Blog – BREEAM: much more than just a sustainability certification

Before Article

It is now almost 6 years since I finished my studies and started working as a consultant at CFP. During my studies I learned a lot about buildings, property and engineering, but apart from a number of studies, I had seen very little about sustainability. My first months at CFP were dominated by acquiring a lot of knowledge and participating in sustainability projects. And one of the first projects I was allowed to work on was a BREEAM certification!

Not exactly love at first sight…

To be honest, I thought it was a terrible project. I saw over 400 credits, a huge Excel file, a large number of policy documents and lots of meaningless photos of systems, toilets and workplaces. For all those 400 credits, a description had to be made of to what extent the conditions had been met. The right photos had to be added to provide support and from all the different policy documents a single sentence had to be found that could be used as evidence. On top of that, some credits were incomprehensible to a layman like I used to be back then. I didn’t see the link with sustainability and it was hard for me to imagine how this would contribute to a better and more sustainable building.

Good preparation is half the job

I can laugh about it now. Once I figured out how the BREEAM methodology works, things went a lot smoother. This did however require the help of my colleague Sander van den Berg, our biggest BREEAM fan and experience expert at CFP. He has explained to me time and again how everything works and how I can go through the certification process smartly and easily. I have learnt that the right tools are very valuable for keeping an overview and that it is important to go through a certification process with someone who knows how to prepare well.

Within CFP, BREEAM is now much more than just the sustainability certification we offer. Some of our consultants have done many projects with BREEAM in recent years, but we actually think that all CFP consultants should be BREEAM experts. That is why many of our consultants are now training to become BREEAM experts. I hope their first experiences with a BREEAM certification will be at least as exciting as mine!


– Stefan Maatman, senior consultant at CFP

BREEAM lampenWhat does BREEAM actually involve?

The BREEAM methodology consists of various quality marks, with CFP applying a great deal of BREEAM-in-use, i.e. the method for existing buildings. The method consists of three different components: asset, management and use. Depending on the role of owner or user, you can choose to certify one, two or three components. The different components contain credits within nine different categories. Examples of categories are health, energy, transport, materials and waste. This makes it immediately clear that the method is much broader than another commonly used sustainability label for buildings: the EPC.

BREEAM goes beyond the EPC

The purpose and usefulness of certification has often been debated. Of course, obtaining a splendid certificate does not make a building more sustainable. At most it shows that you are going in the right direction and that sustainability is important to you. However, it does say something about how you are doing in terms of sustainability. In addition, a structured method makes it easier to draw up a plan to make your building much more sustainable. Particularly if lowering the energy bill is not the only sustainability objective. BREEAM goes much further than that.

You can, of course, always question the necessity and impact of measures. Does hanging up nesting boxes have as much impact as using LED lighting? The BREEAM methodology assigns its valuation to each measure, but of course it can’t do any harm to draw up a business case and make a plan based on your own ambitions.


– Stefan Maatman, senior consultant at CFP

 More than 1,000 BREEAM quick scans

My colleagues and I have carried out more than 1,000 BREEAM quick scans in recent years and have drawn up improvement plans for our customers. In addition, we have carried out a number of certifications of interesting and characteristic buildings in the Netherlands, such as the Groot Handelsgebouw, the Van Gogh Museum and Het Loo Palace.

BREEAM portfolio approach

In addition to the regular approach of the BREEAM method, there is now the portfolio approach too. The Dutch Green Building Council (DGBC), developer and manager of the BREEAM method in the Netherlands, has developed this approach. The portfolio approach involves the BREEAM certification of an entire portfolio. This makes it much quicker and easier to provide properties of one owner or user with BREEAM certification. In the past year I and my colleagues have been able to provide the portfolio of NEXT Real Estate with BREEAM certification according to this approach. Interestingly, we are using BREEAM to further shape the sustainability of buildings in the next few years.

Written by: Stefan Maatman, senior consultant at CFP Green Buildings