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2degrees Sustainability Essentials The 2degrees Sustainability Essentials Series provides the necessary guidance to a range of topics, for companies at the start of their sustainability journeys, or for 2degrees members who are new in their roles. Think of it as a short course, or a “beginner’s guide to” sustainability issues. This document highlights what you need to know about the major building environmental rating methods used around the globe.

Photograph: Wonderlane

Contents
Definitions ........................................................................................................................................................ 2 Environmental Assessment Methods for Non-Domestic Buildings ............................................ 3 Major challenges in assessing buildings............................................................................................... 4 What do I need to know about BREEAM?.............................................................................................. . What do I need to know about LEED?...................................................................................................... What do I need to know about Green Star? .......................................................................................... Is there anything else I need to know? .................................................................................................... 10 buildings that make the grade .............................................................................................................. More information .............................................................................................................................................

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Definitions

Building Regulations/Building Codes A common term for the sets of standards used in many countries for design and construction which apply to most new buildings and many alterations to existing buildings. Building Lifecycle Assessment The goods, services and products required during the construction, occupation, maintenance, refurbishment and demolition of a building all have some environmental impact. Life cycle assessment is the method for evaluating what the consequence of these impacts will be, for example in terms of CO2 and CO2 equivalent (CO2e) emissions. Embodied Energy Embodied energy is the total primary energy consumed during the life time of a product. Ideally the boundaries would be set from the extraction of raw materials to the end of the product‟s lifetime, including energy from: manufacturing, transport, energy to manufacture capital equipment, heating and lighting of the factory and so on. This boundary condition is known as „cradle to grave‟. Two other ways of expressing it are „cradle to gate‟, which includes all energy until the product leaves the factory gate and „cradle to site‟, which includes all energy consumed until the product has reached the point of use. Green or Sustainable Building A „green‟ or „sustainable‟ building can mean many things, but in general terms it is assumed that the building uses materials that are more environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building's life-cycle than standard materials; that it has minimal impact on its surroundings; and that it is energy efficient in its operation. It should be noted that „green‟ or „sustainable‟ buildings as terms are unregulated, which is why verifiable ratings standards are so important to benchmark. Indoor Environmental Quality A term commonly used to describe the quality of the air within a building, especially in relation to the health and comfort of the occupants. Factors by which this is judged may vary depending on the ratings system. Operational energy The energy consumed during the in-use phase of a building's life.
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Environmental Assessment Methods for Non-Domestic Buildings
Why do we need them?
Being able to demonstrate the green credentials of a building has moved from a “nice to have” to become a necessity for many developers and building owners in recent years. As sustainability has risen up the agenda, so too has the need to be able to neatly assess the environmental performance of a building in a single, verifiable rating. For developers, building owners, and property agents, a rating enables like-for-like comparisons of buildings within a property portfolio and across the market place. For funders and design teams, aiming for a specific environmental score can set a benchmark for a project and help ensure that sustainability is an integral part of the design brief from day one. For the end-users and public, reducing the sustainable attributes down to a specific grade makes it much easier to comprehend how green a building is than quoting figures such as energy use or the percent of construction waste sent to landfill. The first environmental assessment system was developed in the UK by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) in 1990. Called the Building Research Establishment‟s Environmental Assessment Methodology or BREEAM, its principles have since spread, with alternative tools developed around the globe. Most notable of these are the US Green Building Council‟s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system and the Green Building Council of Australia‟s Green Star. Together, these are the most widely recognized and established green building rating systems in use around the world and between them they have been used to rate thousands of buildings. While this „Essentials‟ guide will explore BREEAM, LEED and Green Star, it should be noted that there are other ratings systems that are dominant in their home markets such as the Comprehensive Assessment System for Built Environment Efficiency (CASBEE) in Japan, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Nachhaltiges Bauen (DGNB) program in Germany and Green Mark in Singapore. One important aspect of all these rating systems is that the requirements to become certified are above and beyond the normal legislative standards for constructing buildings. As such, the very top ratings are not easy to achieve, making them aspirational standards that help raise the benchmark of sustainability and generally push forward innovation within the built environment. These ratings systems are a constantly evolving. As legislative standards have begun to incorporate more environmental consideration, so to have the rating systems changed. Over the years, assessment methods have become increasingly comprehensive – BREEAM started out with 27 credits available for various environmental

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targets and has since grown to over 150. They have also expanded beyond single new buildings to refurbishments and even whole communities.

Major challenges in assessing buildings
It’s a complex process
Coming up with a tool to provide a meaningful measure of the environmental impact of a building is no easy task. Take into account all the variables that need to be considered, the impact each one has, and the need to factor in things such as location and the way it influences climate or water resources, and it‟s clear that a tool needs to be both comprehensive and flexible. It‟s also worth bearing in mind that the rating tools discussed are, by and large for mainstream buildings. Although recognition is often given for innovation, extremely cutting-edge buildings may not always get the recognition they deserve. The common approach taken by BREEAM, LEED and Green Star is to assess a building against a multitude of categories and award credits or points. These are then given a weighting depending on their overall environmental impact and a score arrived at which determines the rating. While all three rating tools share the same aim and a considerable amount of overlap, there are some fundamental differences in their approach. For example, the emphasis they put on water use or occupant comfort, the certification process, and the degree of transparency in the methodologies they use. They also use different metrics and rules on what to include in the assessment and what not.

Why does the choice of assessment tool matter?
On face value, it might not seem to matter which tool is chosen to rate a building, after all each is dominant in its own geographical region. However, in recent years there has been growing interest in having a global standard, especially amongst organizations with international property portfolios. The argument is that such a standard would enable comparisons between buildings in different countries and
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