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Talks over BREEAM and LEED eco-rating systems

Early talks are taking place between UK-based Building Research Establishment (BRE) and the US Green Building Council (GBC) about how to ensure high building standards are introduced around the world.

As we reported last month (H&V News, February 23), awareness of the GBC’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is growing in the UK with international companies based in London showing interest in the assessment system.

But an interim study by BRE, responsible for the BRE Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM), which also looked at the Australian system Greenstar and the Japanese CASBEE scheme, will report that because of sharp differences in working practices and local regulations, it is difficult to compare the systems.

BRE argues its highest grade is in many ways more demanding than its equivalent for LEED and Greenstar.

The full study, which is set to be published at the end of March, is likely to spark controversy. But senior consultant Tom Saunders, who led the research, said it showed the various systems had to work more closely. “What I hope the comparison will do is encourage people to do a more detailed study. I want to start a conversation,” he said.

“There has been an assumption that LEED is a higher standard. From what I have found that is not the case. I hope we can work with LEED to work out some common international indicators so we can do a proper comparison across the board.

“One thing we want to look at is dual certification. They are very early discussions, but we want to know where the equivalences are. What all the systems are about is market transformation. We want everyone to improve.”

The newly developed BREEAM International assessment method is now being offered as open-source to green building councils across the world so it can be tailored to individual needs before being “calibrated” by BRE.

Other rating systems are expected to follow suit and the market is likely to remain very competitive. As a result, BRE is keen to see the World Green Building Council regulate the system to ensure transparency.

Kent Peterson, president of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, said he was seeing LEED grow in influence: “In my travels through over 30 countries this year, I can say that LEED seems to be the primary rating system used in most countries for rating green buildings except for UK, Australia and Japan.”

Anna Surgenor, BREEAM international manager, said in a presentation to last week’s Ecobuild: “LEED is taking a grip in the United Arab Emirates.”

But she added: “We have a number of assessments going on throughout Europe along with Mauritius and the Philippines. We are also doing a lot of work in Dubai and Qatar. There is a lot going on and a lot of development work is required. This is a very exciting time in terms of assessment and consultancy work.”

Featured picture - BREEAM assessed Van de Kamp Bakery building, Los Angeles City College