Green: BREEAM US and Future of LEED EBOM

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Judhajit Chakraborty. Assoc. AIA, LEED® AP WSP Built Ecology

Building Research Establishment Environmental  Assessment Method or simply put BREEAM is the world’s oldest and the most widely used green building rating systems. Established in 1990 in the UK by the Building Research Establishment (BRE), BREEAM has to-date certified 544,600 projects world-wide. Compare that to the 75,000 certified projects for LEED.

Recently BREEAM announced its arrival in the US market through a partnership with BuildingWise, a Bay Area-based LEED certification consultancy organization. Together they formed a new organization, BREEAM USA ( and will focus on the BREEAM In-Use Standard to address the 5.6 million existing commercial buildings in this country that are not using any benchmarking tools for certifying their sustainability efforts. BREEAM-USA through the In-Use Standard ( will focus only on benchmarking and certifying existing commercial buildings.

Barry Giles, CEO of BREEAM USA, founder of Building Wise who also helped launch LEED–EBOM, mentioned that BREEAM USA will open up the option for many of the existing buildings in USA that don’t currently use a building certification program. This is because the available systems (LEED) are seen as cumbersome, expensive and require prerequisites that many buildings find impossible to achieve.  And that LEED for Existing Buildings Operations and Maintenance (LEED – EBOM) requires an energy star score of 75 as a prerequisite which by definition bars 75% of the existing building stock from complying with LEED.

What is BREEAM In-Use?

BREEAM In-Use is an independent science-based assessment method which assists property investors, owners, managers and occupiers to drive sustainable improvements through operational efficiency, including how to continually manage the operation of their building effectively, reduce energy costs and consequently carbon footprints. Key differences between BREEAM In –Use and LEED EBOM

No Prerequisites Many prerequisites
Science Driven Consensus Driven
Third Party ON SITE Verification for Certification Third Party OFF SITE Verification for Certification
Open to all existing commercial properties Minimum requirements must be met
Fast results At least 6-9 months
Both Benchmark and Certification Only Certification

The BREEAM In-Use Process

It all starts with a questionnaire which the building owner pays $1,000 for access up to a year. The questionnaire is in three parts. The first part covers the assetsbuilding info, construction date, materials, glazing type etc. This results in a somewhat ballpark assumption of how much energy the building might consume. The second part, which is the most comprehensive and covers the building operations. The third part covers the tenants. Each question leads up to another question. Therefore, the building is being scored as the questions are being answered. The initial score through the questionnaire is then verified by a third party BREEAM assessor licensed by BREEAM USA who will come on-site and verify the data. The data will be sent to BREEAM USA for quality control and final certification based on the rating table above. BREEAM covers a total of nine environmental categories including energy, water, waste, materials, pollution, health and well-being, land use and ecology, transport and management.

With BREEAM and its fairly simple and streamlined certification method, it will surely jolt the existing buildings certifications market currently monopolized by LEED EBOM and USGBC. It remains to be seen how much BREEAM will be able to infiltrate and challenge LEED as it has done so remarkably in the UK and other European


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