Building standards update gets started

Experts consulted ahead of update to Building Research Establishment's Environmental Assessment Method standards.

Five Pancras Square: 'outstanding' BREEAM sustainability rating. Image: Argent/John Sturrock
Five Pancras Square: 'outstanding' BREEAM sustainability rating. Image: Argent/John Sturrock

The Building Research Establishment (BRE) is looking to "evolve" its standards, including increasing ecological criteria, to stay at the forefront of best practice in environmental assessment.

Experts across the horticulture and landscape industry are now being consulted on a draft Strategic Ecology Framework, which will be used to develop ecological criteria for BRE's Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) UK standards as they are updated. These include the assessment of ecological impacts arising across all parts of a development's life cycle.

Spokesman Simon Guy said: "In the past we have valued the input of ecologists, horticulturists and the landscape sector, but now we're seeking to have a more holistic approach to it and engage with the sector from the start." He added: "We're looking to evolve BREEAM to ensure it stays the best practice in the market.

"We've always talked to ecologists and landscape architects about BREEAM, and we've always gone out to them on individual criteria, but now we're looking root and branch at what's underpinning BREEAM."

Anyone from relevant sectors can provide feedback on the framework and working groups are being formed to consider specific technical, practical and policy-related aspects. One of the evolutions being considered is a greater focus on how a building development impacts on and engages the wider community, said Guy.

"A lot of developers have said BREEAM is great for individual buildings but they want to look more widely." Developers such as Argent, which has worked on the regeneration of King's Cross in London, including Five Pancras Square, "can see a benefit in incorporating common space and access for the public so that they are creating a thriving neighbourhood", said Guy. "When a lot of people are visiting these places, in the long term it's better for them and their occupiers. So we're picking up on all those issues."

In 2013 the building standards setter came under fire for appearing to specify that only native plants could be used to gain biodiversity points. Following an outcry from horticulturists, it backtracked and said non-natives could also be used provided they increase biodiversity.

If any concerns still linger over those issues, this consultation could be a chance to clear them up, said Guy.

Framework - Setting out help for developers

The Strategic Ecology Famework is designed to help developers:

- Understand the existing ecology of a site in order to identify the best approach to development.

- Identify, protect and enhance key ecological features.

- Remove or limit as far as possible any existing ecology that has a negative impact on the site's wider ecology.

- Mitigate unavoidable impacts and compensate against residual impacts.

- Enhance the broader ecological value of the site and surrounding areas.

The consultation period will close on 5 October. To give your view, see

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