Developers, contractors and architects are being urged to incorporate sustainability into the very earliest designs of commercial buildings following the launch of the updated BREEAM UK New Construction scheme.

Sustainability experts at Focus Consultants have studied the revision of the key sustainability assessment method for real estate and are advising the best way forward.

“BREEAM New Construction 2018 is taking bold steps to encourage the construction industry to better integrate sustainability into the design process,” said Focus partner Jason Redfearn.

“As the BRE’s overarching aim, early and thorough integration of sustainability into the design and construction of commercial buildings takes a central role in the new version and continues the work of the previous version, BREEAM New Construction 2014, in encouraging the earliest possible uptake of a BREEAM assessment in the design process.

“Although this is seen as a positive step on the road to sustainability, it also inevitably requires a greater level of consideration from developers, contractors and architects alike to not miss out on the opportunities to score early RIBA stage credits that could otherwise jeopardise the achievement of the required BREEAM standard.”

Focus, which is based in Nottingham and has offices in Leicester, London and Boston in Lincolnshire, offers a range of energy and sustainability services including BREEAM assessment, and expert advice on built environment sustainability, environmental design and environmental assessment.

It is currently working on a number of sustainable developments including the Trent Basin housing scheme in Nottingham and the £9.1 million Confetti Institute of Creative Technologies building in Nottingham, which is on course to become one of the top three environmentally sustainable sites in the city.

The company is highlighting various revisions to the BREEAM assessment criteria including the transport category which has been overhauled to now require a travel plan to achieve any of the available credits.

“Crucially, this travel plan must be produced during the feasibility and design stages. If this is not the case, then all ten credits available become unattainable,” explained Jason.

“Another category that has seen significant changes is ‘materials’, in particular Mat 01, which now entails life cycle assessment (LCA) to establish credits. The purpose of LCA is to model the building at each stage of its life, from manufacture of construction materials to demolition, and at each stage to quantify environmental impacts. The reason this has been integrated into BREEAM is to encourage design teams to consider and appraise different construction methods and materials that may, over the course of their life cycle, have varying degrees of environmental impact. This is an exercise that must be started at RIBA Stage 2 to maximise potential credits and is a service that Focus can offer to clients.”

Focus has used information released by the BRE to date to conduct an assessment to understand the weighted values of each credit type.

“This has revealed a general reduction in the value of individual credits, the consequence of which will be that more credits will need to be targeted. The one section to notably buck this trend is ‘materials’ which has had its weighting increased, possibly to increase the uptake of LCA,” added Jason.

“Although the changes will naturally cause a number of challenges, particularly in terms of the procurement process, at Focus we endeavour to make the transition to this new standard as smooth as possible.”

The updated BREEAM UK New Construction scheme followed BREEAM’s most comprehensive industry consultation to date. BRE worked with industry to align the updated scheme to today’s sustainable development priorities.

The company has expertise in a wide range of fields, including project management, funding and economic development, funding applications, economic impact appraisals, business plans, and research and evaluation. Since 1994, Focus has also secured for clients more than £953 million of grants for projects and businesses across the UK and delivered more than £1.3 billion worth of projects and programmes – making it one of the most successful businesses of its kind in the country.

In addition, Focus offers a range of services to the property and construction industry, including building surveying, project management and sustainable development support.

For more information about Focus Consultants, visit www.focus-consultants.co.uk