Cost of BREEAM in Schools

Sean Lockie
In 2008 Faithful+Gould undertook research with the BRE Trust to establish the costs of complying with BREEAM in schools. The research was used to help set DCFS (Department for Children, Schools and Families) funding models for programmes such as the Building Schools for the Future. So is the research still relevant?

BREEAM is a rating system used to independently assess the performance of a project in the areas of; health, energy, transport, water, materials, waste, land-use, ecology and pollution.

We research analysed several primary and secondary school projects and concluded the following:

  • Depending on the location, a primary school might cost between 1.8–3.0% extra for complying with BREEAM ‘Very Good’ and 5.9–9.85% for ‘Excellent’.
  • Depending on the location, a secondary school might cost between 0.8–2.7% for ‘Very Good’ and 3.9–4.4% for ‘Excellent’.
  • Location had an impact on the score. Schools built on brownfield sites and near good transport links had the advantage of getting several ‘free’ points under BREEAM. Rural schools and ones built on greenfield sites had to work harder to get the same score and therefore usually cost more.
  • Size of project had an impact on cost. Primary schools are usually smaller projects than secondary schools with less capital expenditure and therefore do not benefit from the same economies of scale.

The research was used to help set DCFS (Department for Children, Schools and Families) funding models for programmes such as the Building Schools for the Future. So is the research still relevant?

Since it was undertaken, there has been a change to the Building Regulations and BREEAM was updated. The principles of BREEAM however are still much the same. In the 4 years since the study these cost have come down as the industry has geared up to comply with BREEAM. Most local authorities require new build schools to achieve a BREEAM ‘Very Good’ score (55–69) and this was also the case for the Building Schools for the Future programme. This means that if you are in education you need to understand BREEAM.

Designers and contractors working in schools have become very astute at being able to focus their efforts on getting BREEAM scores. We know of several contactors for example who have developed standard school designs which are ‘BREEAM compliant’. Some have since told us that because BREEAM is so in their processes they can hit the required ‘Very Good’ score for no additional oncost at all. So how is this achieved?

Starting early. Selecting the design team and contractor based on not only the their ‘time cost quality’ credentials but also because of their ability to get high BREEAM scores.

A targeted approach. BREEAM awards ‘points’ for complying with certain actions. Most have sorted the points so they target the no / low cost points first in order to achieve the best score for the lowest price. ‘Very Good’ is a band between ≥55 and 69. It’s probably no surprise that there are lots of ‘Very Good’ projects that just scrape into the 55–57 band.

Tracking progress. Being a BREEAM assessor can have it’s frustrations as it can feel like you are constantly chasing individuals in the team to provide the supporting evidence. Lots of promises get made early on in the design process that often get forgotten about as the design develops. BREEAM tracker tools have emerged which name the poor performers in the project teams who haven’t provided the required evidence.

There are of course other benefits to having buildings which have been independently assessed under a scheme like BREEAM. These might include lower running costs, higher levels of productivity or achievement levels and in the case of commercial buildings potentially higher valuations and rentals.

Faithful+Gould's sustainability and carbon management team have over 15 BREEAM assessors covering all project types. This firsthand experience gives us a real insight into the issues, costs and benefits of using a tool like BREEAM.