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Leed Versus Breeam Analysis Construction Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Construction
Wordcount: 1838 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Displaying a green certificate is becoming more and more important for organisations as the communities they operate in are becoming more and more sustainably aware.

Environmental assessment of buildings is nothing new, BREEAM was the first national scheme introduced in 1990 but has since expanded, going from a “small 19-page BRE report with 27 credits available, to a substantial 350-page technical guide with 105 credits”

BREEAM has conquered the UK Market for almost 20 years. But now has stiff competition from the US ‘Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design’ (LEED). In 1998 the US Green Building Council launched its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

BREEAM and LEED are now the main methods currently competing for business in the UK.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)

‘Is an internationally recognized green building certification system, providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts’ (USGBC, 2008). Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED provides building owners and operators a concise framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions. It was recently introduced into the UK as a solution to some of the downfalls of current rating systems.

“In the UK, interest in LEED is growing. The Green Building Certification Institute’s website records 66 LEED Accredited Professionals in the UK. This is the fifth highest national total behind the US, Canada, UAE and China” (BSRIA, 2009).

LEED is flexible enough to apply to all building types especially commercial. It works throughout the building lifecycle first assessment is completed at the design and construction stage then the second is the operations and maintenance stage, then finally any tenant fit out, and significant retrofit. However, the LEED design can miss many green opportunities that fall outside the stringent LEED criteria. “One problem with the LEED method of sustainable design is that it can foster an all-or-nothing attitude toward this pursuit. LEED audits have become a common activity during schematic design. All too often, however, green design is abandoned entirely once this audit shows a project falling short of the number of points required for LEED certification” (Environmental Outlook, 2002).

Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM

‘Is the foremost method of assessing the environmental performance of new and existing buildings both in the UK and worldwide. It sets the standard for best practice in sustainable development and covers virtually all aspects of the design. (BREEAM, 2002)

Achieving a BREEAM rating is ever more becoming a requirement of Funding Bodies and Planning Authorities. It also ‘demonstrates a commitment to socially responsible development and creating sustainable and healthy environments in which current and future generations are to live and work’. (BREEAM, 2002)

Assessments are carried out at two stages; Firstly, during the Design Stage and then at Post Construction Review Stage. Following the Post Construction Stage Assessment, the Client is provided with a BREEAM Certificate directly by the BRE. BREEAM Ratings are awarded in five categories: ‘pass, good, very good, excellent and outstanding’.

The BREEAM process will help to encourage better standards with commercial developments, but it should be done in a way that clearly acknowledges the complete development cycle for different options rather than the ‘factory gate’ figure alone.

Future strategies for BREEAM will need to see a general alignment with government carbon reduction and sustainability plans. BREEAM would then be more integrated into legislation so that new buildings are built with sustainability embedded throughout the complete process.

These two methods lack similarities when it comes to the process of qualifications. “BREEAM has trained assessors who assess the evidence against the credit criteria and report it to the BRE, who validate the assessment and issue the certificate. While LEED does not require training, there is a credit available if an ‘accredited professional’ (AP) is used”. (James Parker 2009)


The role of the AP is to help gather the evidence and advise the client. The evidence is then submitted to the USGBC which does the assessment and issues the certificate.

Both schemes share common components see Table 1.

Early involvement of the assessor or AP at the design stage is beneficial to the project and the final rating. Both schemes drive the market to improve building design. The judging criteria also keep pace with legislative developments and current best practice.

James Parker author of BREEAM vs LEED (2009) has issued findings on buildings which have achieved both a BREEAM and a LEED rating his findings were as follows.

“The US-GBC also lists ten UK buildings as being registered for one of the LEED schemes. At the time of writing, the list shows that only one UK building – the Herman Miller HQ in Cheltenham – as having gained a LEED rating. This building also had a BREEAM assessment carried out under the offices 2006 scheme, under which it was awarded an excellent rating.

Another building known to have both a BREEAM and a LEED rating is the Van de Kamp Bakery, at Los Angeles City College. The bakery gained a certified LEED rating and a Good BREEAM 2005 rating” (James Parker, 2009).

