BREEAM Overachievers

We are so pleased to be shortlisted by the BRE for the BREEAM Champions Award 2020. Associate Director Younha Rhee reflected on how we integrate BREEAM into our projects.

For us, BREEAM isn’t just a quality assurance tool. It’s a process that pushes us to be more inventive and resourceful.

Our BREEAM assessors and BREEAM APs are integral members of each and every design team and are active participants in design decisions. It’s this integrated approach that has given rise to some of our biggest collaborative successes. It’s this proactive approach that has enabled us to consistently overachieve and get such high BREEAM ratings on so many projects.

BREEAM APs at a design workshop

A tool is only as useful as the hands that wield it, and when we implement BREEAM as a true sustainability framework, it becomes a powerful tool for framing decisions. This was the approach we took with the team working on WWF-UK Living Planet Centre, with Hopkins Architects; achieving our first rating of BREEAM Outstanding.

WWF-UK Living Planet Centre, with Hopkins ArchitectsPart of the design team from the competition stage, we took the client’s sustainability aspirations to heart and used BREEAM to frame the conversation. Inverting the conventional formula, rather than assessing the daylight quality after a building form was produced, we translated the credit targets into design criteria. Likewise, for indoor air quality and thermal comfort. Aware of the BREEAM criteria for daylight, we conducted a very early assessment of the site and found that if we could rotate the building by just 7°, we could make huge gains in the quality of daylight in the building. This was one of the early decisions taken by the design team that was essential to the final outcome of an Outstanding rating.

The entire team responded to the daylight, air quality and thermal comfort criteria and this formed the basis for an iterative, collaborative conversation about how to design the most sustainable office building possible. Today, nearly seven years after completion, the Living Planet Centre is still celebrated as not only one of the most sustainable buildings in the region, but also one of the healthiest and most productive working environments. The Living Planet Centre doesn’t enforce sustainability on its occupants, but through the clever “traffic light” system for operating the windows allows its occupants to actively engage with the natural ventilation strategy, reducing the energy demand for cooling.

Roy Gibson BuildingWe are applying our unique approach to BREEAM projects all over the country and across many sectors. We use BREEAM as a lens to help us maintain the team’s focus on the sustainable design vision from concept to construction. This focus, and the rigour of BREEAM, reduces the watering down that may otherwise occur as schemes are value-engineered. In fact, we find the opposite often occurs on our projects. When we use BREEAM as an interactive and collaborative framework it often results in projects certified at a higher level than our clients initially think possible. An extra bonus for them, is this is usually without a significant cost uplift, but simply the result of our highly trained BREEAM AP team members spotting opportunities to enhance environmental performance.

Whitehorn Hall, University of St AndrewOur work with BREEAM stretches back to the early 2000s, with the Brooks Road Estate in London as one of our first EcoHomes projects. Through the years, we have garnered BREEAM Excellent on a wide range of projects, such as the European Space Agency’s Roy Gibson Building, completed in 2011 (pictured above left). Some of our recent BREEAM Excellent projects include Heathrow Approach, KPMG Headquarters in Edinburgh, and Whitehorn and Powell Halls at the University of St Andrew (pictured to the right). Taking lessons from each project and building on our past experience, among the BREEAM projects we are preparing this year are four which target a rating of Outstanding.

Kingsgate Primary SchoolIn addition to applying BREEAM assessments on our projects, we engage with the BRE on future developments. We also look for opportunities to use BREEAM as an educational tool. Our work on Kingsgate Primary School (left), nominated for a BREEAM Award in 2018, is another example of the success made possible by true collaboration among all team members and stakeholders. What made this project extra special to us is the close alignment of the BREEAM categories and the key preoccupations of learning environments: energy and water efficiency, air quality, safe materials, acoustics, daylight and biodiversity. Harnessing this synergy, we worked with architects MaccreanorLavington and the entire team to achieve a rating of BREEAM Excellent. Not only did we create a safe and inspirational school for children, but also turned the building itself, framed around BREEAM, into a teaching tool, to inspire the next generation of environmental designers.

Kingsgate Primary School