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What is BREEAM certification and how is it related to EU Taxonomy?

Celsia team
January 24, 2023
6
 min read

With the arrival of the EU Taxonomy, construction companies, developers, and real estate companies asked themselves an important question: does my project comply with the Eu Taxonomy having a BREEAM certification? The question seems logical since a BREEAM certification guarantees that a building meets sustainability criteria. However, to answer this question, we must first understand the similarities and differences between BREEAM and the EU Taxonomy.

What is BREEAM certification?

BREEAM is a methodology to assess, qualify and certify that construction companies build their buildings following sustainability criteria. To date, it is the most widely used methodology worldwide, and more than half a million projects have been certified in over fifty countries since its birth more than 30 years ago. It evaluates a building's environmental performance and sustainability, considering factors such as energy and water use, materials used in construction, and the indoor environment.

But is BREEAM certification important to have? Or why is BREEAM important?

BREEAM certification is needed because it helps ensure that a building is designed and constructed in a sustainable way and has minimal impact on the environment. Also, it helps to improve the overall quality of the building and the comfort and well-being of the people who use it.

BREEAM certification is applied to new construction projects, as well as existing buildings that are undergoing significant renovations. It is often used by building owners, developers, and architects to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and improve their buildings' environmental performance. It is also used by governments, businesses, and other organizations to meet sustainability targets and goals.

The methodology has evolved over the years from being just a methodology for new buildings to being a methodology for the entire life cycle of the building. Thus, BREEAM has different standards for renovations, community master plans, and existing buildings. The methodology varies in different countries, with versions for specific nations (f.x. Norway, Sweden, Spain).

BREEAM certification criterias

BREEAM certification is based on a set of criteria that are divided into several categories, including:

1. Management: 

This category evaluates the overall management of the project, including the use of sustainable materials, the implementation of an environmental management system, and the inclusion of sustainability targets in the project brief.

2. Health and well-being: 

This category looks at the indoor environment of the building and assesses factors such as air quality, natural light, thermal comfort, and acoustic performance.

3. Energy:

This category evaluates the building's energy use, including its heating and cooling systems, lighting, and appliances. It also looks at the use of renewable energy sources and energy-efficient technologies.

4. Transport: 

This category assesses the building's accessibility and proximity to public transportation and the availability of facilities for cycling and car-sharing.

5. Water:

This category evaluates the building's water use, including the use of low-flow fixtures and the treatment and reuse of greywater.

6. Materials: 

This category looks at the materials used in the construction and finishes of the building, including their embodied energy, recycled content, and impact on indoor air quality.

 

7. Land use and ecology:

This category assesses the building's impact on the local ecosystem, including using green space and protecting biodiversity.

8. Pollution:

This category evaluates the building's potential to generate pollution, both during construction and in operation, and measures are taken to prevent or mitigate this pollution.

9. Waste: 

This category assesses the building's waste management practices, including the reduction, reuse, and recycling of waste.

To earn BREEAM certification, a building must meet a certain number of credits in each category based on the type and size of the building and on the level of certification being sought (e.g., BREEAM Excellent, BREEAM Very Good). The BREEAM assessments are carried out by a BREEAM assessor, who visits the building and reviews the design, construction, and operation of the building to ensure that it meets the required criteria. The credits are awarded based on the performance of the building in each category, and the final score determines the level of certification the building achieves.



Is it necessary to meet BREEAM certification standards?

BREEAM certification is not a legal requirement, but it is a widely recognized and respected sustainability assessment method for buildings. Achieving BREEAM standards can demonstrate a building's commitment to sustainability and environmental performance. It can also help improve the overall quality of the building and the comfort and well-being of the people who use it.

Many governments, businesses, and other organizations have sustainability targets and goals that they aim to meet, and BREEAM certification can be a way for them to demonstrate their progress toward these goals. In some cases, achieving BREEAM certification may be a requirement for receiving grants, subsidies, or other forms of financial support.

In addition, BREEAM certification can be a marketing tool for building owners, developers, and architects, as it can attract tenants or buyers looking for environmentally responsible buildings. It can also help to increase the value of a building, as sustainable buildings are often perceived as more attractive and desirable.

Overall, while achieving BREEAM certification is not necessarily required, it can bring several benefits and can be an essential consideration for building owners, developers, and others involved in the construction and operation of buildings.


