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Responsible sourcing in BREEAM

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BREEAM recognises responsible sourcing in its Materials section, awarding credits since the 90s. Credits are available for procurement, sourcing and innovation.

Background to responsible sourcing

In BREEAM’s earlier versions, before responsible sourcing concepts were as developed as they are now, the approach was necessarily simple. With the developing interest in the topic and increased number of ways of demonstrating the adoption of responsible sourcing principles the approach adopted in BREEAM has now developed in sophistication, comprehensiveness and transparency.

Background to responsible sourcing

2014 saw a step change in the consideration of responsible sourcing in BREEAM with the introduction of a new calculation method to determine the number of credits to be awarded for the topic in BREEAM UK New Construction 2014. This new method is detailed in the associated BREEAM Technical Manual SD5076: 2.0 – 2014. The approach is also being rolled out across other currently operating versions of the BREEAM scheme. This new approach also included the launch of a mechanism to evaluate, in a fair and transparent manner, new responsible sourcing schemes for recognition in BREEAM.

It is in Section 9 – Materials, specifically in MAT 3 Responsible sourcing of materials, in the Technical Manual that the process is detailed. This article seeks to capture the fundamentals of the approach.

Methods of achieving credits

Responsible Sourcing in Materials (RSM) Credits in MAT 3 can be secured in three ways:

Sustainable Procurement Plan

One credit can be secured by demonstrating that materials for the project are sourced in accordance with a documented sustainable procurement plan; the Technical Manual defines plan eligibility.

Responsible Sourcing of Materials

Up to three credits can be secured by the evaluation of the overall extent to which responsibly sourced materials have been specified and used in the project.

Innovation Credit

One further credit can be secured by demonstrating the ‘exemplary level criteria’ in BREEAM. For responsible sourcing this is defined as at least 70% of the available RSM points being achieved using the above calculation.

There is one pre-requisite for responsible sourcing in BREEAM – that all timber and timber based products used in the construction are ‘Legally harvested and traded’ (as defined in the Technical Manual). There are no pre-requisites currently for other materials.  This requirement is included to ensure that UK Government procurement policies on timber are complied with where these credits are awarded.

Calculating the proportion of responsibly sourced materials in a project

There are three routes available for this calculation, two individual ones and a combination:

  • Route 1: where detailed information on quantities of materials is not readily available.

  • Route 2: where a more detailed analysis is possible due to the availability of more detail on material quantities and associated supply chains.

  • Route 3: (a combination of Routes 1 and 2) where details on quantities are only available for some of the materials.

As this is a brief overview of responsible sourcing in BREEAM I will not dwell on the calculations but simply describe their principles with examples.

Using Route 1

The first step is to identify all the ‘Location/Use’ categories in the building and for each one identify the ‘Materials’ used. It will be necessary to break down complex components into constituent materials and assess them separately (e.g. break windows down into frames and glazing).

‘Location/Use’ categories and ‘Materials’ are:

To recognise the challenge of calculating impacts

To recognise the challenge of calculating impacts from materials which only form a small part of all the materials used in the project there is a cut-off level in Route 1. Hence, any Material within a Location/Use category (except in the‘Ceiling’ and ‘Internal partitions/internal walls’ categories) which account for less than 1m3 per 1000m2 of gross internal floor area, can be excluded from assessment. Fixings, adhesives, many finishing materials and ironmongery will normally fall below this threshold and need not be considered in the calculations.

For each Material there is an Associated Responsible Sourcing Certification Scheme (RSCS) Point Score (these are defined in BREEAM Guidance Note GN 18). The BREEAM Calculator Tool then automatically calculates points and credits by:

  • Establishing the average RSCS Point Score for each Material in the same Location/Use category

  • Selecting the Location/Use category with the lowest average RSCS Point Score for each material

  • Awarding Responsible Sourcing in Materials (RSM) points based on lowest average RSCS Point Score.

  • Assigning BREEAM RSM credits based on the % of available points achieved using the allocations in the table below:

This approach is summarised in the table

This approach is summarised in the table below for a limited range of Location/Use categories and Materials:

The figures in bold italics indicate the scores

The figures in bold italics indicate the scores which determined the final RSCS Point Score allocation for each Material and hence the ultimate RSM points scores. For this limited example, the BREEAM Credits score can be determined:

Using Route 2

Using Route 2

The same Locations/Use and Materials categories are used as in Route 1, but this time actual quantities of materials are used in the calculations. The table below shows the principle for a single material type in a range of uses. As can be seen this is a more complicated process requiring considerably more data than Route 1.

Using Route 3

Using Route 3

It is possible to combine Route 1 and Route 2 outcomes depending on the extent of data available. Taking examples from the Route 1 and Route 2 sections above:

The Responsible Sourcing Certification

The Responsible Sourcing Certification Scheme Point Score

A fundamental element of these calculations concerns the allocation of the RSCS Point Score. The Point Score is recognition of the level of rigour, maturity and scope in the means of describing the responsible sourcing credentials of the various materials. The Point Score is outlined within a table in a separate Guidance Note ( Guidance Note 18). At the time of writing (November 2014) the table is summarised below.

In the table the various eligible schemes are allocated a RSCS Point Score which has been determined independently and based on the rigour, maturity and scope of their approach. A Point Score of 10 is allocated to the most rigorous of schemes and a Point Score of 1 for the least rigorous means of describing responsible sourcing credentials. The table will be a constantly changing element of the assessment.

Operators of new responsible sourcing schemes are encouraged to submit their schemes for evaluation for inclusion into the Guidance Note. The schemes in the table below have already gone through this process.

It is through this process that BREEAM will remain current in the applicability of new schemes and will assure an independence and transparency of approach ensuring that not only BRE schemes (such as BES 6001) are applicable within BREEAM but that suitable schemes external to BRE are similarly acceptable.

Currently all responsible sourcing certification schemes recognised by BREEAM are considered equivalent. However, work has commenced on the next phase of BRE’s review of such schemes. This will permit differentiation of schemes to account for relative levels of scope, rigour and maturity. It is envisaged that this work will be implemented within BREEAM in the spring/summer 2015.

For more information on responsible sourcing please the following two publications available from BRE Bookshop at

  • IP 6/09 – Responsible sourcing of construction products: Framework Standard for the Responsible Sourcing of Construction Products (BES 6001)

  • IP 3/13 – Responsible sourcing of materials in construction