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Why is BREEAM important for office fit out projects
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/ Why is BREEAM Important for Office Fit Out Projects?

Why is BREEAM Important for Office Fit Out Projects?

Dr. Greg Dooley - Design and Build Specialist

Dr Greg Dooley

Digital Marketing Manager

Content Specialist in Office Design & Build

Why Do Offices Need Sustainable Accreditation?

Buildings account for nearly 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions, making them a significant contributor to accelerating the rate of climate change. This is a growing problem. Estimates for 2016 put global floor space at 235 billion square meters. 230 billion m2 in total floor area will be added worldwide between now and 2060; the equivalent of adding Japan’s current total floor space every year, or a flat surface area the size of Paris every 5 days. To meet emissions reduction targets set by the Paris Agreement by 2030, a significant increase in the rate of energy efficiency renovations of existing buildings and the generation and procurement of renewable energy is required.

With the emphasis on buildings to curb greenhouse gas emissions, the office has become a showcase for sustainable initiatives. Workplace recycling, compliance with green building standards (green construction or sustainable building), and achievement of net-zero energy goals are now front-and-centre issues for many companies. It’s also a growing metric for deciding whether or not to invest in a company, as well as for gauging the company’s overall social responsibility. Due to the impact, ESG has on public opinion and investment, companies face increasing pressure to ensure they meet ESG standards and targets.

To help resolve climate change, and meet Paris Agreement targets, there needs to be a systematic and scientific approval of the sustainable building, fit-outs, and refurbishments. This is found in BREEAM, which not only evaluates a building’s sustainability but also the financial, ecological, and social benefits it provides over the course of its life cycle.

What Exactly is BREEAM?

BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) is the world’s leading science-based suite of validation and certification systems for the sustainable built environment. Work on establishing BREEAM began in 1988 at the Building Research Establishment (BRE), a profit-for-purpose organisation based in Watford, England, with the first version for assessing new office buildings launched in 1990. With a history of building science and research dating back more than a century, BREEAM has provided more than 3 decades of third-party certified standards to enhance the performance of buildings throughout their entire life cycle, from the design and construction of new buildings to the operation and refurbishment of existing ones.​​ Today there are over 540,000 buildings that are BREEAM certified.

Why is BREEAM important for office fit out projects

Does your office require BREEAM accreditation?

As a team well-versed in the BREEAM assessment process and its effective implementation, we're your ideal partner for sustainably accredited office fit outs.

DTRE coffee bar

What are the benefits of BREEAM accreditation?

BREEAM gives landlords, developers, occupants, and the general public confidence that sustainable, environmentally sound practices are being incorporated into a project. For building occupants, the main benefits are:

  • Lower refurbishment costs 
  • Supporting routes to net zero
  • Reducing operational costs
  • An improved corporate image
  • Contributing to ESG goals
  • Mitigating environmental impact
  • Compliance with legislation

For landlords, it also comes with the added benefit of making a space attractive to new tenants. 

How Does the Rating System Work?

There are nine different criteria that go into determining a building’s BREEAM rating, with different weightings and a minimum requirement for each one. This score is added up to determine the project’s final overall BREEAM rating. A project can be rated as BREEAM Unclassified, Pass, Good, Very Good, Excellent, or Outstanding.It’s important to note that due to the broad multidisciplinary framework for BREEAM, and the variety of buildings involved, not all projects need to set targets for Outstanding (awarded to less than 1% of BREEAM certified buildings). In the feasibility stage of an assessment, certain criteria are screened out by the assessor either because they are unavailable or deemed to be onerous for that particular type of project.

How K2 Space Helped DTRE Achieve BREEAM Status

The DTRE office design and build project was the orchestration of effectively two distinct work streams. Primarily, we were tasked with creating a truly unique and inspiring 11,000 sq ft. office space for DTRE, which we achieved with high acclaim from the client. Running alongside that was a BREEAM Accreditation program where the client sought a “very good” rating, which was shown to be achievable with considerable effort and diligence on the part of our project management team. The fit-out project took approximately 4.5 months to complete (starting Mid-November 2021 with the client handover the first week of April 2022) and the BREEAM accreditation was awarded a “very good” rating in August 2022 having met a very stringent set of criteria.

Acquiring BREEAM Status necessitated completing a lengthy list of requirements, ranging from compliance with energy-efficient light bulbs with motion sensors to glare and light control, to ensure optimal working conditions for employees. In brief, the BREEAM assessment was broken down into 9 categories:

  • Management
  • Health & Wellbeing
  • Energy
  • Transport
  • Water
  • Materials
  • Waste
  • Pollution
  • Innovation

Within those categories were 56 target criteria which were set as design-stage evidence and credit requirements, and furthermore, the project was managed against responsibilities and actions assigned to K2 Space and the assessor, Envision.


