Navigating and Achieving BREEAM Certification

With an ever-increasing demand for sustainability credentials from all stakeholders – be it investors, buyers, or anyone in between – It’s more important than ever to get your BREEAM certification right. But let’s face it, it’s not a walk in the park. You need to collaborate effectively, manage your data flawlessly, and gather evidence. 

We’ve put together this guide to help you with some of the hurdles you’ll be facing when it comes to achieving BREEAM certification, specifically the Materials and Waste categories. Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • Planning and strategising
  • Documenting material use
  • Tracking waste
  • Conducting audits
  • Gathering data

We’ll break each one down in more detail, so you’ll be ready to tackle them like a pro. 

1) Planning and strategising

When it comes to getting BREEAM certified, starting early is key. Like most things, the earlier you start, the easier it is. 

So where do you start?

Having a detailed game plan and understanding how the certification requirements fit into your overall project plan is crucial. It involves onboarding stakeholders, design teams, workforces, accountants, and everyone else involved in the project so they all fully understand the direction and scope.

But how do you ensure everyone is aligned with your requirements when everyone has other priorities? The key is to make it clear to every team member that you’re working towards achieving BREEAM certification and provide an overview of the targets you’re looking to achieve. It’s important to ensure that each General Manager is aware of their specific responsibilities in achieving the certification and regularly communicates this to their team.

Making sure everyone is on the same page from the beginning, will make your life a whole lot easier down the line.

2) Documenting material use

The larger the project, the more challenging it can be to achieve BREEAM certification. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to build amazing things that also respect and harmonise with the environment. During construction, you’re required to document the materials used, including information on the source, composition, and environmental impact of each material. Getting your timber and concrete certified is also important, or you risk needing to rework them.

We all know how difficult it can be to get supply chain data. It’s a never-ending cycle of delays, paper chasing, and dealing with different formats from everyone involved. But while this can be a time-consuming and costly process for your business, it’s an important part of achieving your BREEAM certification.

So, what can you do to make this process easier? We’ll be sharing some insider tips from industry leaders later on in this paper, so keep reading!

3) Tracking waste

Waste is a big issue in the construction industry, with as much as 30% of all building materials delivered to a site ending up as waste1. The more waste your team has, the more it hits your pocket. 

To achieve BREEAM waste credits, particularly WST 01, WST 02, and WST 03, you have to track what waste is produced, and how it’s disposed of throughout construction. The most common way of doing this is through Waste Transfer Notes or Hazardous Waste Consignment Notes. These are collected at the project office and put into a spreadsheet. This adds extra administrative work for the project team, which no one likes, and also puts you at risk of human error. Not to mention potentially losing tickets in transit or forgetting them after a long day on site.

To achieve the top ratings, you’ll need to think about ways to avoid waste altogether. Look for opportunities to separate materials for recycling, reduce packaging waste, use prefabricated or modular components, or even repurpose waste as construction material.

Remember, you have to pay for everything that goes into the skip, so being proactive in reducing waste and repurposing materials benefits the environment and results in cost savings for your project. Check out this great insight into waste on your construction site for more information.

4) Conduct regular audits

Getting the materials right is no simple task for your BREEAM certification. We’ve heard some horror stories about projects having to replace large chunks of built-in materials or even redesign parts of the building due to non-compliance.

Take timber, for example. If you’re aiming for FSC certification, you need to make sure every single piece of timber you use on your site is FSC certified. If you overlook this, you could find yourself rummaging through your supply chain data, trying to track down the non-compliant batch, and will most likely end up having to replace already installed non-compliant timber. This will cost your team time and money, not to mention the extra waste created. So, it’s essential to get it right the first time.

That’s why auditing is a key part of the process, and it’s important to identify any areas of risk and non-compliance early on. This will allow you to act promptly and keep the project on track towards achieving its BREEAM certification.

5) Gathering data

Now, this is where the real challenge begins. It’s like a game of detective, but the location of the crime scene is unknown, and all the clues are scattered everywhere. Sounds easy, right?

As you may already know, data is dispersed across projects, created by different teams with their own way of reporting. This means that other teams can’t always access the data they need at the right time.

Data management can become an outright nightmare without having all the data in a centralised platform. It’s one of the many reasons why construction companies are beginning to digitise their data.

Submitting evidence for your BREEAM assessment

Don’t wait until the end of the project to compile all the necessary information for your BREEAM assessment – it’s much easier to keep things up-to-date as you go along. This way, you’ll give yourself and the project the best chance of achieving the highest rating possible. Imagine looking back once you’ve completed your project, and being confident of which credits you’ll be able to achieve, which goals you’ve hit, and which you were able to influence by staying on top of things throughout the process.

The BREEAM Process Explained

Now that you have a better idea of what is expected of you in order to achieve BREEAM certification, let’s take a close look at how the BREEAM certification process works.

  • Pre-assessment: BREEAM certification almost always starts with a pre-assessment stage wherein relevant parties get familiar with BREEAM criteria and requirements. By the end of the pre-assessment stage stakeholders should understand the project’s sustainability goals and challenges and be able to set targets that will enable certification.
  • Registration: Once the project team has set their project targets and are ready to pursue the goal of BREEAM certification, it’s time to register the project with the appropriate scheme. Different schemes are applied to different types of development such as BREEAM New Construction, BREEAM Communities, BREEAM In-Use and more.
  • Assessment: Next, a BRE (Building Research Establishment) accredited assessor will work with the project team to evaluate the sustainability goals they established during the pre-assessment stage. The assessor will determine if those goals satisfy the criteria for the appropriate BREEAM scheme. Assessment typically involves conducting site visits, reviewing documentation, and verifying compliance.
  • Documentation: As the assessment process unfolds your project team will need to collect and submit evidentiary documents demonstrating compliance with the criteria specified for your particular scheme. This typically includes architectural drawings, product specs, photos, and any relevant reports.
  • Review: At the conclusion of the assessment process the BREEAM assessor performs a comprehensive review of the submitted documentation to verify its thoroughness and accuracy.
  • Scoring: The assessor will then assign your project with a score based on credits earned by meeting specific criteria. The total number of credits will determine the final overall BREEAM rating. The BREEAM rating system ranges from “Pass” to “Outstanding” and your project must satisfy minimum threshold requirements in order to obtain certification.
  • The Decision: Once the review is complete, your project is forwarded to the BREEAM certification body that determines if it warrants certification. Should your project earn the necessary credits and meet required standards it is awarded certification at the appropriate level.
  • Ongoing Monitoring: New buildings are encouraged to monitor and evaluate the environmental performance of their building to ensure they stay BREEAM compliant.

One simple trick that can make your life easier

As we come to the end of our discussion around the challenges of achieving your BREEAM certification, it’s important to remember that every little step counts towards a greener future. Documenting materials, tracking waste, and monitoring transportation may seem tedious, but they are crucial in reducing your environmental impact.

At Qflow, we are here to help you every step of the way. Whether you’re unsure of where to start or are an experienced BREEAM project manager, if you have questions about sustainability at any point in your construction process, don’t hesitate to reach out. Let’s work together to leave the world in a better place than we found it.

Qflow: The sustainable construction solution that helps you save time, money, and carbon. You can easily monitor, document, and analyse all resources entering and leaving your site, including their CO2 footprint, miles travelled, compliance, and more. It saves you up to 80% of administration time and helps you achieve BREEAM certification, reduce project costs, and collaborate effectively with all teams and stakeholders. Discover how Qflow can benefit your construction project today.

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