What Are the Criteria for Obtaining Green Building Certifications in the UK?

Green building certifications have become an essential aspect of the construction industry in the United Kingdom. They represent a commitment to sustainable design and construction practices that reduce environmental impact, enhance energy performance, and promote healthier living conditions. In the UK, two of the most recognized green building certifications are the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). But what exactly are the criteria for obtaining these certifications? In this article, we delve into the details.

BREEAM Certification Criteria

The BREEAM certification system, established in the UK in 1990, is one of the world’s leading environmental assessment methods for buildings. It sets the standard for best practices in sustainable construction. The criteria for obtaining the certification span across various categories including water, energy, materials, and waste.

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Energy Performance

The BREEAM certification process gives a significant focus to energy performance. Buildings are assessed based on their energy use and carbon dioxide emissions. The energy performance of a building is measured using the Building Energy Rating (BER), which is calculated based on the building’s predicted energy usage. Additionally, the design and usage of renewable energy sources such as solar panels or wind turbines are also taken into account.

Water Efficiency

Water efficiency is another crucial criterion for BREEAM certification. Buildings are evaluated on their sustainable water usage, which includes strategies for water conservation, efficient appliances, and rainwater harvesting systems. The assessment also considers the management of surface water runoff to prevent flooding.

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Sustainable Materials

The use of sustainable materials is a key factor for BREEAM certification. The assessment looks at the entire lifecycle of the materials used in construction, including sourcing, transport, and disposal. The aim is to encourage the use of materials with low environmental impact during their full lifecycle.

Waste Management

Waste management is a critical area of focus for BREEAM. The system encourages builders to minimize waste during construction, and to design buildings that facilitate recycling and waste reduction during operation.

LEED Certification Criteria

LEED, on the other hand, is an internationally recognized green building certification system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. It provides a framework for creating healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green buildings. LEED certification is awarded based on a point system, with points given for meeting various environmental and sustainability criteria.

Sustainable Sites

LEED certification criteria involve the sustainable selection and development of project sites. This includes considerations such as public transportation access, protection of natural habitats, and stormwater management.

Water Efficiency

Similar to BREEAM, water efficiency is a major component of LEED certification. The rating system rewards the use of water-saving fixtures, efficient irrigation systems, and innovative wastewater technologies.

Energy and Atmosphere

The energy and atmosphere category addresses a building’s energy use, atmospheric emissions, and renewable energy contributions. Points are awarded for energy efficiency, the use of renewable and clean sources of energy, and other design and construction strategies that minimize environmental impact.

Materials and Resources

LEED certification also involves the use of sustainable materials and resources. Points are awarded for using locally sourced, recycled, and rapidly renewable materials. The system also encourages waste reduction and the use of life-cycle assessment tools.

Indoor Environmental Quality

Finally, LEED emphasizes indoor environmental quality. This includes air quality, temperature, humidity, and lighting. It encourages the use of design strategies that improve indoor air quality and provide access to natural daylight and views.

While both BREEAM and LEED have their specific categories and criteria, the common thread is a commitment to sustainable design and construction practices. These certifications not only make your building greener, but they also make it more appealing to potential tenants and buyers, who increasingly prioritize sustainability. So whether you’re planning a new construction project or considering retrofitting an existing building, pursuing a green building certification can be a worthwhile investment.

Additional Benefits of Green Building Certifications

Green building certifications, aside from being an endorsement of a building’s sustainability, have a range of other advantages that make them a valuable asset for any project. They boost a building’s market potential by making it more appealing to environmentally conscious tenants, buyers, and investors. It’s also worth mentioning that green building practices generally result in structures that are healthier and more comfortable for occupants.

One of the major benefits of green building certifications is the potential for energy savings. Buildings with certifications like BREEAM and LEED typically have better energy performance, reducing the amount of energy required for heating, cooling, and running appliances. This translates into substantial savings on utility bills over the life of the building.

Moreover, green buildings improve the indoor air quality and general health conditions. They are designed to maximize natural light and ventilation, use materials that emit fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and incorporate features like indoor plants and green spaces. This results in better indoor air quality and a more pleasant and productive environment for building occupants.

Another significant advantage is the positive impact on the built environment and the wider community. Green building standards require a holistic view of construction, considering not just the building itself but also the impact on the local ecosystem. This includes protection of local wildlife, reduction of pollution, and the beneficial use of rainwater and runoff.

The Importance of Third-Party Verification

To ensure the credibility and integrity of green building certifications like BREEAM and LEED, a third-party verification is often used. This means that an independent, accredited professional reviews the design and construction of the building to ensure that it meets the certification criteria. This third-party review is a key component of these certification systems, providing an impartial assessment of a building’s environmental performance.

Third-party verification gives assurance to potential tenants or buyers that the building has met rigorous environmental standards. It also ensures that the green building practices used in the design and construction of the building have been accurately and honestly reported. This increases the credibility of the building in the eyes of the public, making it more attractive to potential occupants.


Green building certifications like BREEAM and LEED provide a comprehensive framework for sustainable design and construction. They encourage energy efficiency, water conservation, the use of sustainable materials, and a range of other practices that reduce the environmental impact of buildings. But beyond their environmental benefits, these certifications also deliver economic and health advantages, making buildings more energy-efficient, healthier to live or work in, and more appealing to tenants and buyers.

The role of third-party verification in these certifications ensures their credibility and integrity, providing assurance that the building meets stringent environmental standards. By pursuing a green building certification, property developers can contribute to a more sustainable built environment, while also enhancing the marketability and overall value of their buildings. These certifications are not just about obtaining a label; they are about committing to a healthier, more sustainable future.