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Is Innovation driven by BREEAM?

22 October 2012

Organisations that focus on the greener agenda are no longer isolated islands but the norm and, as a report commissioned by Schneider Electric highlights, even voluntary schemes such as BREEAM are resonating with businesses keen to demonstrate their environmental commitments.

The Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) has grown in popularity, last year assessing 7,000 projects. However, the report clearly shows that to achieve an efficient and scrupulously financed project, businesses must consider BREEAM early on in the design process and work with experienced professionals who know the ropes.

Demonstrating the support for BREEAM, nearly nine out of ten (88%) companies who have participated in the scheme said it is a well appreciated process having a positive impact on their business with 96% saying they would use it again.

While cost is often a deciding factor when it comes to voluntary participation in a scheme or initiative, the main reasons for organisations opting for BREEAM included company policy and to boost CSR credentials (47%), to meet planning requirements (33%) and for procurement purposes (16%) – a clear indication that there is substance to this scheme.

In fact, despite the ongoing media furore surrounding energy prices and the financial squeeze felt by many businesses, counting the cost of BREEAM doesn’t rank highly on their agenda. Of the organisations that considered BREEAM a benefit, 94% rated social benefits as being the greatest bonus, followed by environmental (76%) then economic (67%). However, many of the social and environmental benefits also have a positive financial impact.

Acknowledging the importance of not losing sight of a building’s performance after construction, businesses also rated improved comfort and satisfaction for occupants, enhanced productivity and staff retention as internal social benefits. In support of this view, respondents also identified that including BREEAM early on in the process and engaging with all parties to maintain dialogue ensured the project succeeded beyond the initial construction.
Further demonstrating the longevity of BREEAM and the investment businesses are prepared to make in their green buildings, the report examined the extent to which BREEAM influences different areas of the project. For example, it appears to have relatively little effect on the location and orientation of the building, but an important impact on technological issues. These include the use of intelligent controls, which were influenced by BREEAM for 61% of respondents, the selection of building services rated by 63%, and the facilities provided for staff expressed by 61%.

Eddie Coxon, VP of Buildings UK & Ireland from Schneider Electric commented: “The findings of this report clearly show there is an appetite from businesses for guidance on green practices. While government may introduce policies and targets, more support mechanisms need to be in place to help organisations respond to the green agenda. What’s interesting is the mindset of companies which aren’t necessarily striving for BREEAM accreditation just for financial gain, they can clearly see the wider scope of possibilities.

“One of the strongest elements about BREEAM which has been identified here is that every building can benefit from controls and technologies, which deliver long term benefits; whereas not all can achieve ratings for the building’s location or position which can often be outside of the business’ control. However organisations also need to be aware of degradation of efficiencies – energy efficient solutions can actually become less efficient and effective over time if there is no-one to manage and monitor them and ensure they continue to be used to maximum performance. This is perhaps where more consideration needs to be put into BREEAM as accredited buildings are then not continually assessed to ensure they maintain their rating.”

Nearly nine out of ten (87%) of respondents said BREEAM drives investment in innovative techniques and technologies. Top of the innovation list was renewable energy (68%), followed by natural ventilation (56%), materials (53%) and metering (48%).

All businesses said that they had installed building technologies and active energy management in their latest project, but less than a third did this solely for gaining credits. For the majority (51%) it was for both operational savings and gaining credits – a clear sign that organisations think beyond the initial BREEAM accreditation process to how they will use the building in the longer term.

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