James Parkers findings provide the opinion that BREEAM issues a higher rating for the same building in both the US and the UK. However it would be more precise to compare LEED with BREEAM 2008, as the latter now has a compulsory post-construction review, this has been an item on the objective list for LEED for a while. Previous BREEAM schemes only assessed buildings at a design stage.

Eszter Gulacsy, a sustainability consultant from MTT/Sustain has stated that whilst ‘BREEAM is more educational and more rigorous LEED is far simpler in its approach, “BREEAM is more relevant in the UK as it uses UK policies, however LEED can sit alongside as part of a global corporate policy,” she says.

Gulacsy also believes that the driver for LEED in the UK is often the client’s global corporate policy or the needs for global tenants. This makes a lot of sense, companies that are multi-national would find it much easier if their sustainable commitments and rating procedure were dealt with in the same way but before the introduction on LEED into the UK, multi-national companies had to use BREEAM in the UK and perhaps LEED elsewhere.

For example Germany-based Siemens now uses LEED for all its new buildings worldwide, several of these are now located in Europe.

BREEAM’s director, Martin Townsend states that “We have not been shy about selling BREEAM across the globe. BREEAM International grew out of the BREEAM Bespoke scheme. BREEAM Europe and BREEAM Gulf are similar money-earners. But going global brings BREEAM head-to-head with its rival LEED. Ironically, we are seeking ways of collaborative working with the US LEED system. ‘If an American bank wants to build over here, it understands about LEED and wants the building built to that standard. That’s fine, but it might not translate that well into the UK climatic environment, our building legislation or the way that building operates. Providing a client with dual certification has to be a good way of sharing that information.” (Building Design, 2009)

But Gulacsy warns “Europe thinks that LEED is an easy win, but it isn’t if the paperwork and evidence is not in place. There is a danger of complacency,”

So would a merging of the two competing systems be seen as desirable? Clearly, a one-size-fits-all assessment method would be complicated to implement on a global basis as problems that face one country or region might not be issues in others therefore these need to be ranked accordingly for example water efficiency is a major issue in Dubai and Australia, but not in England or Ireland.

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“LEED is dominated by the American ASHRAE standards (“an international organization that establishes standards for the uniform testing and rating of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration equipment”) (EPA, 2004). BREEAM takes its cue from European and UK legislation. The regional versions of both schemes flow from those antecedents. BREEAM Gulf has been adapted for the local market. Gone are the Good, Very Good, and Excellent ratings, and in comes star ratings. The weightings are changed so that water is the key issue, rather than energy as in the standard UK schemes. In addition to the CIBSE guidance being the measure for certain credits, ASHRAE and other standards are also now referenced in BREEAM Gulf. BREEAM has long been able to adapt to local contexts. With BREEAM Bespoke, for example, the assessor can work with BRE to develop assessment criteria specially tailored to a building where it doesn’t fit neatly into one of the existing schemes.” Stephen Kennett, (2008).

It is stated that LEED has not been shaped with this high level of flexibility and it is not run this way. “LEED is fixed to the ASHRAE standards and the US way of thinking (for example, credits are awarded for having enough car parking spaces, rather than minimising them as in BREEAM). There are also differences in the way LEED calculates credits. They are generally linked to the US Dollar, which means that if the exchange rate is unfavourable, then the building’s rating could suffer” (James Parker, 2009).

“There is a lot of hype about the battle between BREEAM and LEED in the UK, but this seems to be unfounded. Both seem happy to co-exist and each has their niche areas or countries. They are even borrowing each other’s ideas as they grow.

BREEAM will probably always come out on top in the UK, simply because it is imbedded in the system. Government departments require BREEAM ratings of all their buildings; most local authorities require BREEAM as part of planning approval for developments over a certain size. Once projects are underway that aim to be zero carbon, the likes of BREEAM or LEED may have developed to become the global default methods of assessment”. (James Parker 2009)


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