The power of specification: building a sustainable future with BREEAM

The power of specification: building a sustainable future with BREEAM

Specification can help to create a more sustainable built environment by considering the environmental, social, and economic impacts of materials and processes.

In the world of construction, architects, building surveyors, consultants, and main contractors hold the blueprints to our built environment. The decisions you make, particularly in the specification phase, shape not only the structures we create but also their impact on our world. But what if we could use this power not only to build, but to build sustainably? 

Through the strategic use of BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method), the world’s leading sustainability assessment method for masterplanning projects, infrastructure, and buildings, we can make a significant impact on the sustainability of our construction projects. 

Sustainability from the outset 

Specification plays a pivotal role in creating a more sustainable built environment. It is through specification that we decide which materials and processes to use in a construction project, as these choices have a profound impact on a project’s overall sustainability. 

A strategic approach to specification can embed sustainability at the outset of a project. This involves considering the environmental, social, and economic impacts of the materials and processes we choose. For example, we can opt for responsibly resourced materials, minimising the risk of negative impacts. This includes considering factors such as the social and economic conditions under which the materials were produced, as well as their environmental footprint. 

Another powerful tool used to embed sustainability at the outset of a project is Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). LCA enables quantifying the environmental impacts of a building throughout its entire life cycle, from the extraction of raw materials to its eventual demolition and disposal. By using LCA, we can make more informed decisions about the materials and processes specified, choosing those that offer the lowest environmental impact. 

The BREEAM advantage 

BREEAM is more than just a sustainability assessment; it is a comprehensive tool that encourages a more sustainable approach to building. BREEAM assessment evaluates the procurement, design, construction, and operation of a development against a range of targets based on performance benchmarks. Specifying BREEAM at the outset of a project ensures that sustainability is not an afterthought, but a guiding principle. 

There are numerous benefits to this approach. As well as promoting the use of sustainable materials and processes and reducing the environmental footprint of projects, BREEAM offers a robust framework for Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) support, providing invaluable guidance to real estate clients and the broader architectural community. It also ensures best practice and improved building performance, resulting in reduced costs and a more valuable asset.  

With the impending implementation of new updates to the Building Safety Act in October 2023, the role of specification is set to become even more critical. The Act requires the creation of a ‘golden thread’ of vital information for all high-risk buildings. BRE is ready to support specifiers in meeting this requirement, helping to improve project specifications and ultimately, building safety and sustainability. 

Specifying BREEAM is easier than you might think. The process is designed to be straightforward and accessible, making it simple for architects, building surveyors, consultants, and main contractors to incorporate BREEAM into their projects. 

Educating for a sustainable future 

To further support sustainable specification, BRE is producing a program of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) courses. These courses will educate and advise specifiers on a range of ESG topics, equipping them with the knowledge and skills needed to make more sustainable choices. 

Next steps 

The power to build a more sustainable future is in our hands. By specifying BREEAM, we can make a real difference to the sustainability of our projects and the wider built environment. 

To find out more about how you can get involved contact our specification specialist Dean Sherwood at BRE ( Together, we can build a future that is not only sustainable, but also safe, resilient, and inclusive. 

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