The Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) has been an integral part of the worldwide green building industry for many years, yet it only broke into the U.S. marketplace last October. The journey began 97 years ago, when the Building Research Establishment (BRE) was founded as an academic and science-based government organization in the United Kingdom. It has since been privatized and created the first green building standard, BREEAM, in 1990. All green building rating systems have their roots in BREEAM, including LEED. Today, nearly 3 million buildings have been registered and more than 500,000 have been certified under BREEAM.

Here in the United States, BRE partnered with BuildingWise—an award-winning LEED EB consultancy—to create BRE America and showcase the BREEAM USA In-Use rating system. Open to all commercial buildings, the rating system was peer reviewed by ASHRAE several years ago and is being trialed throughout California.

Architects and contractors can design and build the greenest building in the world, but if it isn’t operated that way, it’s a serious waste of resources. Existing buildings still need a lot of help: 5.6 million of them in the United States do not measure their sustainability efforts at this time. 

Yet much of what needs to be done is not rocket science. The BREEAM USA In-Use program clearly shows the building owner, operator or tenant a benchmark of how their building is currently performing. The program then provides simple steps for improvement that can be accomplished as time and budgets allow, with results that are based on extensive science.

Registering an asset with BREEAM USA In-Use gives the owner, operator or tenant access to a simple, yet comprehensive, online questionnaire with nine categories of investigation, approximately 200 questions and a possibility of more than 500 answers. These answers immediately supply an output showing how the building performs against industry standards and provides a roadmap of clear, concise and workable solutions that the building can employ to improve. 

Once the $1,000 access fee is paid, the questionnaire stays active for 12 months. Clients can get a score, play “what if” with the questionnaire and, depending on their requirements, certify the building at any time.

Certification requires an independent licensed BREEAM USA In-Use assessor to be hired to conduct an onsite visit and verify the data in the questionnaire. Once that is complete, the results are sent to BRE America for a quality assurance review before the assessor issues the certificate. Expect about two months to elapse from questionnaire to certification. BREEAM In-Use ratings range from Average to Outstanding in six increasing levels. 

Barry Giles is CEO of BRE America and BuildingWise. For more information on registering a building to the BREEAM In-Use standard or becoming a licensed BREEAM USA Assessor, email info@breamerica.com or visit breeamusa.com