BRE Global Ltd., the 97 year old Great Britain based world’s leading authority on all aspects of the built environment (.. it all started with fire testing for homes), with over 2,247,696 BREEAM registered buildings across 77 countries in its sustainability assessment method, will before the end of the year award its first BREEAM In-Use certification in the United States.

BREEAM USA is the new joint venture between BRE and BuildingWise, the well respected U.S. based LEED certification consultancy headed by Barry Giles. Barry is now the CEO of BREEAM USA and I ran into him some days ago at Greenbuild. We followed up last week and I have edited and condensed our conversations for this blog post.

For those who do not know, Barry is one of the icons of the green building industrial complex. He served on the LEED Existing Building core committee and since his first EB project, the 5th ever certified LEED EBOM building, he has been an advocate for LEED, often saying, “LEED has done a stunning job with new construction, .. but existing buildings have been a difficult thing.” He explains that the prerequisites and tough requirements for an EBOM certification, including the LEED v4 prerequisite of an Energy Star score of 75, keep the vast majority of 5.6 million existing buildings in the U.S. out of the USGBC program.

While not in direct competition, it is useful to note that the 1st version of LEED in 1998 was a knockoff of the 1990 edition of BREEAM.

It is significant that only about 4,630 buildings have been certified as LEED for Existing Building projects, according to GBIG, since the standard was launched in 2008.

Born in large measure out of the belief that the “we are not putting our effort in the huge sector of the market that is not already efficient,” Barry’s new effort is to focus on all those other buildings that “cannot get into the program.”

The joint venture between BRE and BuildingWise that is BREEAM USA happened only months ago in May 2016. The BREEAM USA Technical Manual published August 1st is available free of charge. The BREEAM In-Use program launched in the U.S. on October 1st (.. just 30 days ago) and are on pace to have more than a hundred buildings signed up by the end of November.

When I asked about when the first building will certify, Barry responded that The Bloc in Los Angeles will likely be the first to certify before the end of the year, “but we are not making a race of it. Our biggest goal is not to get buildings certified.”

Barry wants people to register their building with BREEAM USA and complete the online self assessment tool where they receive an instantaneous score. Of course an owner has the option of hiring a BREEAM In-Use Assessor to verify the score and the option to receive BREEAM In-Use certification, but the program is efficacious at “reducing operational costs” and allowing building owners to test and do a cost benefit analysis of contemplated renovations.

There is a great opportunity to add to your suite of services by becoming a BREEAM USA Assessor.

The Technical Manual and underlying algorithm are academic, based on a peer reviewed paper process controlled by the trust that owns BRE, not simply the consensus of some coterie. There are 200 questions in the online tool within nine categories including Energy, Water, Transport, Management, Waste, Pollution, Health and Well Being, Land Use and Ecology, and Materials to create a score. Once completed, the BREEAM In-Use assessment is automatically scored and the building is given an unverified rating based on the final score: Acceptable, Pass, Good, Very Good, Excellent and Outstanding.

BREEAM In-Use is open to all existing commercial buildings of any size, age and in any condition. But currently, the system does not apply to multi family residential buildings.

The overarching aim is that “BREEAM In-Use broadens the market for existing commercial buildings” to engage in a program for improved building performance because there are no prerequisites or other barriers to entry.

To be inviting to large numbers of existing building owners, “we’ve got to keep it simple” and this program does that.

“In the short term there are 5.6 million commercial buildings in the U.S. If we can strike 10% of those in the next 4 years that would be remarkable; we know that is not realistic” but it is a lofty goal. More practically “together with LEED and Green Globes, between the 3 of us we can crack that nut” of existing buildings. “We could move the needle.”

“In the Long term this could instruct the other rating systems that we can’t only look at the Class A buildings.”

“There are a lot of Class B and C buildings out there and we could help them make changes and save money. The byproduct is we will reduce carbon footprint.” And that is the real goal.

We are told that Paul Revere’s midnight ride warning “the British are coming” may not have happened, at least the way we were taught it did, but fortunately Barry Giles is here to revolutionize greening existing buildings across the U.S. with the BREEAM In-Use program.