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.