BRE environmental assessment scheme's criteria set to be revised

Assessment system which highlights using native plants provokes debate among designers.

The BRE Environmental Assessment Method (Breeam), which was criticised by industry leaders and academics for focusing on using native plants, is being revised.

Palmstead Nurseries sales and marketing director Nick Coslett criticised the scheme last month (HW 24 August).He said many top landscape architects and designers were frustrated by the criteria and wanted the topic aired at the nursery's Soft Landscape Workshop on 25 September.

Sheffield University Professor of planting design and vegetation technology and green roof expert Nigel Dunnett, also speaking at the event, is one of those concerned.

He said: "Breeam insists that only native plants are used for green roofs if a scheme is to be given credits or an excellent rating, and this is starting to become a severe impediment to the creative application of roof greening in the UK."

Leading environmentalist Professor Chris Baines, who is also vice-president of the Wildlife Trust, said a greater encouragement of local landscape integrity would be more helpful.

"Breeam has played an important role in endorsing the importance of taking the landscape setting of the built environment seriously,"

he said. "However, there is a sense that their simplistic adoption of the native plants dogma is devaluing the policy."

BRE, the charity which runs Breeam, has revealed that it is in talks with the Landscape Institute technical committee and experts to review and update the criteria.

Breeam director Martin Townsend said: "This debate is highly topical because we are reviewing now as we do every two years. Breeam is a scorecard of best practice and we try and capture the best practice in the marketplace at the time."

Townsend said BRE would send a representative to speak at the workshop, held at Ashford International Hotel, and urged professionals to share their experience and concerns at the event.

Other speakers confirmed are Kew Gardens' Tony Kirkham, journalist Kate Bradbury and Professors Baines and Dunnett.

Coslett said he was delighted Breeam would attend: "I wasn't attacking Breeam, but I wanted to get the topic aired. I'm a great believer that it should be right plant, right place."

Townsend said: "The feedback we've got is that native species are more positive in terms of biodiversity. If a trained ecologist says that non-native is good we would look at that."

Breeam certification Buildings gain value

So far 250,000 buildings have been certified by Breeam and more than a million have been registered for assessment since it launched in 1990. The assessment covers the building and surrounding landscape, which is measured for ecology, green infrastructure, water efficiency and sustainability.

A Maastricht University report published by RICS Research last year, showed that property in neighbourhoods with Breeam-certified buildings cost more than those without - rents were 1.5 per cent higher and sales six per cent.

The Breeam-certified properties also had rents that were 21 per cent higher and sales of 18 per cent more.

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