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BRE submits defence of BREEAM for schools to government

BRE group chief executive Peter Bonfield has said the organisation is looking forward to ‘continuing to work with the Department for Education’ on BREEAM.

Construction News has seen a document prepared by BRE Global and submitted to the DfE and government ministers outlining the ‘value for money’, ‘wide-ranging benefits’ and ‘reduced bureaucracy’ in BREEAM for schools.

CN revealed last week that the government is considering scapping the current requirement for new schools to meet ‘Very Good’ standards ahead of the publication of its £2bn Priority Schools Building Programme.

In the document, BRE Global also refers to the fact that the use of the environmental measurement tool is included in the Greening Government Commitments policy document issued by DEFRA.

There have been reports that environment secretary Caroline Spelman has written to education secretary Michael Gove warning that the move would go against government commitments to sustainable development - however a spokesperson for DEFRA refused to comment when contacted by Construction News.

The Greening Government Commitments document states:

“Departments will… be open and transparent on the steps they are taking to address the following areas: Sustainable Construction: including the management of construction waste to best practice standards, the application of BRE’s Environmental Assessment Methodology, and the extent to which standards used at the London 2012 Games are being applied/exceeded.”

Industry-leading groups including the Construction Products Association, UK Green Building Council and Chartered Institute of Building have written to Mr Gove arguing it would be a retrograde step.

The BRE Global position paper states that the potential consequences of not building to BREEAM would include ‘no method for benchmarking’ and ‘loss of a driver to go above and beyond building regulations’.

It further warns that consequences would include no independent, robust verification of building performance at design and post-construction stages.

Contractors and leading industry figures have claimed that the scheme is ‘not perfect’ and still needs to be simplified. Former ODA head of Sustainability and regeneration Dan Epstein claimed it is ‘not the right tool to drive innovation’.

However there has also been a groundswell of support from within industry, with claims that scrapping the standard would lower green standards and that the government would be going against its commitment to low carbon construction.

BREEAM assessment uses recognised measures of performance, which are set against established benchmarks, to evaluate a building’s specification, design, construction and use.

The measures used represent a broad range of categories and criteria from energy to ecology. They include aspects related to energy and water use, the internal environment (health and well-being), pollution, transport, materials, waste, ecology and management processes.

Mr Bonfield said: “Since the publication of the James Review last year, we have had a positive dialogue with the Department of Education. We were extremely heartened last week at the many messages of support for BREEAM, from right across the industry and the schools sector.

“We are of course always looking to refine and develop BREEAM based on feedback from users, our independent governing panel and other stakeholders. We look forward to continuing to work with the department and the sector as a whole to ensure that BREEAM delivers the best outcomes for UK schools in sustainability and value for money.”

In defence of BREEAM, BRE Global states:

The consolidation of criteria has reduced the number of issues applicable to school buildings from more than 80 in 2008 to 41 under BREEAM New Construction 2011

New standards have been introduced to ‘reflect current best practice’ and to help support government policy

Several initiatives are ‘currently under development’ to reduce the cost and time taken to certify small or simple buildings

The adoption of a widely understood and credible national framework to the setting and implementation of such local standards is vital to the efficient design and construction of new and refurbished school buildings

Sebastian James’ Capital Review for the Department for Education, published last April, was critical of the administrative and cost burden of the scheme, and recommended that the government revise its school premises regulations and guidance to ‘remove unnecessary burdens and ensure that a single, clear set of regulations apply to all schools’.

The BRE document responds to the criticism in the James Review by stating it has amended the requirements to be less prescriptive on specific examples such as cycling and ecology, and states that while ‘several pages of requirements remain’ the majority relate to other building types, and not schools.

Readers' comments (1)

  • I have a concern that as currently structured Breeam is completly the wrong tool and particularly when it comes to water is dangeroes..
    Pionts are given for doing things that are within the Breeam books so companies aim to collect pionts [which means tax benifits] and do not aim towards achieving all the pretty unresearch words within the breeam books.
    I can only really talk about water delivery and passage as that is my area of involvment but the more i am involved the worse the whole Breeam system seems to be.
    Referring to your artical;
    The system creates "Jobs for the boys" whereby anything that challenges the system is fought of vigourous because the system is providing the saleries.Your article quotes phrases from Bre and others like,"value for money,wide ranging benifits, reduced bureaucracy. " but it is hard to find facts to back these up.
    Turning to water and Breeam as an example of poorly founded drivers that then become rules and all without substance.
    We are encouraged almost blackmailed into following the rules under the misconception that to use less water is good.
    This is potentially really bad on a lot of levels.
    1 You cannot use water up. It is a given quantity that falls from the sky ,goes through our systems and out to sea, then returns to the sky. All we do is interupt the process , charge for it,tax it and mismanage it.
    Safe water is fast flowing. Slow and little water can easily become unsafe water.
    A Salmon river is nice and clear. A canal is a muddy swamp.
    Working with hospital use water means i,m stuck with the conflict . Breeam saying use less water[useless water] and safe water meaning use more water. A dangeroes potential for the future if we use less water..
    Slowing the water flow and use encourages the growth of Biofilm within the pipe. Biofilm is the home for bad bugs of all sorts. Legionella and Pseudonomas to mention two.
    The biofilm also becomes the catchment area for particles that come in from the cast supply pipe and they along with some types of plastic pipe can be a food source for the nasties.
    The piont is that it's all very well creating an unresearched idea that seems to be a good green idea then creating a closed shop so that all have to play by the rules but if the downsides and long term effects of the idea have not been checked there is the potential that for reasons of money and or self preservation you end up creating a hazerdoues and dangeroes situation that will / could continue for a long time before the Biofilm build up takes effect by which time the Breeam people who created it have all gone but you have loads of people sufferring from water bourne infections.
    Also the Breeam system actually hampers good and better ways from coming to the fore....It might threaten the wages of those inside the club.

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