Management criteria included:

  • Adhering to ISO 14001 Environmental Standard practices in accordance with Pollution Prevention Guidelines
  • Monitoring the project to ensure ongoing compliance with the relevant sustainability performance/process criteria
  • Ensuring that wood used in joinery is sourced in accordance with the UK Gov’s Timber Procurement Policy
  • Registering with the Considerate Constructors Scheme and achieving a set score
  • Monitoring weekly energy and water usage during the programme
  • Monitoring weekly transport to and from the site

We met all these criteria, and more, as part of the contractual agreement in achieving a BREEAM ‘Very-Good’ rating. In part, we registered and set up on-site the Considerate Constructors. Our involvement with the scheme creates full transparency and accountability for the sites we work on. Among our commitments are the requirements to optimise the use of materials and resources, including minimising our carbon footprint. Overall we employ construction practices that minimise the negative impacts on the environment.

Health and Wellbeing

The health and wellbeing of occupants and visiting members of the public is another key element of BREEAM. Considerations are made here to mitigate any negative impacts on the health, comfort and safety of individuals. Examples of the criteria include:

  • Glare: Glare from direct sunlight can affect the ability to work. We address this through careful design and the provision of annotated drawings showing areas at risk from glare and resultant glare control measures.
  • View: Having a view outside of the office was another provision for well-being. The criteria were that 95% of the floor area in each relevant building area (office function)  is within 7m of a wall which has a window or permanent opening that provides an adequate view out. We achieved this again through annotated drawings showing areas of distance from the window to relevant workstations in the office, rest and reception areas.
  • Air Quality: Air quality is a hugely important factor in health and well-being. One of the BREEAM criteria was to provide an indoor air quality plan to minimise indoor air pollution during the design, construction, and occupation of the building. We completed this by providing an indoor air quality plan.

There are tangible benefits in improving health and well-being through sustainable building codes like BREEAM. Studies have shown that cognitive function test scores for workers in high-performing green-certified buildings were 26% higher than those in comparable high-performing buildings that were not green-certified.


Closely linked to health and wellbeing in the design criteria is transport. Here the emphasis was on public transport accessibility to the building, and where the building is located within proximity to local amenities used by building occupants. For this, we provided a PTAL Report for the Site and a map of local amenities with distances to each relative to the office.

Water and Energy Usage

With plans for an onsite gym with shower facilities, a wine bar, a kitchen and washing-up area, and a tea point which all had water access, it was important to take this into consideration in the design phase of the project. The building’s domestic water consumption was calculated against a baseline performance for BREEAM, with measurements for the use of water in WCs, urinals, kitchen taps, dishwashers, showers, etc.

Reduction of energy use and carbon emissions was another significant part of the BREEAM assessment. To meet energy efficient standards we provided an electrical schematic drawing showing sub-metering to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), lighting, as well as connection to Building Management System (BMS). We also supplied an official statement from the electrical engineer confirming the BREEAM energy requirements to be incorporated into the design.


BREEAM awards credits on the basis of the building’s environmental life cycle impact through a quantitative assessment of the main building elements: walls, doors, partitions, ceilings, floors, and furniture. All timber and timber-based products (joinery) that were used in the project needed to be legally harvested and traded timber and K2 Space was required to provide a letter stating that. We also had to provide volume, supplier, and product references for building elements such as steel structures, cement, ceiling systems, structural timber, and HVAC systems.

Another criterion was the protection of vulnerable parts of the building from damage and exposed parts of the building from material degradation. To achieve this we had to provide confirmation of identified vulnerable internal and external parts of the building. We also had to provide design drawings showing durability and protection measures proposed in identified vulnerable internal and external areas.

Waste and Pollution

Waste from unwanted materials is an almost inevitable byproduct of a fit-out project. Typically fit-out projects can generate up to 5 tonnes of waste for every 100 sq m of floor space. This comes from strip-out, demolition, and construction waste, as well as from packaging and damaged and unused materials. In addition to the adverse environmental impacts from resource depletion and waste disposal, there are significant financial costs associated with construction waste, which can be limited through efficient fit-out design and management.

To boost construction resource efficiency, and meet BREEAM criteria, K2 Space was required to prepare a compliant Resource Management Plan (RMP) and a construction waste resource efficiency benchmark of less than or equal to 1.2 tonnes of construction waste generated per 100 m2. We achieved this and provided a supporting letter of confirmation from K2 detailing the adjoining requirements that will be met and form part of the contract. Similar measures were taken to reduce the pollution on site with data sheets provided, for instance, on the impact of refrigerants and the leak detection system for the refrigerant plant.

How We Can Assist You in Achieving BREEAM Status for Your Fit Out

With in-house knowledge of the BREEAM assessment process and how to implement it effectively, we are your go-to for sustainably accredited office fit out projects. We’ll take you through the steps in applying for the programme, from the pre-assessment to the design and construction assessment, and right through to the final awarding of BREEAM certification. Our team is always happy to share their experiences in what a BREEAM fit-out entails, its benefits, as well as the benefits of various supplementary accreditations like ISO 14001 (environmental certification) and the Considerate Constructors Scheme.

Why is BREEAM important for office fit out projects

Need support with a BREEAM accreditation?

With in-house knowledge of the BREEAM assessment process and how to implement it effectively, we are your go-to for sustainably accredited office fit out projects.

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