News Brief

Entry-Level Green Doesn’t Cost Extra, U.K. Report Finds

All projects can achieve the lowest BREEAM rating for no additional cost if sustainability strategies are incorporated from the beginning.

Siemens' Crystal Building in London was the first certified to both LEED Platinum and BREEAM Outstanding. Though extra funds are still needed for such a high achiever, the added cost of entry-level BREEAM certification has dropped to zero.

Photo: Robert Pittman. License: CC BY 2.0.
The Building Research Establishment (BRE), publishers of the most popular sustainable building rating system in the U.K., say basic green buildings now cost the same as conventional buildings.

In a recent cost analysis, BRE researchers selected three case-study buildings to evaluate as representative building types—an office, a secondary school, and a community healthcare center. Sweett Group, a U.K.-based construction firm, then provided cost estimates for various designs that would achieve each level of Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) certification:  Pass, Good, Very Good, Excellent, and Outstanding.  

This analysis showed all three building types could achieve “Pass” for the same price as building to code. An office building could obtain an “Excellent” rating even in a rural location for an increased cost only 1.7% above the base capital cost, and estimated operational savings show this could be paid back within two to five years.

These low capital costs can partly be attributed to the fact that contractor performance credits amount to approximately 15%–20% of the total percentage score in BREEAM, according to the report. In the U.K., where the rating system is firmly established, many contractors have likely already mastered these best practices, so pursuing those credits does not come with extra training costs. Some of the other sustainability measures that the researchers consider zero-cost include commissioning, installing high-frequency ballasts to lighting fixtures, and selecting dual-flush toilets and low-flow faucets. 

The cost of each strategy was determined assuming that it was implemented at the most appropriate time of the design stage, but the researchers say the estimates are likely conservative because they were not able to factor in daylighting and natural ventilation features—typically very effective no- or low-cost strategies—because their reference buildings already had set forms.

For more information:

Delivering Sustainable Buildings: Savings and Payback

Published September 25, 2014

Pearson, C. (2014, September 25). Entry-Level Green Doesn’t Cost Extra, U.K. Report Finds. Retrieved from’t-cost-extra-uk-report-finds

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