Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by BRE

  BRE welcomes this inquiry and wishes to take the opportunity to provide some background on the scope and aims of its Building assessment method known as BREEAM, specifically in relation to BREEAM Schools. We would also like to provide summary data on the numbers of buildings achieving "VERY GOOD" and "EXCELLENT" (the top two levels of performance), and on the numbers of buildings currently being assessed.

  BREEAM was first established in 1990 and it's aim since then has been to recognise and encourage developers, and owner occupiers, to reduce the environmental impact of their buildings. A large proportion of the construction industry sees Buildings Regulations as the target level of performance rather than the legal minimum. It is therefore vital that this proportion of the sector is encouraged to improve. The lowest level of performance, in BREEAM ("PASS" level), is therefore based just above the minimum standards required in building regulations and any other mandatory standards.

  These minimum standards are at a higher level than in other sectors due to the DfES requirements, set out in Building Bulletins. When the Building Bulletin relating to acoustics was first released, construction industry professionals questioned whether it was even possible to achieve. It is certainly challenging when read in conjunction with the requirements of the Building Bulletin relating to energy use, ventilation and thermal comfort. Because of these challenging, mandatory standards it is harder for schools to achieve a "VERY GOOD" rating under BREEAM Schools than it is for an office under the BREEAM Offices scheme.

  It is for this reason, and because there was no increase to the allowed cost per square metre for new schools, that BRE advised DfES to require a "VERY GOOD" rating rather than the "EXCELLENT" standard set by the OGC. From the schools used to pilot BREEAM Schools it was felt that achieving a "VERY GOOD" rating would be possible within the current budget constraints of £1,050/m2. It was also felt that this would allow schools such as St Francis of Assisi (with a sustainability specialism) to demonstrate their environmental credentials by exceeding the required minimum level of "VERY GOOD".

  Due to the length of the design process there have not been many BREEAM Schools certificates awarded yet (only five of the 269 school buildings registered for an assessment have fully completed, although two of these assessments have not yet cleared the quality assurance process). Of these only two have met the "VERY GOOD" rating. The other three ratings are either "PASS" or "GOOD". These low ratings could be put down to the BREEAM process being started too late in the design process and therefore many of the credits would not be possible to achieve. However, it does highlight that achieving a "VERY GOOD" rating is not as straight forward as was indicated by David Lloyd Jones in the uncorrected transcript, from the meeting on the 24 May 2006.

  In conclusion it can be said that the earlier in the design process that a full design team can be put together, the better the school is likely to work. By the same token the earlier in the design process that BREEAM is considered, the easier and cheaper it will be to get a higher BREEAM rating and therefore a more sustainable school.

  As a final point, we would like to stress that, on reading through the transcript of the 24 May meeting, it is clear that even amongst experts there are some misunderstandings of the topics that BREEAM covers, and on the difficulty of achieving certain ratings. BRE would therefore welcome the opportunity to give more detail on the scope of the method before any conclusions are drawn as to the applicability and difficulty of the method and the associated DfES target.

June 2006

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