We appreciate that, during this challenging period, complete adherence to all our standard operating and assessment requirements may not be possible.
Following our initial guidance on March the 19th, this Bulletin aims to assist assessors, and our wider stakeholders, with continuing to conduct assessments in a robust manner whilst also taking a practical view in light of the COVID-19 global crisis and its impacts on many territories.
It may be necessary for us to update this guidance as circumstances change. We will inform assessors via the process note as and when such updates are made however please do check back prior to nearing the submission of an assessment to ensure that you are following the most current guidance.
Readers are also advised that this guidance is only applicable in situations where social distancing rules relating to the COVID-19 pandemic are in place and must be implemented in line with the prevailing government/relevant authority advice on social distancing, and health and safety.
- Submitting assessments and certification:
As the response to the COVID-19 pandemic currently varies between geographic regions and territories, assessors should provide an account of the particular circumstances of the place and nature of the assessment within their report.
Provided assessors follow all relevant guidance outlined in this Bulletin as a means of demonstrating compliance in as robust and thorough a manner possible, Interim and Final Certificates will be issued as normal, without a caveat.
- Gathering evidence for site assessments:
The status of construction, and other sites is variable; some are dormant, others active and operational with some cases of priority works and completions still taking place. Furthermore, some stakeholders may be having to self-isolate during a critical point of the assessment. As such, it may be difficult, or impossible, for assessors to gain full access to conduct a site assessment.
In cases where an assessor cannot personally visit or gain access to the site, they can appoint a suitable individual, for example a main contractor or asset manager, to undertake a formal site assessment on their behalf.
The appointed individual would be expected to provide a robust account to the assessor of evidence in place of their own site assessment report. We would expect the report to contain photographs and/or virtual tour stills from the building and be signed off by both the appointed individual and assessor.
For those assessment issues relating to external spaces beyond the site, we will accept stills/images from Google Street View (or equivalent), provided it is demonstrated that such evidence is current.
Where the above options are not possible, for example when the site has been closed, for HQM, BREEAM New Construction and Refurbishment schemes, in place of a site assessment report, we will accept ‘as built drawings’ and written confirmation from the design team and main contractors that the requirements have been met. This confirmation should be specific and adhere to other evidence requirement principles.
- BREEAM in Use re-certification:
If a site assessment is not possible, either for the assessor or a suitable individual, desk-based evidence will be accepted for the purposes of BIU re-certification where:
- evidence demonstrates that the criteria are being met as far as possible without a site assessment.
- there is a firm commitment for a follow-up site inspection to be carried out when it is safe to do so, in line with local government guidance on COVID-19.
- Timing of workshops, testing and other subsidiary evidence submissions:
Given the widespread availability of remote communication technologies, it is generally possible to undertake the majority of activities relating to our assessment criteria without the need for face-to-face contact or site assessments.
However, we appreciate that this won’t be the case in all instances and that some projects may be experiencing delays in some areas whilst other aspects may still be moving forward. Development and improvements are rarely linear at the best of times.
With respect to workshops, the key consideration is that they take place at a time when they have a meaningful impact and achieve the aim of the criteria. BREEAM New Construction and RFO schemes typically set timelines based on the RIBA Work Stages. Evidence of remote workshops taking place outside of the prescribed timescales will be accepted provided it can be demonstrated that the aim of the issue is still achieved.
With respect to indoor air quality testing, where possible, the construction programme should allow time for the indoor air quality testing to be undertaken post-construction/pre-occupancy, in line with the BREEAM criteria. However, where it can be demonstrated that this is not possible, due to restrictions relating to COVID-19, it is permissible to undertake the indoor air quality testing post-occupancy, as follows:
- In order to demonstrate compliance, the results must still meet the BREEAM performance targets set for post-construction/pre-occupancy testing.
- Where certification is sought prior to testing, robust evidence that this will be undertaken as early as possible and any defects remedied to achieve compliance must be provided.
- Projects following this approach do so at their own risk and on the understanding that the performance targets may not be achieved due to factors relating to occupancy. As such, additional remediation measures may be required to achieve compliance.
- In this situation, the advice of the Indoor Air Quality Consultant should be sought and followed.
With respect to subsidiary, third party assessments such as ecological site inspections or audits, desktop surveys based on available information (e.g. planning surveys, agent’s reports, photographs, Google Earth), can be used as an alternative provided there is enough material for a confident recommendation and/or outcome to be achieved.
If the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted prior to Final Certification and it is safe to do so, this must then be followed by a site inspection/audit to verify any assumptions made and gather any missing survey information. The desktop survey and site report should then be submitted as evidence.
Third party consultants should also work in line with any health and safety guidance issued by relevant professional bodies.
We hope that you find this helpful. It is intended as general guidance, however if assessors encounter situations which differ substantially and/or are unsure how/whether this guidance is applicable, please seek advice from BREEAM by submitting a query on the webform.