How BREEAM can help the construction industry achieve its sustainability goals

The role buildings play in climate change is under the microscope.

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) estimates that buildings consume 40% of the world’s energy and produce a third of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Integrating smart technology into new construction and retrofitting existing sites is becoming a long-term strategic decision for companies managing changing environmental legislation. In this area, therefore, clear regulations and strong certification programs are essential to effect the urgent change and acceleration of action needed to achieve sustainability goals.

If we act now, there is still time to achieve the goal Sustainable Development Goals relevant to the construction industry, and follow the roadmap of European Green Deal. To meet this challenge, we must approach sustainability holistically, with a Triple Bottom Line (TBL) framework that focuses as much on social and environmental concerns as on benefits. As a strong advocate of sustainable and circular business practices, I support the TBL the theory. He posits that instead of one bottom line, there should be three: profit, people and planet.

But what makes a building sustainable and how do you prove it to stakeholders who are increasingly looking to prove their status? One way is to use a sustainability rating method for buildings such as the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) certification.

We are incredibly proud to have completed the evaluation of some of our electrification products and solutions, which when installed will improve building performance according to BREAAM certifications. Our solutions have been recognized according to three BREEAM certificates for the international, UK and Dutch markets. But I consider this step more than just a feather in our hat. The product and solutions, particularly in the categories of energy management, health and wellness, and water and waste management, have major benefits for architects, developers, real estate companies, consultants and specifiers, benefits that go beyond the need to “do the right thing”. .

I argue that however you look at it, pursuing green certifications is just plain good business.

The why and what of BREEAM

To achieve the 2030 emission reduction targets set by the Paris Agreement, the construction sector must significantly increase the pace of energy renovations of buildings. And it has to take care of existing renovations, as well as the production and supply of renewable energy.

In a nutshell, BREEAM exists to assess the long-term sustainability of a building project, apply a rating and make recommendations on how those ratings can be improved. Our clients use it to ensure that buildings are compliant in terms of sustainable construction, operation and design. Certification provides a versatile assessment framework covering the full spectrum of activities, including in-use, refurbishment and refurbishment programs, as well as new developments. With over a third of the developers pursuing a BREEAM certification, its popularity and importance in the industry cannot be overstated. And its popularity continues to grow.

Benefits throughout the value chain

I believe sustainability certification is becoming increasingly important for several reasons. From an increasing number of requirements imposed by local authorities to numerous social, economic, health and community benefits, sustainability measures in buildings have become an integral part of the modern investor’s checklist and decision-making process. .

Naturally, these standards have also contributed to a greater emphasis on development strategies that minimize construction waste, reduce CO2 emissions and protect biotopes and wildlife habitats. These are quantifiable benefits that are achievable for all stakeholders, from developer to owner to tenant.

Another crucial benefit of certification relates to the identity of construction and architecture companies in a highly guarded market. Innovate in the UK (formerly the UK Technology Strategy Board) describes it as a way for companies to “differentiate themselves in a competitive market with a highly visible, authoritative and internationally recognized quality mark”. Going even further, the UK-based Building Services Research and Information Association (BSRIA) survey of the value of BREEAM suggests that, from a “social perspective”, industry recognition is the most important benefit, followed by benefits in public relations and corporate social responsibility (CSR). In fact, around 40% of developers surveyed considered CSR to be one of the top reasons for pursuing certification.

Developer’s point of view: The report of World Green Building Council makes the ‘Business case for green building’. He suggests that the sale prices of certified green buildings have increased by up to 30% compared to conventional code-compliant buildings. Additionally, according to the Urban Land Institute, sustaining assets, improving resilience and reducing risk are vital considerations for the real estate sector.

The owner’s point of view: According to the same report, certification can increase building rental rates by up to 24.9% over conventional code-compliant buildings. The 2014 DLA Piper report suggests that 38% of respondents identified preserving or increasing value as the primary benefit of sustainable real estate, followed by reputation (18%) and reduced energy costs ( 15%). Add to that the lower operating costs associated with sustainability-focused initiatives and the business case for green buildings becomes even more attractive.

The tenant’s point of view: The research paper on Benchmarking Energy Use of Building Environmental Rating Systems (Lee, 2012) analyzes the characteristics of the different certification schemes and shows that BREEAM takes into consideration the operational and performance data, a characteristic that differentiates it from its competitors. This is reinforced by the BSRIA Value of BREEAM survey, in which 43% of respondents identified operational cost savings among the benefits of BREEAM. In particular, the report highlights how BREEAM is encouraging the use of smart controls and smart meters, which can facilitate efficient maintenance and performance and thus reduce associated costs.

It’s easy

Above all, I consider this certification as proof of our desire to remain a key player in the circular economy and the reduction of greenhouse gases. This position is based on a shared conviction that BREEAM can contribute to reducing the negative effects of construction. As we move forward, I will be particularly interested in how the positive effects of our product’s contribution to credits with BREEAM rated buildings translate into greater benefits for our customers, and how this affects the use of materials on construction sites.

Of course, as every business knows, it’s not enough to have cutting-edge technology. Our philosophy is based on the principle that great technology should be designed with ease as a core principle – from ease of purchase and installation to ease of support. Seen in this light, our products providing BREAAM credits are a key step in the journey we are embarking on with our customers: to facilitate the delivery of sustainable benefits to the built environment.

Find out how ABB products and solutions can contribute to BREEAM Building certification here.

Written by Marie-Sofie Seger, who leads sustainability initiatives in ABB’s Smart Buildings division

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