BREEAM: How to reduce your exposure to risk as a main contractor

28th September 2015

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BREEAM Top Tips

Love it or loathe it, BREEAM is a key contractual deliverable on most large developments. How can BREEAM advisors support clients, designers, contractors and developers through the recent changes to the process?

MacConvilles encourages clients to think about the energy demands created by a building from the start of every project. The latest BREEAM update recognises that early design decisions can fundamentally affect the potential to achieve a low-impact building. These essential early credits are usually cost effective and easy to achieve, but are all too often missed.

12 per cent of credits are assigned to actions and reports that must be carried pre-contract; but once a final rating is stipulated in the project contract, there are no longer opportunities to gain these in the pre-contract phase. Instead, contractors will have to buy in often more expensive credits to fulfil the requirement at a later stage.

This financial risk, concealed in the tender stage, can be substantial to projects that require a BREEAM ‘very good’ score and increases significantly on those targeting BREEAM ‘excellent’ or ‘outstanding’ ratings.

Quantifying the risk

So what to do? Whilst the simple solution would be for tender packs to include the actual BREEAM rating for the designed building and an alignment of BREEAM and planning application documents at outset, this does not occur in practice.

The challenge for the contractor’s bid manager is to investigate and quantify the risk associated with achieving the requested rating. Below are a few questions you need to ask to help reduce your exposure as a main contractor.

Has a BREEAM pre-assessment been carried out, and can the client provide a copy?

BREEAM is, after all, a long list of actions that need to be delivered in the final building and it is essential to know what the project team has targeted. The pre-assessment will confirm if the early-stage credits have been targeted and whether excessive or unrealistic credits have been passed on to the contractor.

What is the current design stage score? Have the early-stage credits been achieved?

If the project is using an online BREEAM management tool such as IES Tap, Tracker Plus or even the new BREEAM Project tool (currently in beta format), then this will be relatively easy to assess. If not, then the bid manager should request the relevant early-stage BREEAM documents and have a BREEAM assessor check the dormant risk in the project.

The things that should be looked for are:

Whether a qualified sustainability champion, ecologist, security specialist and energy specialist have been appointed during RIBA stages one and two, and produced documents to meet BREEAM requirements.

Whether BREEAM-compliant stakeholder consultation, material efficiency strategies, life-cycle cost report, passive design analysis, climate change adaptation strategy and functional adaptation strategies have been produced in line with BREEAM. (Buildings containing a laboratory, have specific credits to be aware of).

Do the planning documents meet BREEAM requirements?

If not, then additional costs may be incurred to satisfy BREEAM requirements for documents such as the green travel plan, flood risk assessment, crime impact statement, ecology report and crime impact statement. As ever, the devil is in the detail, as the documents often have the right name on the cover but do not meet the specific BREEAM requirements.

By answering the above questions, any BREEAM issues can either be resolved by the client’s team while they are still appointed, or the risk can be quantified and included in the contractor’s tender price. Either way, it will provide much greater assurance that there are no nasty surprises waiting further down the line.

Keeping up with standards for best practice in sustainable building design, construction and operation can be a full time task. To ensure you have safeguarded against any surprises in your project, the MacConvilles team can help carry the burden while supporting and advising you on all aspects of your BREEAM assessments.

Ben Coombs, BREEAM Advisor and Assessor, Associate Quantity Surveyor

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