BREEAM and manufacturers’ data

BREEAM certified

Following our article on the responsible manufacturer in relation to BREEAM, we have prepared a special piece looking at some important considerations for the contractor. Starting with the big issue of the costs associated with the BREEAM certification process, we asked Andrea Momerin, BREEAM Assessor, Owner of GREENWORKS – BRE Global Partner for Bulgaria, some important questions related to any successful BREEAM construction project. Read the full interview below:

What is the cost of the BREEAM certification?

Andrea Momerin: When I talk about BREEAM costs, I prefer to focus on time, because the timing is crucial. This is what I say to every client: BREEAM does not cost you more. The cost of BREEAM and the cost of a building are closely associated. Clients often worry that BREEAM certifications increase their costs but the true question is what cost and at what time. In theory, the cost of the building always rises until the building is decommissioned – in reality there are two separate costs if you are the building owner/operator or the contractor. For a contracting company, we start with a budget and the costs stop at handover. However, from a BREEAM point of view, the building costs start right after that point. What will be the cost of deconstruction? What would be the costs of operating the building in 5, 10, or 20 years? It is reducing exactly these costs that brings value to the client/building owner and, of course, to the responsible contractor. In conclusion: BREEAM decreases the cost over time. What BREEAM is aiming at in general is never to increase the costs as a key point of sustainability. Cost is associated with the efficiency of many factors:  for example, materials, information management processes, usage of resources, people, and energy consumption.

Which is the most important of these factors in your opinion?

Andrea Momerin: People. They are the most important factor that determines how much it would cost and how long it would take to build a truly sustainable building. If the drive is there, if they realise that the client is actually the end user and they collaborate with us, it will definitely lower the costs and significantly increase the market value of the buildings they build, operate and use. The company I have been working with on my latest project is an international construction company with over 15 years of experience as a general contractor and a developer. It has been 3 years since the project started and they have already reclaimed the cost of the BREEAM Certification process. Based on our accurate calculations and their determination to work together for reducing the environmental impact of the building – we have achieved so much. Even something as trivial as lowering the number the transformers that power the building (they cost hundreds of thousands of pounds) has saved them enough money to justify all the hard work in attaining the BREEAM certification.

Does BREEAM affect the design of a building?

Andrea Momerin: The answer is yes and no. BREEAM can relate to both new construction and buildings already in use, the BREEAM teams can and usually are engaged in different stages of the building’s life cycle, but I personally prefer to work on new construction projects. In terms of design, a BREEAM team would not normally change a building’s design. We try to change the building through the ‘semantics’ of the design. For instance, for us it is very important to know the properties that define different construction products. We would advise for the use of windows with different u-value, we would optimise the acoustic rating of the membranes, increase the quality of the glazing and so on and so forth. In a sense, BREEAM is invisible. We do not care about the geometry part of a product – any geometry can be BREEAM certified – what is important is the DATA.

‘In a sense, BREEAM is invisible. We do not care about the geometry part of a product – any geometry can be BREEAM certified – what is important is the DATA.’

What is the biggest challenge for BREEAM assessors today?

Andrea Momerin: I would say that among the greatest challenges is the lack of digital data. In the circular economy there is no cradle-to-grave – we are now looking at cradle-to-cradle life cycle analyses. In BREEAM 2016 and the coming frameworks we will be looking more and more at something called responsible sourcing of materials. This is a big challenge because we need to know even more about each construction product. We need to go beyond looking at manufacturer PDFs and documents such as EPDs (Environmental Product Declarations) for the product’s characteristics and look deeper into whether products have been made with constituent materials that have been responsibly sourced. This is all very difficult if digital data about products is not available, which is the reality today.

‘I would say that among the greatest challenges is the lack of digital data.’

We finish off with this message and an invitation for you to explore the numerous benefits of using goBIM – the tool making digital data about construction products available to all the building actors.