The Ultimate Guide to BREEAM and enhancing your building’s sustainability

BREEAM – Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (let’s stick with BREEAM) – is the world’s longest-established method of assessing, rating and certifying the sustainability of buildings.   

Around 550,000 buildings have been BREEAM certified, so if you’re looking to add your building project to that list, there are a few things you need to know first.   

Our guide to BREEAM is a great starting point.   

Below, we cover: 

  • What is BREEAM? 
  • How is BREEAM calculated?
  • What are the different BREEAM schemes? 
  • What are BREEAM standards?
  • What are BREEAM credits?
  • What are BREEAM ratings?
  • How does BREEAM certification work?
  • Is BREEAM a legal requirement?
  • Is BREEAM worth it?

What is BREEAM?

In short, BREEAM is the standard for best practice for sustainable buildings and their design, construction and operation.  

Launched in 1990 by the Building Research Establishment (BRE), BREEAM is a sustainability assessment method that sets standards for the environmental performance of buildings, through design, specification, construction and operation phases.   

How is BREEAM calculated?

To achieve BREEAM certification, your building project must undergo a comprehensive assessment process that involves various categories, each with specific criteria. 

In this guide, we talk more about the different BREEAM schemes, standards, categories, criteria and ratings.  

What are the different BREEAM schemes?

BREEAM has a suite of schemes, which include various frameworks tailored to specific types of buildings and projects:  

BREEAM New Construction

Aimed at new buildings. Assesses the environmental performance of various types of construction projects, including commercial, residential, industrial, and public buildings. 


Focuses on the operational phase of existing buildings. Assesses the sustainability and environmental performance of the building in terms of management, energy, water, and other key factors. 

BREEAM Refurbishment and Fit-Out

Specifically designed for existing buildings undergoing refurbishment or fit-out projects. Evaluates the environmental impact of renovation and improvement activities. 

BREEAM Communities

Assesses the sustainability of large-scale developments, including residential, commercial, and mixed-use projects. It considers the environmental, social, and economic aspects of the entire development. 


What are BREEAM standards?

BREEAM standards refer to the specific criteria and guidelines set by BRE (Building Research Establishment) for assessing and certifying the environmental performance of your building.  

The assessment focusses on a range of categories, including: 

  • Management 
  • Water 
  • Energy  
  • Transport  
  • Health and wellbeing  
  • Resources 
  • Resilience  
  • Land use and ecology  
  • Pollution  
  • Materials 
  • Waste  
  • Innovation  

Each category addresses factors such as low-impact design and carbon emissions reduction, design durability and resilience, adaptation to climate change, and biodiversity protection.   

Within each category, there are specific criteria and performance benchmarks that a building must meet to earn BREEAM credits (see below). 


What are BREEAM credits?

Points are awarded to your building project during a BREEAM assessment. These points are known as BREEAM credits.  

Building projects earn credits based on how well they meet or exceed the specified criteria.  

To achieve a specific BREEAM rating (see below), your building project must accumulate a minimum number of credits. 


What are BREEAM ratings?

BREEAM ratings range from Acceptable, to Pass, Good, Very Good, Excellent to Outstanding. They are reflected as stars on your BREEAM certificate.  


How does BREEAM certification work?

The BREEAM process can be broken down into the following stages: 

  1. Find a licensed BREEAM assessor 
  2. Register your project  
  3. Undertake the BREEAM assessment 
  4. Quality Assurance check of the assessment  
  5. BREEAM certification 


Is BREEAM a legal requirement?

With the growing need to prioritise sustainability in construction, you may wonder if BREEAM is mandatory or a planning requirement for new buildings.  

However, BREEAM is not a legal requirement – it’s an entirely voluntary certification.  


Is BREEAM worth it?

So, if BREEAM is not compulsory, then you may be wondering what the purpose of BREEAM is, and if BREEAM certification is worth it? 

Millions of buildings are registered to work towards BREEAM’s standards to achieve environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG), health and net zero goals. 

The benefits of BREEAM include:  

Commitment to environmental responsibility

BREEAM certification demonstrates a proactive approach to minimising your building’s environmental impact and resource consumption.  

Cost savings

BREEAM encourages energy efficiency and sustainable practices, resulting in reduced operational costs over the building’s lifecycle.  

You can expect significant financial savings in the long term thanks to efficient resource use, waste reduction and energy conservation.   

Increased property value

BREEAM-certified buildings often have higher market value and appeal to environmentally-conscious investors and tenants.  

This is because certification can positively influence property appraisals and resale value. BREEAM certification sets your building apart in the market, showcasing a commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship. 

A more resilient future

BREEAM promotes resilient building design thanks to its consideration of climate change adaptation, which ensures your building’s ability to withstand and adapt to changing environmental conditions over time.  

Achieving a BREEAM certification means that your building promotes occupant health and wellbeing, considering factors like indoor air quality, lighting, and acoustics. 

Future compliance

Working towards BREEAM certification can help you ensure compliance with current and future environmental regulations and standards.  

By meeting and exceeding the BREEAM requirements, building owners could mitigate risks associated with changing legislation.  



Operance can help project teams achieve their BREEAM objectives. 

Our predefined digital templates allow you to easily document, curate and share the correct data related to your project’s design and construction, which will support you in working towards your BREEAM rating.