Published on: 30 January 2024

Updated on: 15 February 2024

Read time: 4 minutes

Nathan Watson

Creative & Development Director

As companies increasingly prioritise sustainability, BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) has emerged as a leading standard for environmentally friendly buildings.

With energy use in buildings accounting for over a third of global energy consumption, improving office sustainability through certifications like BREEAM is crucial.

This article explains everything teams need to know about obtaining BREEAM certification - from what BREEAM is to its rating criteria, assessment process, and benefits compared to other standards.

What is BREEAM certification?

BREEAM is an international certification standard focused on sustainable office design, construction, and operation of buildings.

It uses science-based evaluation across 9 categories to help property developers, owners, and managers improve and independently validate the environmental credentials of their buildings. These categories include:

  • Energy Use
  • Water Consumption
  • Material Sourcing
  • Waste Generation
  • Pollution
  • Transport Accessibility
  • Land Use
  • Health & Wellbeing
  • Management Processes

BREEAM rating levels

Projects are scored against benchmarks tailored to the building type. Based on the overall score, the building is then rated on a scale of:

BREEAM Unclassified: Does not qualify for BREEAM certification

BREEAM Pass: Meets basic standards of sustainability

BREEAM Good: Sound sustainability performance measures

BREEAM Very Good: Strong sustainability levels across multiple areas

BREEAM Excellent: Best practice sustainability achievement

Less than 1% of BREEAM certified buildings achieve an Outstanding rating. Most commercial fit outs target a minimum of Very Good or Excellent based on business goals.

What are the benefits of running BREEAM projects?

Key advantages of BREEAM certification for offices include:

  • Validated environmental credentials
  • Enhanced corporate reputation
  • Compliance with regulations and standards
  • Meeting sustainability targets like net zero
  • Lower operating costs through efficiency
  • Demonstrating action on ESG commitments
  • Attracting tenants looking for green buildings

The rigorous assessment also provides data-driven insights to continually improve sustainability performance over time.

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Whether we're targeting a Bronze, Silver or Gold rating, the good practice steers our designs towards energy efficiency, reduced waste, ethical resourcing, and enhanced occupant wellbeing. Ultimately, SKA helps anchor our vision to create inspirational workspaces that also have a positive ecological footprint.

Nathan Watson

Creative & Development Director

BREEAM assessment process

BREEAM assessments are carried out by licensed BREEAM assessors and go through multiple stages including:

  1. Pre-Assessment: Determines potential rating and identifies improvements
  2. Design Stage Assessment: Evaluates sustainability measures adopted in the design
  3. Post-Construction Review: Verifies operational practices meet design stage targets
  4. Final Certification: Confirms rating after quality assurance checks

The process enables project teams to integrate sustainability early in the office fit out life cycle while ensuring robust evidence of compliance.

Assessments can take 6-12 months with certification lasting for 3 years, after which offices need to renew their BREEAM rating.

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The role of people-led design in BREEAM certification

Adopting a people-led approach to office design can both improve employee experience as well as boost a company's sustainability credentials under the BREEAM accreditation system.

Putting individual occupant needs at the forefront allows designers to enrich workspace ergonomics, comfort, accessibility, safety and overall wellness. This directly supports a business's people strategy centred on attraction, retention and engagement of talent.

Additionally, the focus on human-centric factors within the design process inherently influences sustainability outcomes assessed by BREEAM. For example, maximising natural light, integrating biophilic elements like plants and water features, ensuring excellent indoor air quality, and promoting active lifestyles through the provision of stairs and recreation spaces.

People-led design also equates to spaces that are adaptable to changing usage needs over time. This facilitates efficient use of materials and resources - aligning with waste reduction and circular economy principles which contribute to enhanced BREEAM performance.

How BREEAM certification compares to a SKA rating

While BREEAM certification offers comprehensive global coverage across building types, a SKA rating focuses exclusively on sustainability in office fit outs within the UK. SKA also uses a Bronze, Silver and Gold rating structure compared to BREEAM’s multiple rating levels.

When considering office sustainability certifications, businesses need to weigh factors like regional scope, evaluation rigour, costs and time investments to pick the standard best aligned with their unique ESG strategies and targets.

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With climate change accelerating, offices aiming to substantially improve sustainability need credible certifications like BREEAM. Its science-led assessments provide robust validation of environmental initiatives across the full spectrum of considerations for modern offices – from net zero energy use to promoting wellbeing through design.

Using decades of building performance research, BREEAM sets ambitious yet achievable standards for driving progress in sustainable offices. More than just a scorecard, it gives teams actionable metrics tailored to their workplaces to enable continual green transformation.

Meet the Author

Nathan Watson

Creative & Development Director

A lauded, lead creative who has been fast-tracked throughout his career, thanks to a passion for the intricacies in providing unique design work, Nathan has an illustrious portfolio which reflects his talent and the scope of his work. Nathan’s role is to lead the design team, guiding and influencing distinctive and exceptional designs.

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