BREEAM Communities 2012 is a BRE environmental assessment tool which quantifies and can help to reduce the environmental burdens of developments and ‘communities’ by rewarding masterplanning that takes positive steps to minimise environmental impacts.
By using BREEAM Communities, developers, local authorities and other stakeholders can increase the opportunities and reduce the costs and risks associated, by embedding sustainability in developments at the earliest stage of the design process, where the impacts of doing so are highest; before individual buildings are designed.
When to Use BREEAM Communities
BREEAM Communities is intended primarily to assess mixed-use developments that would have a ‘significant impact’ on an area, for example through extra burdens placed on transport/highways, public realm or public facilities; where there would be significant changes in employment, social mix or ecological value; or where there may be opportunities for community level utility provision.
It is possible to assess single-use developments, e.g. only housing, or a retail/business park, although an assessment may need to consider the role of facilities and amenities beyond the site boundary. BREEAM Communities is unlikely to be useful for single building or small scale developments, where using BREEAM New Construction 2011 may be more appropriate.
BREEAM Communities 2012 can be used to assess the sustainability impacts of site-wide developments in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Developments outside the United Kingdom can be assessed using BREEAM Communities Bespoke.
BREEAM Communities assessments comprise the following stages:
Project Inception and Pre-Assessment
This is a non-compulsory stage, yet crucial to enable the BREEAM Assessor advise the design team on the best way to apply BREEAM Communities to their particular development, and to test the development against BREEAM Communities credit criteria in order to establish a likely score and rating. The results can then form a good basis for pre-application discussions with the local authority, and identifies early credits that could be easily achieved.
Step 1: Establishing the Principles of Development
Step 1 is usually undertaken at RIBA stages A, B and C, before an application for planning permission (outline or detailed) is submitted. At this stage, through the assessor, the design team must demonstrate the suitability and need for specific types of development on the site. This should include demonstrating consideration of strategic plans for the area including requirements for housing, employment or services, and will also need to consider the potential for community-scale energy generation, transport and amenity requirements, as well as wide-scale ecological impacts. All credit issues within Step 1 have certain mandatory criteria which must be addressed.
If a development is likely to be developed in phases, BREEAM Communities allows each phase to be separately assessed against Step 1. Alternatively, the whole site could be assessed against Step 1, with separate Step 2 and 3 assessments being undertaken for each individual phase. Design teams are advised to discuss potential options with an assessor.
Step 1 does not require an application for outline planning permission to be submitted, so can also be undertaken in the lead up to single-stage application for detailed planning permission.
Step 1 assessments are submitted to the BRE for quality assurance. If all mandatory items have been achieved, a certificate for Step 1 will be issued, although the assessment will not be given a rating at this point.
Step 2: Determining the Layout of the Development
Step 3: Designing the Details
Assessment Steps 2 and 3 together lead to ‘Final’ BREEAM Communities Certification.
Step 2 asks the design team to consider the layout of the development, how people will move around and through it and where buildings and facilities will be located. This step will usually start at RIBA Stage C, prior to an application for planning permission being submitted, when the assessor help the design team to establish which credit issues can be sought and the items of evidence that will be required. This assessment stage will usually only be completed after a grant of planning permission, as some credit issues may rely on planning conditions or obligations being in place.
Step 3 issues will commonly be assessed during RIBA stages E to H, after an application for detailed planning permission has been submitted and approved, and may coincide with the submission of reserved matters information. This stage asks the design team to consider the design and specification of landscaping, drainage, transport facilities and the detailed design of the built environment.
Step 2 and 3 stage assessments are submitted to the BRE together and result in a final certificate, score and rating for the development.
For Steps 1, 2 and 3, where possible BREEAM evidence requirements have been aligned with the type of documents usually required for large-scale applications for planning permission, e.g. Environmental Impact Assessments, Travel Plans, Statement of Community Involvement.
This means BREEAM Communities offers a standard way in which planning officers can measure the overall value of proposals to develop a particular site, leading to a smoother and less adversarial outline planning application and decision-making process, while not requiring the design team to produce duplicate information.
Similarly, BREEAM Communities 2012 contains actions which enable developers to demonstrate that their developments directly accord with policies contained within the National Planning Policy Framework.
At present, BREEAM Communities does not assess developments at Post Construction Stage, although this is something the BRE are looking to bring forward in the future.
BREEAM Scoring and Rating
For each individual issue, credits are awarded according to defined sustainability objectives and criteria requirements. Each credit category has a percentage weighting applied to it (with the exception of Social and Economic Wellbeing, which is split into three sub-categories), with individual credits within that category being allocated a part of that percentage weighting. For example, a category may be weighted at 8% and contain four issues. Two of the four issues may be allocated 3% and the other two 1% each. This means how much each basic credit is worth to the assessment can vary, and each can each be worth between 0.3% (Utilities Infrastructure) and 4.4% (Economic Impact), depending on the category and individual issue assessed.
Provided minimum standards are met for appropriate credits, the overall assessment score is classified as rating of Pass, Good, Very Good, Excellent or Outstanding.
Projects are registered with the BRE at Step 1 and a BRE registration fee is payable. Further BRE Quality Assurance (QA) fees are payable during assessment Steps 1 and 3.
Relationship with BREEAM Building Schemes
BREEAM Communities 2012 has been closely aligned with both BREEAM New Construction 2011 and Code for Sustainable Homes, meaning that addressing issues under BREEAM Communities can significantly contribute to the achievement of credits when the building-level assessment(s) are undertaken.
This can significantly increase the likelihood of achieving high BREEAM or Code for Sustainable Homes ratings, while also keeping the costs associated with individual building level assessments down.