EDF Energy was the main sponsor and project partner in the development of BREEAM In-Use. Speaking at Ecobuild, Tom Saunders, manager of special projects in BRE's Sustainability Group, said that EDF Energy requested that an assessment should only take three hours. BRE managed to get it down to four hours. Considering the time it takes to carry out a traditional BREEAM assessment (anything from four days to four months) this is a huge improvement.
EDF was heavily involved in the pilot programme for the scheme, and the assessment of nine of their buildings has proved the quickness of the process, as it only took a total of 12 days of effort to do all the assessments. So it appears the assessment is easy to do, at least in terms of the time taken.
BREEAM In-Use is also relatively cheap at just £100 per asset (a building). But will there be strong take-up from the facilities management industry as the BRE hopes?
The obvious motivation is being seen to be green. This is high on many company agendas, as is saving money in a time when cash is scarce.
Carol Atkinson, the Chief Executive of BRE Global, believes these will be the two major drivers: "The environmental performance of an organisation's built assets is a key factor in its sustainability credentials and carbon footprint," she said. "Operating a building also represents a major cost. With increasing energy prices and the current economic outlook, cutting energy, water, waste and other such costs can be a relatively easy way of improving profitability," added Atkinson.
These were the main drivers in EDF's decision to partner BRE in the development of the scheme as the head of facilities management at EDF Energy, Simon Marshall, explained. "We have pledged to reduce carbon emissions from our offices and depots by 30 per cent by 2012. This is part of EDF's climate commitment, the biggest package of environmental initiatives announced by a major UK energy company," he said. "Energy use in our buildings has already decreased and this partnership will help us reduce it further," added Marshall.
BREEAM In-Use is not the only tool for assessing the operation of an existing building. LEED introduced an O&M version of its Existing Building scheme in 2008, for which there are three buildings registered in the UK1all on the Green Park business park in Reading.
Looking at the project register on the USGBC's website, there are only 22 buildings certified under this scheme, all in the US, while there are 936 buildings registered across 15 countries. Of course the vast majority of these buildings are in the US.
Up until 2006 the standard office and retail versions of BREEAM included a management and operation assessment option. However, this was largely based on the base building. BSRIA found that these modules were not widely used.
Australia is also developing its own operational assessment tool by adding a module for existing offices to the building version of the Greenstar rating tool. At the time of writing this was still in an extended pilot stage.
Are we there yet?
It appears that there is mixed interest in operational assessment tools. The US experience appears to be positive, mainly with the large corporations wanting to prove their sustainable credentials. However, the UK is a different environment.
The plus points for the BREEAM In-Use scheme is that it links into other rating tools, which buildings are required to have anyway, such as Energy Performance Certificates and Display Energy Certificates. BREEAM In-Use is also advertised as being useful to gaining and maintaining ISO 14001 accreditation.
The self-assessment element should also be looked at favourably by owners and facilities managers as it will allow them to benchmark their buildings and see where improvements can be made to maximise the certified rating.
The flip side of this is that there is no mandatory requirement to have an assessment (apart from buildings that gain an Outstanding rating in a BREEAM building assessment which must have an assessment or be downgraded to excellent).
Take up of BREEAM In-Use is therefore likely to be initially restricted to large corporations such as EDF, where there is the added benefit of being able to compare the performance of different buildings in a large estate. Corporate social responsibility will also be a driver, but to what extent as the recession bites is a moot point.
BRE certainly has faith in the concept of BREEAM In-Use. It is offering free training courses to the first 500 people who apply to become assessors. Will there be a flood of applications from facilities managers? Doubtless the well-oiled BRE press machine will tell us, if and when it happens.