For more than two decades the BREEAM Quality Assurance Team has been supporting the certification process by reviewing the documentation submitted by our assessors for UK and international projects. This process must balance many parameters and maintain the credibility of our BREEAM brand and the reputation of our clients. Furthermore, given the continuous development of the construction industry and our BREEAM standards, BREEAM QA has had to evolve accordingly.
Why are we making these changes?
Over recent years, it has become evident that we need to make certain improvements to how we operate, for the benefit of our assessor network and all parties involved.
This is clearly demonstrated by the large number of resubmissions and assessments that generate a high number of non-conformances we receive.
The BREEAM QA process should not be used as a checking service.
We need to ensure that the standards are not compromised. Since we are only reviewing a sample of the assessments and the issues within, there is a need to elevate the quality of all assessments to an acceptable level.
Based on our data, collected over several months, the ratio of resubmissions to first submissions is 3:2 (60% resubmissions vs 40% initial submission of the overall assessments received). When considering the overall number of non-conformances, almost a quarter of all assessment submissions generate more than 7 findings.
The data shows the need to ensure that the quality of the assessments is uplifted and the whole QA team’s time is used productively, reviewing assessments which meet the expected level of quality.
By increasing productivity and the number of qualified auditors, the BREEAM QA Team has reduced the QA timescales from 8 weeks in Summer 2020 down to 4 weeks by late Autumn 2020. As part of our continued drive to maintain and improve the QA turnaround times, we are now putting in place a new process, which we feel has many benefits. This new approach will contribute to maintaining and further reducing our timescales.
What changes are being made?
From 1st April 2021, submissions for all BREEAM Schemes will be audited as follows:
This is subject to the following two trigger points. If either is met, the audit will be halted and feedback issued. The assessor must then update the entire assessment, implementing the feedback throughout.
- There are 12 Non-Conformances (a combination of Minor and up to 2 Major NCs)
- There are 3 Major NCs – the audit will be reviewed by a senior member of the Quality Assurance Team. If all the Major NCs are confirmed, the audit will be halted, as above.
Note: To account for newly qualified assessors, the above approach will not be applied to an assessor’s first audit under a given BREEAM Scheme.
When the assessment is resubmitted, it is expected that all the QA feedback be actioned. The NCs are re-audited along with the remaining issues. Where the number of NCs after the re-audit remains unacceptably high, BRE will implement charges to such resubmissions.
When does this come into effect?
The new approach will be effective from 1st April 2021. There are no additional requirements for submissions, other than those described above. These changes are not expected to affect most assessments; especially those which are on reduced checking levels.
This approach is intended to reward consistently good submissions.
How we will support you?
In our December Process Note, we outlined our plan to keep QA timescales low, along with our aim to reduce them even further. We aim to consistently maintain those and fulfil our promise to all relevant parties.
We have compiled a document including several Frequently Asked Questions, to help answer any queries that may arise from the implementation of this new approach.
Furthermore, our team has produced an Assessor Awareness Module, where additional guidance is provided on the impacts of low-quality assessments and what can be done for these to be improved. This free module is offered for free by BRE Academy.