EU Taxonomy and the construction industry

The EU Taxonomy is a classification system of sustainable activities with specific criteria to define whether an activity can be defined as sustainable. If a particular business activity is listed in the taxonomy and fulfills all criteria, its associated turnover, capital expenditures (CapEx), and operational expenses (OpEx) with that activity are "taxonomy aligned."

The construction industry is among the eligible industries and, therefore, can be considered sustainable if it meets the aforementioned technical screening criteria. Seven activities are defined as eligible activities, and those are:

  • Acquisition and ownership of buildings
  • Construction of new buildings
  • Installation, maintenance, and repair of energy-efficiency equipment
  • Installation, maintenance, and repair of renewable energy technologies
  • Installation, maintenance, and repair of charging stations for electric vehicles buildings (and parking spaces attached to buildings)
  • Installation, maintenance, and repair of devices for measuring, regulation, and controlling energy performance of buildings
  • Renovation of existing buildings

The EU Taxonomy sets out six environmental objectives that must be met in order for an activity to be considered environmentally sustainable:

  1. Climate Change Mitigation: Activities must contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
  2. Climate Change Adaptation: Activities must contribute to the resilience of natural and human systems to the impacts of climate change.
  3. Sustainable Use and Protection of Water Resources: Activities must contribute to the sustainable use and protection of water resources.
  4. Transition to a Circular Economy: Activities must contribute to the transition to a circular economy, which aims to minimize waste and optimize the use of resources.
  5. Pollution Prevention and Control: Activities must prevent or reduce pollution and protect the environment and human health.
  6. Protection and Restoration of Biodiversity and Ecosystems: Activities must contribute to the protection and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems.

On top of this, all activities under the EU Taxonomy must:

  1. Substantially contribute to at least one objective
  2. Do no significant harm to the five other objectives
  3. Comply with minimum social safeguards

At the time of drafting this article, only the substantial contribution criteria for climate change mitigation and adaptation are fully finalized and adopted, but there are DNSH for the other objectives for each activity.

In the context of construction, the technical criteria that are specific to each environmental objective can be used to assess the environmental sustainability of different materials, construction methods, and building designs. For example, materials with a low embodied energy, low lifecycle carbon emissions, and a low impact on air and water quality might be considered more environmentally sustainable according to the EU Taxonomy. Similarly, construction methods and building designs that minimize waste and optimize the use of resources, and that protect and restore biodiversity and ecosystems, might also be considered more environmentally sustainable.

The EU Taxonomy can be used by building owners, developers, architects, and other stakeholders to help them make informed decisions about the environmental sustainability of their construction projects. It can also be used by financial institutions, such as banks and investors, to assess the environmental sustainability of the projects they finance.

Overall, the EU Taxonomy can play a useful role in helping to promote sustainable construction practices and support the transition to a low-carbon economy.

EU Taxonomy also has a social side, which aims to set out a list of socially sustainable activities with a similar structure to the present EU legislative environment on sustainable finance and sustainable governance. Learn more about EU social taxonomy.


BREEAM vs. the EU Taxonomy

This section will take you through BREEAM and EU Taxonomy differences and similarities.

Suppose the criteria of the different BREEAM sustainability categories were the same as the criteria per sustainability objective of the EU Taxonomy, a building with BREEAM certification would partially or totally comply with the EU Taxonomy. Nevertheless, reality shows us that despite having several extremely similar criteria, there is no 1-1 correlation between the BREEAM assessment criteria and those of the EU Taxonomy. BRE carried out a study comparing the criteria of the BREEAM schemes International New Construction v6, International Refurbishment and Fitout 2014, and BREEAM in Use v6 (Residential and Commercial) versus the criteria of the EU Taxonomy for climate change mitigation and climate change adaptation of three eligible activities (acquisition and ownership of buildings, construction of new buildings, and renovation of existing buildings). The results were:

Image 1. Alignment between different BREEAM schemes and the EU Taxonomy concerning substantial contribution for climate change mitigation.
Image 2. Alignment between different BREEAM schemes and the EU Taxonomy concerning substantial contribution for climate change adaptation.

BREEAM International NC v6 shows the highest percentage of alignment (well aligned) in substantial contribution to climate change mitigation and adaptation. However, this must be understood for those cases where the maximum possible score has been obtained (BREEAM Excellent). For its part, BREEAM International RFO shows high percentages of partial alignment with the EU Taxonomy, but the percentages of total alignment are less than 20% in substantial contribution for both climate change mitigation and climate change adaptation.

