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LEED outstrips BREEAM across the globe – including Europe

New research by the AJ shows the LEED sustainable building certification system dominates everywhere except in the UK

LEED is now the dominant green building standard in emerging markets and Europe, with BREEAM leading only in the UK.

New research by the AJ has found only one project going through BREEAM certification in China, while LEED, the sustainable building certification system developed by the US Green Building Council, has already certified 534 schemes there and has another 533 in the system since 2008.

BREEAM has so far failed altogether in India and Brazil, whereas LEED has certified 142 schemes and is looking at another 232 in India. LEED has nearly 700 projects or potential schemes on its books in Brazil. In Europe LEED has 1,350 projects on its books, compared with BREEAM’s 646.

‘BREEAM is the principal measure of sustainability in buildings in the UK and is embedded in regulations, but everywhere else in the world LEED wins outright,’ said Nigel Ostime, director of whiteroom architecture. BREEAM’s record in the UK is the most impressive, with 2,365 projects certified or in process, compared with 134 LEED buildings, 99 of which are currently in process, suggesting the certification may be gaining ground.

‘BREEAM is thoroughly established in the UK but in due course market pressures may lead to a switch to LEED,’ concluded Ostime.

In the Middle East the battle already appears to have been lost. BREEAM Gulf, launched in 2009 to certify projects in the UAE, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait, was abandoned after two years. But LEED has already certified 75 projects in the region and has more than 1,075 in the pipeline.

Richard Smith of Atkins added: ‘In the Middle East decision-makers often have a US education. This results in them gravitating towards the American LEED system.’ He also blamed the failure of BREEAM on ‘marketing’, adding: ‘LEED was marketed very well in the Middle East. They offered training for practices, so staff became very clued-up in the system.’

A leading industry professional added: ‘BRE was privatised some years ago and has since been criticised for charging significant fees for one-off assessments, when more standardisation was possible.’

However a spokesperson for the BRE said: ‘This year has a been a record year for BREEAM certifications and registrations for both new and existing buildings.

‘We may not currently compete on global numbers but for us its about the quality of the buildings that are BREEAM certified.  We have many fantastic examples of highly sustainable and innovative  buildings in the UK most recently the new Co-operative HQ building in Manchester or the London 2012 Olympic stadia.

‘Outside of the UK our main focus has been on Europe where we work with national scheme operators who adapt BREEAM for the local market. Through our European partners BREEAM is driving pioneering  projects like Schneider Electric’s refurbished Le Hive building in Paris and the De Balk Van Beel apartment block in Belgium. We have not yet looked to extend BREEAM into India or Brazil.’

Timothy Makower, principal, Makower Architects:
‘This is a question about global branding, interchangeability and the perception of ‘value’. The reason that LEED is taken outside the UK is, I believe, not so much because people compare the two and make a choice but because they ‘default’ to the one with the greater global reach - ie LEED.
‘That said, BREEAM could have done a better job at branding itself as ‘the’ standard. But these things take vast investments.’

Roger Fitzgerald, ADP Architecture:
‘Given that this is a global problem there seems to be a lack of international collaboration on this issue. LEED does tend to be more international in its use, and architects certainly need to be familiar with it.
‘But there are issues of language and even apparently simple things like units of measurement of carbon emissions, to be overcome. Also, the American view of “local”, in terms of locally sourced materials, is slightly broader than we would apply here in the UK.’

Sian Moxon, associate, Jestico + Whiles:
‘BREEAM remains the dominant system in the UK, as it is accepted as standard, required by the government for public buildings, respected for its rigour, and tuned to the UK’s climate and context. Internationally, LEED seems to be prevalent.
‘LEED is not BREEAM’s only competitor internationally: Green Star is widely used in Australia and New Zealand, NABERS in Japan and Green Globes in North America; there is also LEED India.’

An anonymous leading industry professional:
‘As everyone knows, BRE was privatised some years ago and, since then, it has tended to guard its IP rather carefully; some people say it’s too secretive and doesn’t share information when it should for the benefit of the environment as a whole.  It has also been criticised for charging significant fees for one-off BREEAM assessments, when a greater degree of standardisation would have been possible.

‘By contrast, LEED is owned by the US Green Building Council, which takes the fees, whereas this option was of course not available to the UK Green Building Council.  Together with its annual conference the US-GBC is therefore extremely well resourced and, as it is the oldest of all the GBCs worldwide it is increasing in its influence. It is also far more open to developing LEED than BRE is to developing BREEAM, largely because it’s greatly influenced by its membership. I might add that the US was miles behind the UK in terms of green buildings and still is in any respects, but it was indifference from George W Bush and others which propelled the grass roots into action.’

Readers' comments (1)

  • I wasn't aware that BRE publish figures related to 'projects in the process of certification'. If the figures published here are a comparison of BREEAM certified vs. LEED certified + LEED in progress, it isn't possible to use them to draw conclusions on which of the schemes have greater traction in a particular territory.

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