First non-UK BREEAM outstanding award redraws the green building battle lines

The jostling for position in the field of environmental accreditations for buildings has taken a new turn with the announcement that a project in the Czech republic is the first commercial building outside the UK to achieve a BREEAM outstanding rating.  The Tower at the Spielberk development in Brno designed by architects Studio Acht is, according to the Building Research Establishment (BRE), a true demonstration of good design, reducing CO2 emissions by over 50 percent compared to a typical building, built to Czech regulations.  BRE Director Martin Townsend awarded the BREEAM outstanding certificate to Stefan de Goeij, Head of Property Management at CTP, for the office building which is located in the centre of the Czech Republic’s emerging high-tech city of Brno.

The building uses district heating, a heat exchanger and a heat recovery system and local renewable energy sources are used for power. Seven innovation credits  under the BREEAM system have been achieved for minimising construction site impacts, high levels of daylighting, avoidance of VOCs, use of renewable technologies, provision of alternative modes of transport, water sub-metering and management of construction site waste. The building also achieved 100 percent of available credits for Management, Health & Wellbeing and Waste sections. The façade of the concrete frame structure is comprised of 50 percent reused materials.

The BRE claims that BREEAM is becoming widely adopted in Europe and around the world as a way of demonstrating to investors, developers and the market that a building has been well designed and commissioned.

While the alternative LEED accreditation system is better known internationally, especially in North America, BREEAM is undoubtedly gaining  some acceptance overseas. During 2008, following significant changes to the BREEAM system,  it was announced that the Dutch Green Building Council was adopting BREEAM rather than LEED as its building assessment tool for the Netherlands. And a group of European property consultants and developers introduced BREEAM for Central and Eastern Europe.

However it still has work to do according to a report published earlier this year in the Architects Journal. Although BREEAM dominates in the UK across Europe there are around twice as many LEED accredited schemes. Efforts to  establish BREEAM Gulf as a direct challenger for LEED, which until that point had been the only environmental assessment system recognised in the United Arab Emirates, were abandoned after two years, albeit that some schemes were established.

A greater degree of  clarity and standardisation would be welcome  to help us develop global solutions for what are global environmental problems, not least because it will make it far easier for multinational businesses and local businesses alike to do something genuine, effective and comprehensive about meeting their green objectives.

The desire for this clarity is evident in the ongoing debate about which system is better, which is far from an easy question to answer, hence why the discussion continues in reports such as this white paper from the University of East Anglia, a similar report hosted on the Passivhaus website or discussions such as this on the BSRIA website.