By Grey Lee, Executive Director

We recently hosted a breakfast meeting for professionals in the green building field and heard the latest in British Imperialism: BREEAM coming to the US. 

What is BREEAM? It is the world's leading sustainability assessment method for masterplanning projects, infrastructure and buildings. It addresses a number of lifecycle stages such as New Construction, Refurbishment and In-Use (we would say “existing buildings”). Globally, there are more than 548,000 BREEAM certified developments, and almost 2,247,300 buildings registered for assessment since it was first launched in 1990. It is huge across the world, but completely absent from the US! 

Until NOW!

BREEAM inspires developers and creators to excel, innovate and make effective use of resources. The focus on sustainable value and efficiency makes BREEAM certified developments attractive property investments and generates sustainable environments that enhance the well-being of the people who live and work in them. 

Thank you to Barry Giles for meeting with us to review the system, explain how and why it is reaching into the US market, and how we can find synergies with existing programs the Chapter supports. Take a look at the new website of BREEAM USA – it will help you learn about the system, how assessors are engaged, and how it can meet the needs of a large chunk of the market of existing buildings.


Barry is a leader in achieving sustainability in the existing building world. He is a LEED Fellow and has worked to certify hundreds of buildings with the O+M system. He was one of the original authors of that system and has been involved with USGBC since its inception. Barry has worked as an engineer, general contractor, systems operator and a facilities supervisor. He runs Building Wise, a building performance improvement consultancy based in San Francisco.


He also has been involved with the UK precursor to LEED, the BREEAM system. He first saw the potential for the BREEAM standards to apply to the US market after becoming a BREEAM International and BREEAM In-Use Assessor in 2009. Since then, Barry has taken the lead in developing the partnership between BuildingWise and BRE Group to create the BREEAM USA standard. He worked to specifically tailor the methodology for the unique conditions in the United States and continues to advocate for the application of sustainability benchmarks to all existing buildings as a BREEAM Fellow.

Our conversation got into the details of how the system compares with LEED and how we anticipate it could enter the New England commercial real estate market. Chapter regulars in attendance included Chris Schaffner of the Green Engineer (a USGBC Advosory Council Member) Jennifer Taranto of Structure Tone (and former USGBC MA Board Chair) and JC Courtney of Siemens. With those types of people in the room (and in our green building industry), Brits like Barry really need to be on their toes!


The main objective of BREEAM USA will be to support sustainability in the 5.6 million existing buildings in the US which rank under 75 in Energy Star. This is literally 75% of buildings – due to the way LEED v4 has a prerequisite of attaining that score in order to approach LEED O+M in the v4 system. The Energy Star scores work as a ranking: only 25% of buildings can ever attain a score higher than the 75. BREEAM will be available to any building, regardless of Energy Star score. There is work to be done!

BREEAM has been around for over 25 years and Barry will be leading the charge here in the US to introduce it to more people and more projects.

BREEAM was created by the BRE in the UK. What is BRE? Listen to this great overview video about the organization.

We look forward to hosting more sessions on BREEAM USA with Barry and to provide training on how you can engage your building in the system or even to become a BREEAM Assessor yourself. Stay tuned!


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