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Raising the bar in sustainability for infrastructure – BREEAM and CEEQUAL

BREEAM and CEEQUAL are being developed to raise the bar for sustainable infrastructure projects.

ChrisBroadbent-headerAt the end of last year BRE announced the acquisition of CEEQUAL into its BREEAM family of international sustainability standards. Here Chris Broadbent, Director of Infrastructure at BRE and Managing Director of CEEQUAL Ltd, discusses how the development programme for BREEAM Infrastructure and CEEQUAL is progressing.


In November last year you announced that BRE had acquired CEEQUAL. What is now happening with CEEQUAL?

We are positively promoting CEEQUAL as an established, effective and well received scheme, engaging with clients, assessors, verifiers and the whole CEEQUAL community. They are an effective and dedicated group of people committed to doing the right thing and working to improve sustainability in civil engineering.

We have held three regional meetings (with more to follow) and have visited all the countries in which CEEQUAL currently operates. At these events we have outlined the positive plans for CEEQUAL’s future, and presented numerous CEEQUAL awards. These are a celebration of CEEQUAL success, demonstrating the pride and commitment of the project teams and it is a privilege for us to be a part of that.

Thirty two new CEEQUAL projects have been registered since November representing a construction value of £4bn. This includes projects in Qatar, Sweden and CEEQUALs first project in Norway. We have spoken at conferences in the UK with others scheduled for later in the year. We are running assessor training courses and following up on many opportunities for new projects.

It was also announced that there would be a two year programme of work to bring BREEAM Infrastructure and CEEQUAL together into a single best practice standard. What’s the latest state of play and what progress are you making?

Since November with both CEEQUAL and BREEAM, we have been operating and maintaining schemes for evaluating, measuring and sharing knowledge to improve the built environment. In this time both organisations have evolved and adapted, not only to changes in our knowledge of constructing, planning and operating a scheme, but also to the changing environmental, economic and social needs. CEEQUAL has been driving such change through improving processes for a project, and BREEAM from a performance outcomes perspective. We are now in a very fortunate position to be able to work with industry to bring together the best of both.

iStock_000043165068_croppedThis comes at an important time for the industry, to ensure that we deliver a successful and valuable service to international clients, and also ensure we respond to the continually evolving nature of infrastructure construction. In the future we are committed to ensuring that the direction of any new scheme is guided by our international partners, building on the principles of science and independence that underpin the approach we take with all that we do.

The infrastructure industry, in fact, told us that they wanted to see one scheme that everyone could aspire to, removing any competition between BREEAM and CEEQUAL. When we discussed this with CEEQUAL before they joined BRE, we developed a common belief in the positive features in both CEEQUAL and BREEAM, and that working together we could create something very valuable for the sector.

The acquisition was unanimously welcomed in the industry, looking forward in particular to the next version of the methodologies, incorporating BREEAM’s robust science, metric and outcome focussed thinking. We have an industry working group advising on this that has now met twice. This group is steering the two year development programme and includes members of the previous CEEQUAL Technical Advisory Group, some original CEEQUAL shareholders, a BREEAM technical group and industry representation. The work so far has focussed on the key requirements of the next version and the scope of content of what will be assessed. This is very positive and rewarding work and we are on track to release the next version in the first part of 2018.

Are you finding more organisations are becoming interested in BREEAM and CEEQUAL? Is sustainability a growing issue for the infrastructure community?

Yes, reports such as the Infrastructure Carbon Review and Construction 2025 have put more of a spotlight on sustainability in the civil engineering sector. CEEQUAL and BREEAM are seen as frameworks for managing sustainability factors and environmental impacts to get a better outcome for the project. It is an improvement tool as well as a certification scheme to independently verify what the project has achieved. Large projects such as Crossrail and the Olympic Park have shown that a focus on sustainability does deliver tangible benefits, as well as providing inspiration to project teams and the opportunity to challenge, stimulate innovation and deliver better projects.

Are there any notable projects or clients you are working with?

