Opinion

How renewable energy installations can help in obtaining a favourable BREEAM credit score

In the UK, sustainability in the building’s design, construction and use is the norm. This is mainly due to the adoption of green policies, such as the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM).

REI takes a closer look at what BREEAM is and why it increases the adoption of renewable energy installations.

Here REI takes a closer look at what BREEAM is and why it increases the adoption of renewable energy installations.

What is BREEAM?

BREEAM is an assessment and certification scheme that encourages buildings to adopt more environmentally friendly methods, from the design to its use. 

The BREEAM assessment is comprised of three stages, namely:

  • Pre-assessment – The assessor meets the design team to discuss the BREEAM criteria and the steps to obtain the most credit points.
  • Construction – While there is no formal assessment during this stage, the design team and contractor should ensure that the construction process follows the agreed plan during the pre-assessment meeting. 
  • Post-construction – The assessor will visit the site and conduct a review to determine if the construction process and the building’s materials, features, and systems are eligible for BREEAM credits.

After gathering all the essential information, the assessor will submit the report to the Building Research Establishment (BRE). Once the report has been verified, the building owner will receive a Post Construction Review (PCR) certificate.

What are the benefits?

BREEAM has three purported benefits, namely:

  • Environmental
  • Economic
  • Social

Meanwhile, designers, contractors, and building owners have their own reasons for obtaining the BREEAM certifications, such as:

  • It’s easier to sell or lease the building
  • More profitable in the long run
  • Complies with planning requirements
  • It encourages standards in the regulations or procurement of materials

How does BREEAM affect renewable energy installations?

In BREEAM, buildings are encouraged to make use of low and zero carbon (LZC) technologies. It’s a method of providing the building with power from renewable energy sources.

Since there are various types of LZC equipment available, building owners can request BREEAM bespoke assessments. This means that the criteria are customised for any building type not covered by the standard BREEAM procedures.

BREEAM can influence the adoption of renewable energy through the awarding of credits. In the assessment, under energy strategies, renewable energy can help obtain 11 credits. Reducing the CO2 emissions by 100% is equivalent to 10 points. There is also an energy category that rewards another two credits for using LZC technology.

BREEAM encourages the installation of renewable energy technologies since they can offset emissions from energy consumption. You can install the LZC technology:

  • On-site
  • Near-site
  • Off-site

If the LZC device is near-site, it should also include a dedicated renewable energy generator that can provide power to a part of or the whole community.

If it’s off-site, power should come from an accredited external renewable source.

Before installing a specific LZC technology for the building, you need to ensure that it’s one of the schemes recognised by the BREEAM assessors.

In the UK, BREEAM will consider renewable energy as low or zero-carbon if it complies with any of the following:

  • It’s covered by the Microgeneration Scheme (MCS), generating power under 50kWe or 45kWth and set up by a certified installer.
  • If it’s more than 50kWe, it should be certified under the Combined Heat and Power Quality Assurance (CHPQA) standard.

Does BREEAM consider biofuel a renewable energy source?

BREEAM assessors will not recognise or reward buildings using first-generation biofuel systems or those manufactured from feedstock, such as:

  • Animal fat
  • Grain
  • Seeds
  • Sugar

However, second-generation biofuel systems are eligible for BREEAM credits. These include biofuels from:

  • Lignocellulosic biomass feedstock using approved technical processes
  • Manufactured from biodegradable waste materials, such as biogas or wood chips

Conclusion

BREEAM is a credit rating system scheme designed to encourage owners, designers and contractors to make the building more environmentally friendly. The assessment can provide benefits in three areas – environment, economic, and social. For instance, a BREEAM certified building can allow the owner to sell the property at a higher price or save on operational costs. Also, installing recognised renewable energy technologies can help a building accrue significant BREEAM credits. However, first-generation biofuel technology is no longer considered environmentally friendly.