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The BRE must tighten up BREEAM’s standards before exporting them

Transparency is needed for environmental rating systems for green buildings and products, says Hattie Hartman

Since the Copenhagen climate change talks of December last year, budget cuts have overshadowed concerns about the future of the planet. This week’s publication of the inquiry into ‘climategate’ (the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Centre leaked email ordeal of last November) brings environmental issues back to the fore. No matter where you stand, transparency of scientific findings should be welcomed.

Transparency is also needed for environmental rating systems for green buildings and products. Last month’s BREEAM workshop by the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) is a step in the right direction. Architects were well-represented in the cross-industry group, and were divvied up to brainstorm ideas for the next BREEAM update. Topping the list of industry concerns were the critical need for post-occupancy data, greater transparency of the Green Guide, and a move towards more online systems. The UKGBC will publish a workshop summary later this month.

It was encouraging to learn that the Built Research Environment (BRE) is working with the International Sustainability Alliance to collect energy data from 30,000 buildings in 30 countries. Preliminary findings will be released in October. This highlights the need for comparability of data and certifications from different countries. To this end, the Sustainable Building Alliance’s common carbon metrics protocol is in the pilot stage.

These various initiatives are but the tip of the iceberg. BRE estimates that green rating systems currently certify between two and five per cent of new buildings worldwide. Domestic and non-domestic retrofits are on the agenda. There is a long way to go.

Competition is fierce abroad. The first Chinese project in the BREEAM pipeline will start later this year and USA’s LEED and Switzerland’s Minergie are active overseas.

Going abroad is fine, but first BRE should take on board the many constructive comments from the recent workshop. We should get our own house in order first.

  • Hattie Hartman is Sustainability Editor of the AJ

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