Day by day, new projects that come along are seeking to improve on the performance of others and we see these taking sustainability very seriously. HS2 and Tideway, amongst others, are engaging with the BREEAM infrastructure methodology, whilst M4 Newport, the Northern Line Extension, Heathrow Rail Link and Silvertown Crossings are working with CEEQUAL.

We also have major projects with TfL, Network Rail and Highways England, and were delighted to receive the first application from Norway for a hydro-electric power scheme.

iStock_000018239670Large - Copy (2)What do you think are the relative strengths of BREEAM and CEEQUAL?

Both have positive features. CEEQUAL has the flexibility, through scoping out, to apply to all types and size of project. The verification process ensures the independent review of evidence is in the context of a good working knowledge of the project. The team awards included in CEEQUAL are helpful in engaging all those in the project in the sustainability agenda. The project strategy section is a good start, addressing the important sustainable living questions but does needs careful thought for future development. Formal presentation of the CEEQUAL awards and certificates gives a great opportunity for celebration for all involved.

In BREEAM, the clear focus is on the asset itself using science-based criteria, opportunities for measurement and benchmarking and UKAS-based third party certification.  A high level of rigour in the BREEAM training, qualification and assessment process supports this. The inclusion of a ‘resilience’ section in BREEAM has particular value to infrastructure as these projects, particularly need to stay operational in the face of all threats including extreme weather, security, climate change, and future changes in demographics and technology.

Are there any particular challenges in developing the offering for the infrastructure sector and what benefits do you see will come from the next version of the schemes?

Bringing the two schemes together will raise the bar for civil engineering sustainability. The new methodology will be a world leader for infrastructure, challenging the infrastructure community to achieve a higher level of performance and creating a continuous improvement culture in the design, construction and management of infrastructure assets.

However we are also intending that the next version will be manageable for those working with it, generating interest and momentum in achieving higher levels of sustainability particularly in long-term projects where assessment stages may be several years apart. We will have the capacity to offer development of the skills and competence that assessors need to ensure a culture of continuous improvement, always in touch with the latest thinking in the sector.

Whilst we are doing this, it is also essential to ensure that all current projects continue to completion under the scheme they have started with. If teams wish to transfer to the next version of the scheme we will make arrangements for this. Aligning the roles for QA, verification and assessment will need careful thought to ensure all is in line with UKAS standards. Finally, there is the challenge of creating a scheme that will enable the combination of ratings for buildings and infrastructure, to give a combined asset rating where relevant.

Whilst you are engaged in development work, should infrastructure projects continue to register under CEEQUAL and under BREEAM as a pilot? What are the likely transition arrangements?

Absolutely! CEEQUAL is an established and well-conceived scheme that is delivering real benefits to projects and teams. We are encouraging that to continue. There was always going to be a next version (v6) of CEEQUAL and BRE’s involvement does not change that. There will be transitional training arrangements for assessors (both CEEQUAL and BREEAM) to upskill to the next version when the time comes, as well as a full training course for new assessors. Projects will have the opportunity to transfer, if it suits them, but those that wish to continue in the version they started with will be supported.

We actively encourage you to both pilot BREEAM Infrastructure and apply CEEQUAL, profit from the the benefits of both schemes, and importantly encourage you to get involved in the next generation of an infrastructure standard that will drive best practice for all.

How can infrastructure companies and the wider industry get involved in the work you are doing? Are you looking for more pilot projects?

The best way to engage is to register a project under CEEQUAL or our BREEAM pilot scheme. We are happy to provide advice on which will be most suitable. There will be a continued industry consultation in the development process and we encourage all interested parties to join in this when the time comes.

Finally, do you think BREXIT will affect CEEQUAL and planned infrastructure projects in the UK?

There may be initial ripples of uncertainty in the market at the moment but following various statements from Government and the National Infrastructure Commission we are confident that planned projects will go ahead. Infrastructure affects everything we do as a nation and globally – our business success relies on it, and our people depend on it in every aspect of their lives. In fact it is critical we progress projects like Crossrail now more than ever, and continue to push the boundaries of exemplary projects.