The Greenest Building Could be the One You’ve Already Built

By Breana Wheeler, director of operations, BREEAM USA

Existing Buildings Matter

According to the Department of Energy, there are currently 5.6 million commercial buildings in the United States, representing approximately 87.1 billion square feet of floor space[1].  Since 2003, 14% of that space was built new, leading to a flurry of building certifications (LEED, Well, Sites, etc.) targeting design and construction.  And while the resultant fleet of energy-efficient projects has greatly reduced negative environmental impacts, this build-centric approach largely ignores the longest part of the building’s lifecycle—its operations and management.

Building operations have the greatest impact on the environment and are where the most value can be gained and maintained.  For owners and investors, how a building is operated is just as important as how it was built.  You can design and build the greenest and cleanest building in the world, but if it’s not managed with efficient principles, its value will decline over time.

Expanding the Market for Existing Buildings Certification

Although LEED-EB (LEED existing building) is a highly regarded and well-deserved award, 85% of the existing building stock does not meet the basic criteria for a LEED rating.  Of the remaining 15%, an even smaller percentage is able and willing to invest in certification costs:  time and effort for all related paperwork, consulting fees, costs to demonstrate prerequisites, and actual submission expenses.  This leaves a significant percentage of the market without a viable option for certification, despite its adoption of mindful practices.

It was in this context that Barry Giles, CEO and founder of BuildingWise, sought to collaborate with BRE (Building Research Establishment) to bring BREEAM to America.  BREEAM is the world’s first and most widely used green building rating system that has inspired the creation of many others, including the U.S.-based LEED.  Over 553,000 certificates have been issued by BREEAM worldwide, with over 2.25 million projects registered.

BREEAM USA was launched in June 2016 with the BREEAM USA In-Use benchmarking and certification program focusing on existing buildings.

Why Clients Practice BREEAM USA In-Use

There are five key reasons why building owners and managers implement BREEAM USA In-Use tactics:

  1. Buildings of any type, size, or performance level can participate. By having no minimum performance requirements, all commercial buildings in a portfolio can be benchmarked and/or certified against a single standard and compare their performances globally. Removing participation barriers opens up the market. Learn BREEAM USA In-Use principles through this webinar.
  1. Holistic, evidence-based, performance-focused criteria that is backed by science. BREEAM In-Use assesses performance against a range of environmental topics such as energy, waste, and water, and has a dedicated category for health and well-being that goes beyond basic indoor air quality questions. BREEAM is backed by peer-reviewed scientific research and, while its standards are tailored for the U.S. market, they are measured against international best practices for operations and maintenance. This means that a BREEAM-rated property in the U.S. can compare its performance to BREEAM In-Use buildings anywhere else in the world. Learn more about the value of the certification here.
  1. Flexibility without sacrificing credibility. Few questions need answered to participate in benchmarking, which allows clients the flexibility of providing data where they find value rather than simply to comply with a certification requirement. Category weightings ensure that only those who perform well across multiple classifications can earn the highest ratings. Performance is verified by a licensed BREEAM USA Assessor through a site visit and evaluations are conducted with a codified manual.
  2. The online tool developed to benchmark and certify buildings is easy to use. Clients describe their performance and receive an instant unverified score online. They can then choose to continue benchmarking performance, embark on an improvement program, or move toward certification.
  1. Benchmarking and/or certification is cost-effective. It only costs $1,000 to register a building with BREEAM USA. That fee provides access to the Performance Measurement for up to one full year or until certification.  A BREEAM certificate is valid for one year and may be renewed up to two times.

Why Assessors are Choosing to be Trained and Licensed

As a flexible and cost-effective certification for clients, BREEAM can expand green building professionals’ service offerings and revenue streams. There are more than 4,000 licensed BREEAM Assessors around the world, as advertised on GreenBookLive. Additionally, BREEAM USA provides marketing materials to explain the program and support the assessor organization’s outreach efforts.  To learn more about becoming an assessor, read a testimonial from a participating firm or watch a more detailed webinar.

Become One of the First Licensed BREEAM USA Assessors in Pennsylvania!

To become certified, BREEAM is offering two trainings in May, composed of online modules and a two-day class with an exam administered on the second day.  The standard training cost is $2,000 per candidate, all inclusive, HOWEVER…

If you are a resident of Pennsylvania, you may be eligible 

to receive up to 50% in grant funding to
attend.  Contact Sherry Cockerham at (610) 321-3213 to receive a grant application or email for more information. Applications will be processed on a first-come basis and eligibility determined within 15 days of receipt.

May 1-2 – Exton, PA

Hosted by Smarter Energy Initiative

Click here for more info and to register

Registration deadline: April 14

May 4-5 – Pittsburgh, PA

Hosted by Green Building Alliance

Click here for more info and to register

Registration deadline: April 19


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