Stand your ground (part 2) by Robyn

The new BREEAM 2014 technical manual is now available to download from www.breeam.com. You have to register to see available downloads. Don’t all rush at once.

I’ve reviewed this to see what’s new… The overview is that the BREEAM standard has now been consolidated covers all new construction of non-domestic buildings in one hit; before different uses (schools, health etc.) had different manuals and places different numbering, which was open to confusion.

Where as the compliance notes are more complicated; evidence schedules are now simpler. Many of the tables used for calculating assessments are included in text rather than as appendices making navigation easier too.

It remains much the same, with the change in the detail. In essence many sections are, to some extent, relevant to the work of a Landscape Architect, most notably MAT 01 ‘Life cycle impacts’ and MAT 02 ‘Hard landscape and boundary protection’ which encourage use of materials with low environmental impact over a full life cycle. MAT 02 will have you reaching for ‘The Green Guide’ to check ratings for paving or fencing Download it at www.bre.co.uk/greenguide.

Concentrating on the ‘Land and Ecology’ section (subject of the previous BREEAM blog), here’s the low down. I’ve added some explanation of the system (for the uninitiated), along with an overview of changes and new inclusions.

The ‘Land and Ecology’ section encourages sustainable land use, habitat protection and creation and improvement of long term biodiversity for both site and surrounding land. At full fit-out, this section forms 10% of the overall available credit weighting; substantial by anyone’s reckoning.

LE 01 ‘Site selection’:

1 credit is awarded for use of land where 75% of the development footprint is brownfield. Fixed surface infrastructure is now counted; previously this was unclear. Areas for temporary works, site huts and storage count too.

1 credit is awarded for the use of contaminated land with a remedial strategy. Decontamination must be to facilitate the development, not for pure health and safety reason. This presumably encourages the use of the most blighted and challenging sites.

LE 02 ‘Ecological value of site and protection of ecological features’:

1 credit is awarded for use of a site of low ecological value, the aim being to encourage use of sites of already limited value to wildlife and to protect existing ecological features from substantial damage.

The ecological value of the site and the 100m surrounding land can be determined by use of a simple checklist but only if you can answer ‘no’ to all the questions. If some answers are ‘yes’ then the credit can only be awarded on confirmation by a Suitably Qualified Ecologist. Previously the checklist could be used without a SQE even if some questions were answered yes; was this new version written by an ecologist needing more work? The new checklist includes the site and a far wider area; if there is a SAC within 2km or a SSSI within 500m, this automatically classes your site as not of low ecological value.

The SQE must rely on data collected on site visit at appropriate times of the year when different plants and animal species are evident; if not then credits cannot be awarded.

If prior removal of ecological features has been carried out then the credit cannot be achieved, but if the removal occurred prior to purchase then this is different. In this case the SQE can estimate the ecological value through desk study, the use of aerial photos, and consideration of the surrounding land types. This could be dangerous if the site lies next to something of significance. If there is no evidence and it is not possible to determine the value as low then the credit is withheld.

Features of ecological value are defined as:

  1. Trees more than 10 years old or of significant ecological value as defined by BS5837)
  2. Hedges and natural areas requiring protection
  3. Watercourses and wetland areas

Whilst the use of a SQE is not mandatory, BREEAM recommends their use as a site may be able to have potential of biodiversity value and BREEAM recommend verification of this. This sounds daft – every site has potential! Collaborative input is sought from a concept stage to highlight opportunities and constraints about the effective integration of the ecologist’s recommendations.This ‘predictive assessment’ was not mentioned in old BREEAM.

1 credit is awarded for adequate protection of all existing features of ecological value, within and surrounding the construction zone and site boundary, during site clearance, preparation and construction in line with BS 42020. Ecological protection must be constructed as recommended by the SQE prior to preliminary site construction or preparation works. Previously protection measures were detailed with no mention of BS or SQE; their inclusion serves to tighten up the requirements.

LE03 ‘Minimising impact on site’s ecology’

The old title was ‘Mitigating Ecological impact’, which makes little sense in itself. This section is now simpler (less forms to complete) but the calculator more prescriptive in terms of habitat types and taxon numbers. This is included as one of the minimum standards for a ‘very good’ rating.