The study also considered the alignment between said BREEAM schemes and the Do Not Significant Harm criterion of the EU Taxonomy. The results were the following:

Image 3. Alignment between different BREEAM schemes and the EU Taxonomy concerning Do No Significant Harm - climate change mitigation.
Image 4. Alignment between different BREEAM schemes and the EU Taxonomy concerning Do No Significant Harm - climate change adaptation.

BREEAM International NC v6 again shows good alignment percentages (50%) in relation to DNSH for climate change mitigation and adaptation. This means that a good score (i.e. BREEAM Excellent) translates into a good alignment with the EU Taxonomy. On the other hand, BREEAM RFO presents high percentages of partial alignment but low percentages of total alignment, this time lower than 10%.

BREEAM NOR New Construction v6 & the EU Taxonomy

We must offer a special section to the Norwegian BREEAM New Construction scheme v6. Similarly with the international version, several aspects of BREEAM NOR match the criteria of the EU Taxonomy as can be seen in the table below:

Table 1. Alignment between different BREEAM NOR NC v6 issues and EU Taxonomy criteria.

Nevertheless, the novelty of the Norwegian certification lays on the credits granted for the adaptation of the project to the EU Taxonomy and for granting points under the condition of compliance with the EU Taxonomy. Some examples:

ENE 01: Provides one credit for adaptation to the EU Taxonomy.

WAT 01: Besides the improvements compared to a baseline, non-domestic buildings must also meet the requirements for water consumption in the EU

Taxonomy in order to achieve 2 credits. Worth mentioning that compliance with the EU Taxonomy must be documented separately.

Is BREEAM certification enough to comply with EU Taxonomy?

While BREEAM certification and the EU Taxonomy both address environmental sustainability, they are not directly related or equivalent. BREEAM certification focuses specifically on the environmental performance of buildings and is used to assess the sustainability of new construction projects and existing buildings that are undergoing major renovations. The EU Taxonomy, on the other hand, is a broader classification system that applies to a wide range of sectors, including construction, and is used to assess the environmental sustainability of different types of economic activities.

As a result, achieving BREEAM certification alone may not necessarily be enough to comply with the EU Taxonomy. However, achieving BREEAM certification can demonstrate a building's commitment to sustainability and may help to meet some of the requirements of the EU Taxonomy. In addition, the EU Taxonomy and BREEAM report may be used in combination to assess the environmental sustainability of a construction project.

Also, it is observed that under some schemes, the alignment percentage is quite high, which can translate into a decrease in the documentation to be submitted. Moreover, for construction and real estate companies, carrying out the EU taxonomy scoring can translate into additional credits in BREEAM projects under the Norwegian standard.

Considering that both the BREEAM schemes and the EU Taxonomy are constantly evolving and, therefore, the criteria may change, we recommend being aware of BRE/local BREEAM programs research to keep abreast of the alignment that exists between the different BREEAM schemes and the EU Taxonomy. Moreover, one can expect a higher percentage of alignment between the BREEAM schemes and the EU Taxonomy in the future.

Consider Celsia your trusted partner

A construction company can use Celsia as the EU Taxonomy reporting software to help assess its compliance with the EU Taxonomy and score its performance against sustainability objectives. Using Celsia will help a construction company to better understand its environmental performance and identify areas for improvement. However, some companies are also required by law to report their EU Taxonomy score. Check out this EU Taxonomy regulation timeline to find out when and if you need to disclose it.

As an example, we worked together with BOB, the largest housing corporation and real estate developer in Western Norway, to assess two of their newly built constructions.With the help of the Celsia team, BOB gained insights into real estate EU Taxonomy, more precisely what it takes for new constructions to become aligned with the EU Taxonomy. This valuable knowledge also lays the foundation for future construction projects. Also, BOB gained information on how the existing environmental assessment method for buildings and communities, BREEAM, is linked with the EU Taxonomy in practice and how to benefit from both. BOB is now more confident that they have the knowledge necessary for complying with the prerequisites in the Norwegian construction industry and for improving their sustainability efforts if needed.

This is just one example of the successful use of the platform. Check out our case studies for more information.

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