BREEAM USA Takes Aim at In-Use Structures


Earlier this month, the BRE Group, in conjunction with BuildingWise, brought the international standard to the United States. BREEAM USA will kick off in earnest at the beginning of October when the first assessors are accredited and the first structure – The Bloc in Los Angeles – is certified.

The core of the initiative is a master document for planning projects, infrastructure and building of commercial structures. BREEAM – which stands for Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method – has been around for almost a century and enjoys worldwide use.

Each version, including the one launching in the United States, is tailored for the host nation. The standard, which aims at commercial structures, is consistent across nations. Indeed, Giles said that the major change in the states are such simple steps as changing metrics to feet and square inches.  “The BREEAM program brought over from Europe is the cream of the international version, tailored to the U.S. market,” BREEAM USA CEO Barry Giles told Energy Manager Today.

Giles said that BREEAM initially was developed for residences in the U.K. and continental Europe. It has evolved to be used in commercial structures around the world. It has a niche alongside the other two major certification organizations – Green Globes and LEED.

The goal is simple. Armed with data and insight from the assessments, building owners can immediately get to work – and so do from a position of strength. “There is no need to hire expensive consultants who may or may not make improvements,” Giles said. “You can make decisions [yourself] on where put the small amount of dollars [generally] available.”

The logical question is why BREEAM is necessary if the two other standards are available. The major difference, Giles told Energy Manager Today, that LEED and Green Globes struggle in dealing with structures that are not new. The version of BREEAM being brought to the states — BREEAM In-Use is an incremental approach that building management can implement no matter how old the structure is and how long it has been in operation. The target market is estimated to be the 5.6 million commercial buildings, Giles said.

Bream’s approach is inclusive, Giles told Energy Manager Today. “It is democratizing the entry point,” he said. “We work with any building, of any efficiency, any age, any construction, any configuration. You can [just] start filling in the online questionnaire. There is not series of barriers to get you involved.”

Registering a building costs $1,000. The questionnaire is segmented into three parts. The first part deals with the age of the building, how it was constructed, its size and similar attributes. The second deals with operational approaches. The third element of the process is innovative: It gives tenants a role, Giles said. They are invited to answer questions which drill down deeply on their energy- and water use. Scores from that process and the other two are weighted and a building energy score determined.

At any point during the first year participating buildings can use the results as benchmarks for building improvements. At the end of a year, management can call in an assessor who is trained and licensed by BREEAM USA.

Though official certification only after a year, the benefits can occur immediately. “For an initial small amount of capital BREEAM USA is going to give you, in real time, a whole spectrum of options within a building to improve energy efficiency, both in real time compared to other buildings or a standardized building [against with we compare].”

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