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The Building Research Establishment (BRE) launched BREEAM Communities in 2010. It sets out a range of criteria for establishing the sustainability of planning and development proposals. It goes beyond the traditional scope of BREEAM and Code for Sustainable Homes to extend into new areas such as business, community and place-making.

Local authorities are starting to apply BREEAM Communities in planning policy. Bristol City Council was the first local authority to include a requirement for a BREEAM Communities assessment as part of their Core Strategy.

While BREEAM Communities can provide a robust tool for assessing the sustainability of proposals, it can also be somewhat inflexible and is best applied to new build, mixed-use urban extensions.  In the case of large scale refurbishments, urban in-fill or regeneration projects some of the mandatory criteria can be impossible to meet.  Mandatory criteria include flood risk, surface water run-off, a minimum 15% energy provided by onsite renewables and evenly distributed affordable housing.

We are currently working on a large urban waterside refurbishment project which cannot be certified as the site is within a high risk flood zone, and sufficient mitigation is not possible on the existing Grade II listed building.

As other local authorities no doubt will follow in Bristol’s lead it becomes even more important to be aware of these mandatory criteria at site selection stage, and to ensure that the mandatory requirements of BREEAM Communities can be met. Where these cannot be achieved, it becomes important to engage in early dialogue with the local authority.