The Sustainability of new office developments and BREEAM
An issue often discussed in relation to new office development is BREEAM but what is this and what exactly does it mean?
BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology) was founded in 1990 and is the World’s leading sustainability assessment method for master planning buildings. The BREEAM assessment process evaluates the procurement, design, construction and operation of a development against performance benchmarks. BREEAM measures a broad range of categories and criteria (nine in total) from energy to materials. It also includes aspects related to the health and well-being of occupants, water use, transport, pollution, waste and management processes. Developments are independently assessed and rated on a scale from “pass” to “outstanding”. The overarching aim of BREEAM is to encourage developers to make effective, efficient use of resources and focus on sustainable value.
In practice the benefits of a BREEAM certified building are as follows:
- Recognition / industry standing. The implementation of BREEAM is important for both developers and the end users of a building to demonstrate their strong CSR credentials. Many institutional occupiers will now stipulate high BREEAM standards to be in line with their CSR strategy and the requirement for buildings to achieve a minimum of BREEAM Very Good will become more and more common. For this reason alone many institutional occupiers will not even consider dated and non-compliant buildings and this is leading to redundancy in more dated stock. In the local market this trend is being offset to an extent by the conversion of older buildings to provide residential accommodation.
- Reducing operational costs. BREEAM encourages the specification and design of energy efficient equipment and systems. Although there can be a cost in achieving a higher BREEAM rating recent research has found that the additional cost can be recovered in as little as 2 years through savings in energy and water bills. These cost savings are an important consideration for occupiers when assessing their premises options and whilst rental levels are higher for new premises they tend to be more efficient to occupy (staff density levels of 1 person per 8 sq.m should now be achievable) and running costs are significantly reduced.
- Improved occupant satisfaction. The standards promote a workplace with good indoor air quality, good lighting thermal comfort, daylight levels and high levels of comfort. The overall impact is to reduce absenteeism, improve staff retention and also attract new staff in what is an increasingly tough employment market. As an example, Buildings 4 and 5 of the IFC will obtain a credit for “Views Out” as 100% of the occupier’s desks are within seven meters of a window. Several studies in the last decade have estimated productivity gains as a result of proximity to windows.
- Limit investor and developer risk. Rapidly evolving regulation is posing increasing challenges for existing buildings and their owners and investors. There is a growing body of research to show that sustainability can have a positive impact on rental levels, occupancy rates and reduced obsolescence. The Energy Act of 2011 in the UK contained a number of provisions which affected owners and occupiers of commercial property. Most significant was the introduction of Energy Performance Certificates and from April 2018 proposed legislative changes would make it unlawful to let commercial properties with an EPC rating of F or G. This could have a serious negative impact on marketability and of course value. There is currently no such regulation in the Channel Islands but in following UK best practice, something similar may be introduced in due course and it is something of which investors and occupiers will be acutely aware.
- Reducing construction waste and material use BREEAM encourages the optimisation of design, procurement and material use to reduce cost and also promotes better waste management and disposal in development projects.
The use of BREEAM will mean that a developer will focus not only on the initial design and construction of a building but also the most efficient running, maintenance and upkeep once it is in use. This will deliver benefits to both the owner and occupier of the building.
Buildings 4 and 5 of the International Finance Centre are targeted to deliver a BREEAM “Excellent” rating under the 2008 standard and thus will provide premises that achieve almost the highest sustainability credentials and will be set in a bespoke district to serve the Island’s leading industry.