As BREEAM assessors we are required to gather a wide variety of evidence from project teams in post-construction assessments but due to the quality of evidence required this can be a time-consuming process. Information needs to be exact, robust and show compliance with relevant criteria as it will be used for the final verification of a building in order to gain certification.
With greater robustness needed than in design stage assessments which can focus more on commitments to deliver certain performance, it is crucial that teams have a plan in place to deliver that evidence promptly and efficiently to ensure that their building gets its certificate on time. So what are the best practice methods for collating evidence in post-construction BREEAM assessments?
The first priority for assessors is to meet and engage with contractors, project managers and clients as early as possible and throughout the assessment process in order to build and maintain a positive relationship. Keep in regular contact so as to have a handle on the project at all times. Evidence gathering itself needs to start as early as possible, as soon as the design stage assessment is complete if one is taking place, to ensure adequate planning time to achieve an effective process.
Secondly, client and contractor need to be clearly informed of the requirements for evidence in an easily understood way for all involved. Use of a central tracker document is a practical tool for keeping tabs on what evidence has been received, and who supplied it, and the current overall score of the assessment. It will also show the evidence still outstanding, who is responsible for it and when it is due.
Clear roles and responsibilities need to be assigned for each specific element of evidence, for example the M&E contractor providing as-built drawings and product specifications. Commitment has to be given from individuals on deadlines for delivering evidence including individual accountability for sending it. An up to date schedule of works should be obtained so the assessor can determine the stage of the building and therefore when certain evidence will be available.
A site inspection by a registered assessor will normally also be required for a post-construction BREEAM assessment to validate the evidence, which is further reason to streamline the rest of the process. BRE Global administers BREEAM endeavours to ensure that all information required will already be in existence in any normal design and procurement process, but collaborative working across the team and using these best practice pointers will make providing it as efficient as possible. This way the building gets its project credits and certificate sooner, and delays to final handover are less likely.
Responsible timber sourcing schemes have been around since the early 1990s and are now commonly used as accreditation for sustainable building projects. Illegal logging has been a long-term problem globally, with recent efforts to tackle it such as the EU Timber Regulation of 2013 not solving the problem. Particularly acute in terms of plywood from China, the issue was highlighted in a report early this year by the UK enforcement agency for the regulation (NMO) which found that only two of 16 plywood importers identified had due diligence systems that met regulatory guidelines. In addition, areas such as Brazil continue to see removal of large areas of rainforest with reports that seven times the size of New York City has gone over the past year despite government efforts to tackle the problem.
The best known responsible timber sourcing scheme was set up by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) in 1993 as a global certification scheme that guarantees timber and timber products have come from well managed projects. The Building Research Establishment (BRE) put responsible sourcing of timber at the top of its agenda in the development of BREEAM, making it a mandatory element within any BREEAM assessment and recognises FSC certification as an indicator of responsibly sourced materials. In the light of this, the issue should be high on the agenda for any project team involved in a BREEAM assessed project.
The UK Government’s Timber Procurement Policy closely aligns with the EU and requires any timber to be legally sourced or from sources which are licensed by the EU’s FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade) body or come from ‘equivalent sources.’ The FLEGT Action Plan was established in 2003 with the stated aim to “reduce illegal logging by strengthening sustainable and legal forest management, improving governance and promoting trade in legally produced timber.”
In terms of what clients need to know, the crucial point is that any timber used on site – from that used for construction to timber used for hoardings – needs to be legally sourced. The most easily identified way of doing this is the FSC label, as this indicates there is a traceable trail of where the wood has come from. The chain of custody certificates that come with FSC certification can then be used by BREEAM assessors to show that the suppliers of the wood use legal and sustainable timber, as they represent the whole life cycle from tree felling to production to distribution to supplier. As an alternative to plywood, which is where many responsible sourcing issues arise, is OSB which can be locally grown and produced and can thus offer a much better environmental score than timber as well as better performance characteristics.
In addition, to show compliance with responsible sourcing in an individual BREEAM assessment, project teams need to produce delivery notes from suppliers on the project concerned in order to create an auditable trail. These not only show which suppliers have been used, but whether they are using FSC accredited timber and have chain of custody certificates.
So in short, clients looking to establish responsible sourcing for timber firstly need to ensure that they can obtain FSC and Chain of Custody certificates from suppliers to show they are in compliance with Government policy. They also need to ensure they collect the delivery notes from the project to show that all timber used is legally and sustainably sourced. Lastly, they need to pay attention to where timber is used across the whole of their sites, as irresponsibly sourced timber anywhere on site will mean a breach of regulations.