1 credit is awarded for no negative change in the ecological value of the site. Assessment is based a comparison of existing and proposed broad habitat types (ie. acid grassland, arable, mixed woodland, built up and hard, gardens) and doesn’t have to be calculated by the SQE, but they can add to this by identifying average total taxon (plant species).

1 credit is awarded for a change in ecological value less than zero but greater then minus 9 i.e. a minimal negative change. This is confusing coming second in the list. More credits for less value?

Habitat types and average taxon were previously defined/determined differently. Wildlife garden planting is not included as a vegetation type anymore; it is assumed it is included in ‘garden, allotments and urban parkland’.

If the contribution from species on a green roof is required this can only be calculated by a SQE. Ground-planted plant species growing on a wall are acceptable, but green walls, which were not mentioned in old version, cannot included in calculations due to concerns that their high maintenance requirements are not self supporting or sustainable. SQE can assess them but BRE has the final word.

LE04 ‘Enhancing site ecology’

1 credit is awarded for appointing a SQE; they must have given advice in form of a report with recommendations for enhancement of the site’s ecology; and that the early advice or recommendations of the report have been / will be implemented in the final design and build.

1 credit is awarded for an increase in ecological value (in LE03 the credits are for minimal or no change); the first credit has to have awarded already with recommendations undertaken. The SQE confirms there is an increase in ecological value of 6 species or greater using the LE03 calculator with actual plant numbers.Previously there was 1 credit for an increase of up to 6 species and 1 credit for over 6.

It is not mentioned but the plant species presumably have to be planting of ‘native floral or non native floral species those with a known attraction or benefit to local wildlife’ as agreed with the SQE (this phrase is used in section discussed below).

For simple buildings only 1 credit (instead of two above) can be awarded for seeking recommendations from recognised local ecological expertise and generic guidance to inform ecological enhancement of the site.

This could include:

–       planting of locally appropriate native or non native species those with a known attraction or benefit to local wildlife; they have to be floral species.

–       adoption of good horticultural practice (e.g. no use of residual pesticides)

–       installation of bird / bat boxes on site.

–       development of a Biodiversity Management Plan, including avoiding clearance/ works at key times of year.

–       proper integration, design and maintenance of SUDS systems, green roofs and walls, community orchards or allotments etc.

The non-native species are only included in the definition of ‘ecological recommendations’ on page 333, not in the assessment criteria list for simple buildings. But they are there!

This is a welcome change from old BREEAM which said:The planting of native species or those with a known attraction or benefit to local wildlife; only native floral species or those with a known attraction or benefit to local wildlife can be considered for the purpose of enhancing the ecological value of the site.’

There was no separation for simple buildings before; this definition now runs through whole of BREEAM 2014. A ‘Simple Building’ is defined as one where the building services are predominantly of limited capacity and local in their delivery, largely independent of other systems in the building fabric and avoid complex control systems. Full details are found in BREEAM 2014 Appendix E.

Where ecological enhancements can’t be implemented within construction zone (e.g. with new infill building on a school or hospital campus) enhancements elsewhere on site can be taken into account, but must be in the same timescale.

LE05 ‘Long term impact on biodiversity’

 The aim is to minimise long term impact on site and surrounding area’s biodiversity.

Up to 2 credits are awarded for:

–       Appointment of the SQE prior to commencement of activities on site and confirmation by the SQE that all relevant legislation (UK and EU) has been complied with during design and construction process.

–       Provision of a landscape and habitat management plan for first 5 years (BS 42020: 2013 section 11 gives details of what to include)

–       Additional measures to improve long term biodiversity. The list includes: appointment by principal contractor of biodiversity champion (to influence site activities); site workforce training in protection of ecology; records of actions taken to protect biodiversity; creation of new ecologically valuable habitat; programme minimises disturbance to wildlife;

–       Only for education projects: a partnership set up with wildlife trust or other body for continuing advice and support in protecting / providing habitats. This last suggestion is new.

 In conclusion the new manual has improved; but is still complex and outcomes lie very much in the hands of the SQE. The good news is the inclusion of non-native plants; this is definitely a step forwards and we may not have to stand our ground so vigorously from now on. Time will tell.

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