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By Barry Giles

In recent days, big-name CEOs of large corporations have come out to support global efforts in reducing carbon – despite the lack of support from the U.S. Federal government. Many of them are already embracing the scientific facts that support the growing industry of benchmarking existing buildings and carbon reductions.

Here in the USA, the words ‘carbon reduction’ are often thought of as the equivalent of a “carbon tax”– something few politicians are willing to embrace.  Yet, many of the steps that building owners and operators are already undertaking can be expanded upon with the BREEAM standard to create a carbon reduction.

BREEAM has been a driving force in lowering carbon emissions and in the reduction of energy consumption since its inception in 1990.  BRE (Building Research Establishment) which created BREEAM, published a briefing paper in 2015 entitled, “Assessing carbon emissions in BREEAM” that cites a recent analysis of assessment data showing BREEAM assessed buildings achieve 22% reduction in CO2 emissions.

A year ago today, BREEAM USA announced that it was rolling out the BREEAM In-Use program across America. This was the first BREEAM program to make it to the United States, however BREEAM has been available internationally for over 25 years. In fact, as the original green building certification program, BREEAM has been used as the foundation for all other rating systems, and today it’s the world’s most widely used program with over 2.2 million buildings registered and over 560,000 certifications.

 

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In a recent interview with NPR, Andy Pharoah, vice president for corporate affairs at Mars Incorporated was asked why the company was using renewable energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions—they have successfully cut carbon by 25% since 2010. His response: “It makes economic sense for us.” He added that, “in the future, carbon is going to have an economic price to it. And if you can build a company based on low carbon, you put yourself into a strong position. That’s why you see all the old companies speaking out on this. That’s why you see investment firms investing in the low-carbon future.”

Mars Incorporated is not an outlier. Many top companies are already undertaking the necessary steps to mitigate potential long-term risk management if they are to stay competitive in their chosen field and get in front of offsetting the costs.  Many CEOs are realizing if they don’t carry out reductions now, the cost to do them later will be much higher.

So how does carbon reduction work with BREEAM?  

The energy assessment for BREEAM New Construction is able to quantify predicted savings for New Construction projects by comparing predicted actual emissions with regulatory baseline performance. Figure 1 below shows significant CO2 emissions savings from BREEAM New Construction assessments for a range of building types.

 

CO2 Emissions Figure 1

 

The data analysis shows a clear link between higher BREEAM ratings and lower CO2 emissions as shown in Figure 2 below.

 

CO2 Emissions Figure 2

 

 

While these BREEAM New Construction numbers demonstrate measurable results, we have all seen many non-BREEAM new construction projects being promoted as low carbon that do not live up to that standard. In fact, many buildings are built to low carbon standards that have never been third party verified because it involves too much paperwork and high costs.

You can design and build the lowest carbon building in the world, but without low carbon performance operational controls and monitoring, the resources that were poured into the building are not only misleading – but are a complete waste.

That’s where BREEAM In-Use comes in. The program is a fast, fiscally sound and easy to use year-by-year benchmarking program. It measures carbon performance in real-time, as often as the building team desires. Once improvements on a building are made and management is satisfied, the team can have the data verified by a BREEAM USA assessor for certification.

What’s different about BREEAM In-Use when compared to other programs, is that there are no prerequisites to use the program. Any building, no matter the size, age or condition can register with BREEAM USA and get an immediate unverified score of performance levels.

In 2015, BRE made the COP21 Climate Pledge in advance of climate negotiations in Paris.  The pledge is a commitment to deliver over 9000 certified buildings with emissions savings in excess of 900,000 tons of CO2 between 2016 and 2020.

BRE prides itself on remaining beyond reproach and embraces a partnership with you as we build a better world together. Our cutting-edge research brings positive change in the built environment through over 2,250,000 projects registered with BREEAM as over 560,000 certifications awarded worldwide.

That’s a lot of data.

That’s why BREEAM is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. It’s the science behind it.