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US rating system LEED poses challenge to BREEAM

A US-based system for assessing eco-friendly buildings is challenging the UK equivalent in the heart of London and within the international market.


The issue emerged at the H&V News Building Services for Tall Buildings conference, held in London.


Guest speaker David Arnold, partner at Troup Bywaters + Anders, said international companies based in the City were increasingly attracted to the Green Building Rating System, known as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), developed by the US Green Building Council.


This is instead of the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM).


He said this was due to its use in the United States, China and the Middle East. “International clients in London are looking for buildings to comply with LEED, and it is starting to leave BREEAM in its wake even though BREEAM has been going twice as long.


“I would not say that LEED has taken over from BREEAM – there are still far more BREAM-accredited buildings than LEED. It is the prominence now being given to LEED. Large financial institutions are looking for the same standards to apply throughout their international portfolio.”


Mr Arnold said the popularity of LEED in the United States and increasingly in other countries, including China, meant it was “almost becoming an international standard for assessing buildings”.


BREEAM declined to comment on the issue this week, saying it does not comment on competitors.


Tim Dwyer, head of the department of Engineering Systems at London’s South Bank University, agreed with Mr Arnold’s observation. He said he had noticed a marked increase in interest in LEED at a seminar he organised in January.


“This is undoubtedly an issue. The UK consultants want to know how they could model using their software not only for Part L compliance but also to provide both BREEAM and LEED ratings.


“They are seeing an increasing number of cases where clients are asking for BREEAM and LEED ratings. LEED has managed to excite the imagination while BREEAM has stayed slightly back in the consciousness of clients.


“I think that is a missed opportunity. It is not a case that LEED is better, it is that BREEAM is not as visible.”


The BREEAM assessment process was originally created in 1990 and versions are updated regularly in line with UK Building Regulations. Eight areas are assessed and given weighted credits according to their performance.


LEED assesses five key areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. Successful buildings receive a silver, gold or platinum rating. LEED projects are being undertaken in 41 different countries, including Canada, Brazil, Mexico and India.


Mr Dwyer said: “If LEED does become the international de facto rating system at the cost of BREEAM it would be a shame as BREEAM has been developed over many years and it would be a tragedy to lose the long term benefit of that experience.”