Taking the Complexity out of BREEAM Assessments

By Glenn Miles on Sunday 6 July 2014

The uptake of BREEAM has grown considerably over the past ten to fifteen years. Figures displayed by BRE, show that over 15,000 projects have been BREEAM certified since the rating system was first launched in 1990. This equates to more than 200,000 buildings.

More and more building professionals are seeing not only the environmental benefits but recognising that having green rating certifications such as BREEAM will increase the value of their buildings. However, embracing these assessments doesn’t come without its challenges: for many contractors the amount of work and costs involved can be discouraging.

Undertaking BREEAM Assessments presents its challenges
Contractors often have the responsibility to deliver a building project to a certain budget and green standard. Systems like BREEAM allow contractors to ensure they are delivering to the required green standard. However, traditionally when it comes to BREEAM, the main challenges for contractors is co-ordinating the large amount of evidence required for each credit and the documentation required. This presents difficulties in terms of keeping track of not only the project stages, evidence to be submitted and reporting to the client, but the entire project team as well from Assessors to Design Team members.

Most building projects consist of very large design teams, each with their part to play in the BREEAM process. The challenge with this is ensuring that each individual knows exactly what’s required from them and when their work is due. It’s imperative that everyone completes and submits their work on time to ensure the project is on track to accomplish the required rating.

Enter online project tracking systems
Since the early 2000’s cloud-based project management systems have emerged to simplify these processes. They are secure, centralised and don’t come with any traditional IT issues around backup, diskspace and availability. Everything is managed in real-time and administrative tasks traditionally done manually are done automatically, making it much easier to focus on bigger tasks. Tracker systems are also tailored to the BREEAM process so encourage best practice and help projects achieve the best rating possible.

These systems make it much easier to report and be transparent – as documentation is uploaded and reviewed the BREEAM score is automatically updated and can be easily accessed as you go along. The process of submitting evidence takes seconds and minutes rather than hours and days and contractors can report to their clients easily at the stages required and much more easily manage the whole design team.

Unlike with traditional methods, contractors can report on multiple projects very quickly. They can also group projects together online by region or client. Bouygues contractors use IES TaP for all of its BREEAM projects, which allows them to see what they are doing with regards to projects in different regions that they work in. They can see the scores in each region, and globally, and check their progress with regards to timescales and targets. With tracker systems you can effectively manage your whole portfolio and reporting from one interface.

Tracker systems are also handy for keeping track of multiple projects and multiple Assessors. A large Contractor could easily have 50 different projects going on, and therefore potentially have 50 different assessors. Without a tracker system they would need to contact each one to ask for a report, which may be all in different formats, and check their progress so they can then generate their report. However, if they had a tracker system and all their assessors were using the same system, they could get all the live information themselves and generate their report from one place.

People management is one of the most important things to get right when undertaking BREEAM assessments. Most tracker systems solve the issues that come with this by assigning credits and evidence required to each member of the design team, detailing exactly what is required from them and by when. Some even send automatic email alerts when evidence is due or overdue to ensure the whole team is on track. When you have a huge team to keep track of, this feature is priceless.

Bouygues UK for example were not making their design target until midway through the construction stage of a project, whereas now using the IES TaP system they are now meeting the design targets sometimes prior to starting on site. Because they can easily keep track of their teams and Assessors it has made the whole process a lot faster. You can read more on how Bouygues UK is benefitting from the use of IES TaP in the IES case study.

Some tracking systems allow you to tie in project milestones against BREEAM credits and evidence.  If the project is financially bound whereby you need to be at a certain BREEAM score by a particular date, or if the project is being managed by RIBA stages and you need to be at a certain BREEAM score by a particular stage, this is a great benefit.  Dates can be assigned against the project milestones to automatically set the deadlines for providing evidence and completing BREEAM credits in-line with the project stages.

Tracker systems are not only a great benefit to Contractors, assessors and their design teams they also make things much easier and more efficient for Ratings Providers such as BRE. Some Tracker systems, such as IES TaP have the BRE Badge of Recognition (BBoR). This means that BRE can automatically log on and quickly see all of the submissions and reporting for each project. Traditionally all reports would be sent by CD in the post. With tracker systems that have the BBoR, the process is much quicker and simpler – BRE are notified once a completed assessment is submitted by the assessor, and they can then log on to the system to review it, provide their feedback and issue the certification.

Using tracker systems BRE can review any credit and any piece of evidence at the click of a button, there’s no separate report or folders of documents to search through. They can go directly to the credit and it will automatically open that piece of evidence and they can check to ensure everything is in order. They are also able to more easily manage the assessments that come in, they can see how many are queued in the system for review rather than having to individually allocate each submission to different QA assessors and keep track manually

Online tracker systems – it’s a ‘no brainer’
There are many tracker systems on the market with different levels of capability, the one thing they all have in common is that they allow users to wave goodbye to ‘old fashioned’ slower methods of working and say hello to quicker and more efficient ways that save time, costs and increase productivity. For me it’s a ‘no brainer’ – to move forward the industry needs to embrace online cloud-based technology and use it to its advantage. By making it easier for building professionals to adopt green building rating systems, tracker systems have the ability to further increase the uptake and accelerate the green building movement to reach the ultimate goal of a healthy, energy efficient and sustainable built environment.

This article was originally published in Modern Building Services 6 August, 2013  http://www.modbs.co.uk/news/fullstory.php/aid/13593/BREEAM_on_track.html

About the Author
Glenn Miles is a construction professional educated to degree level in Architecture with a HND in Building Studies. His background is engineering/Architectural and environmental and he has been working in the construction industry for 19 years 10 of which at Director level, 5 years with an Engineering consultancy and the last 5 years with Encon Associates Ltd. He is a BREEAM Accredited Professional and an active BREEAM assessor and has been for 8 years. He is experienced and qualified in the majority of the BREEAM schemes and is an active Code for Sustainable Homes Assessor. He is also an Incorporated member of the CIOB and Technician member of the IStructE. Up until recently he sat on the committee for the East Midlands region as the Technician representative for the IStructE and also sat on the main council for 2010-2012 session. glenn@enconassociates.com