Taking the risk out of BREEAM at tender stage

18 August 2015

Graham Horne of Green Migration offers contractors a guide to early-stage BREEAM credits.

Graham Horne

Love it or loathe it, BREEAM is a key contractual deliverable for contractors on most large developments. The latest update, BREEAM New Construction 2014, recognises that early design decisions can fundamentally affect the potential to achieve a low-impact building: around 12% of credits are assigned to actions and reports that must be carried out at RIBA work stages 1 (preparation) and 2 (concept design).

These credits are usually cost effective to achieve, yet are often missed, endangering the financial viability of the final rating – and that is all before the contractor has even seen the tender pack.

Typically, the final BREEAM rating will be stipulated as a deliverable in the project contract, so any shortfall in the early-stage credits will have to be filled by “buying in” relatively more expensive credits from the limited credits available to the contractor.

This represents a hidden financial risk concealed in project tender packs, which can be not insubstantial on projects that require a BREEAM “very good” rating, and can be particularly significant on projects targeting BREEAM “excellent” or even “outstanding”. Contractors may find that they make tight margins even tighter.

Of course, the simple solution would be for tender packs to include the actual current BREEAM score, not just the target score. This would push the early design team to maximise the early-stage credits achieved. It could even help focus the project team’s minds on aligning documents produced for the planning application – such as green travel plans, flood risk assessments and ecology reports – with BREEAM requirements. This would avoid the practice of documents being rewritten further down the line to meet BREEAM requirements, as well as the additional fees that go with it.

However, until this happens, the challenge for the contractor’s bid manager is to investigate and quantify the risk associated with achieving the requested rating. So here are a few pointers on how to reduce your exposure as 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:

Do the planning documents also 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.

Graham Horne runs Manchester-based sustainability consultancy Green Migration

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