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This week we took a major step forward in the drive to create sustainable buildings that promote health and well-being for occupants. A result of genuine collaboration between two like-minded organisations, it shows what can be achieved when we work together. Whilst this is great news and a big step forward for the industry, there are a lot more steps to take and the industry needs to work together to take these steps.

On Monday, BRE and the International WELL Building Institute™ (IWBI™) announced an agreement between the two organisations to pursue alignments between BREEAM and the WELL Building Standard™ (WELL) that will make it easier for projects pursuing both standards. Under the agreement, the organisation’s will mutually identify specific credits whereby submitted documentation will be recognised by both organisations. This means that those projects pursuing BREEAM will be able to get 35% credits towards achieving WELL, saving project teams the time and costs associated with submitting the documentation twice.

The alignment between the two standards has been extremely well-received by the industry – a case of common sense prevailing and two organisations with shared goals collaborating to help drive efficiencies in the delivery of buildings that have minimal environmental impact whilst maximising occupier health and well-being. It is also refreshing to see steps being taken to reduce costs, complexity and process and this should be seen as a catalyst for the industry to come together to drive further efficiencies and change.

It is vital that we understand that the drive to improve our buildings has to be an inclusive debate, one that brings the best knowledge, research and thinking together to create the best of our new or existing buildings. Not only does it need to be inclusive from the way we create and share this knowledge and research that will ultimately influence and drive schemes to create best practice buildings but it has to be inclusive in the way that it effects the people that occupy the spaces.

This was very much the thinking when BRE created HQM – Home Quality Mark – where we placed the consumer at the heart of how residential buildings should be designed and built. It is only natural therefore, that we also place that same thinking at the heart of other environments such as the workplace or schools, hospitals or retail. This is where the collaboration between BREEAM and WELL comes into its own by ensuring that we bring the very best thinking to bear.

With BREEAM looking (as it always has) at the conversation from the widest perspective – from energy and water to waste and air quality – we are in the perfect position to take that holistic view and help bring the industry together. However, it is important that as well as BREEAM driving best practice and occupier and owner value and benefits, we must advance the debate to ensure we extend the conversation and value equation to health and wellbeing – the most important and fragile component of the ecosystem of the building.

It is important that not only does BREEAM evolve, respond and learn from new research, but it also listens to the need of the market, to ensure we align, integrate and collaborate, making the task of the wide number of professionals as simple as possible. Allowing the industry to focus on providing the best building for their client is the philosophy we followed when we started working with CEEQUAL and BREEAM infrastructure, and with the work we continue to do with GRESB, and certainly the approach we will take as we update BREEAM Buildings in Use in 2017.

Being the first rating tool from which many have followed means we need to be proud of our history and what we have achieved, confident of our independence, and sure of the research and the support it provides to drive the industry. We also need to remember we live in a global society and the connection we need to make is one of collaboration to help create transformation. We need to understand as much as we can about the process of change and trends so that we can influence it.

One of the biggest factors of success in the future will be the impact of collective corporate action. The announcement this week about the alignment between BREEAM and WELL is a big step in the right direction and one that I hope will act as a springboard for further industry collaboration through sharing of research, knowledge and experience.

Watch the video and read the press release announcing the BREEAM and WELL collaboration here

Download free briefing papers on health and wellbeing in BREEAM here

Martin Townsend
About the Author
Martin has a diverse professional background covering all aspects of the built environment from advising UK Ministers when he was an Advisor in Government, to his time as a Regulator in the Environment Agency, or working on construction sites. He works closely with the construction industry bringing sustainability issues alive for companies' right across Social, Economic and Environmental agenda. As Director at BRE he looks to accelerate and broaden the uptake of tools, standard and learning throughout the industry, from component, building and city level, and in doing so, challenge the industry to improve, based on both best practise, but also the latest research.

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