green building certification. It’s time Class B and C buildings have the opportunity to do the same.

So what does BREEAM certification mean for a building? What benefits in the marketplace are achieved with a BREEAM plaque displayed on the building?

In a word, PLENTY!

According to the 2015 RICS report, BREEAM is the #1 green building standard in Europe. The report titled “Going for Green” found that BREEAM has an 80% market share across Europe for sustainable building certifications. In addition, the 2014 report by DLA Piper, “Towards a greener future,” also highlights the leading position of BREEAM: 83% of sustainability professionals surveyed placed BREEAM as their first choice out of the top five standards.¹

Why is that?

In Europe, BREEAM measures success by average CO2 emissions savings. In fact, BREEAM pushes the boundaries of sustainability by aiming for zero carbon. Getting to zero carbon does not happen in a single step. It takes multiple steps and successes to achieve net zero. BREEAM continues to advance that target by giving you real-time results that show how your building is currently performing and what benefits the next level of improvement will accomplish.

How does all that translate to buildings in the USA? What does a BREEAM Outstanding vs. BREEAM Excellent rating actually represent?

The first BREEAM USA certification was achieved in Thousand Oaks, CA at The Oaks Mall owned by Macerich, one of the largest owners and operators of shopping centers in the United States. Jeff Bedell, VP of Sustainability for Macerich had this to say after achieving certification with BREEAM USA in December 2016:

“The things we gained and implemented through this process have already proven dividends and returns and paybacks that are well within and above any hurdle rate we would have here internally. So BREEAM certification was well worth the cost, we have already gotten benefit from it, already gotten efficiencies from what we have done out there.”

In the meantime, let’s talk cost savings with BREEAM.

BREEAM was created as a cost-effective means to bring sustainable value to development. Investors see the long-term value of green certification by enhancing existing assets as even a small increase in a building’s performance can make a huge difference to the bottom line.

Here’s a real-life example. In 2014, Europe’s largest commercial property company, Unibail-Rodamco (the new owners of Westfield Corps USA portfolio) Unibail-Rodamco issued an $825 million bond based on a portfolio of green buildings. In order to be included in the portfolio, buildings had to achieve or exceed a BREEAM Very Good rating for new construction, and within three years of operating achieve a minimum BREEAM In-Use rating of Very Good.

The bond was oversubscribed by 3.4 times in under two hours and the price paid for the bonds by investors is saving Unibail-Rodamco more than $550,000 a year just in interest payments!

Under Unibail-Rodamco’s Better Places 2030 CSR Strategy, the group is committed to reducing the carbon footprint of all their assets by 50% by 2030. This includes reducing the carbon footprint of operations from existing assets by 70%! That’s a huge amount and they plan to achieve it utilizing BREEAM In-Use.

Any given portfolio, or even single assets, might not bring in such huge savings. On the other hand, it might! But getting started and creating that benchmark is not going to be an expensive proposition. First of all, any existing commercial building is eligible – there are no prerequisites to use BREEAM In-Use. It is only $1000 to register an asset online with BRE America and the online questionnaire can be started. You’ll have access to the program for one full year to monitor your building’s performance including continuous readouts of your benchmark available right on the screen in front of you.

When a satisfactory score is achieved, hire a licensed BREEAM USA assessor to conduct an on-site verification to confirm the findings and receive a BREEAM certification.

Now that’s true value!

BRE prides itself on remaining beyond reproach and embraces partnerships as we build a better world together. BRE’s cutting-edge research brings positive change in the built environment through over 2,275,000 projects registered with BREEAM and over 565,000 certifications awarded worldwide. That’s a lot of data. That’s why BREEAM is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. It’s the science behind it.


¹ Figure based on certification data for these 5 certifications schemes: CASBE, DGNB, LEED, BREEAM, and HQE in the period April 2013 to March 2015