02 Applications – Judging a BREEAM Approved Innovation Application

Please review KBCN1275 and KBCN1398 on BREEAM Innovations process before reading this article.

Judging a BREEAM Approved Innovation Application

The process of judging a BREEAM approved innovations application can be a complex process involving many considerations. This KBCN intends to give guidance on the process of assessing a BREEAM innovation application, and the roles and responsibilities of each party.

5 principles;

  1. Uniqueness
  2. Sustainabilty Benefit
  3. Performance
  4. Dissemination
  5. Replicability

The application form is designed to encourage the applicant to answer key questions relating to these principles to give BRE Global an indication of whether the application meets all five principles.

Each innovation must address all five principles, however compliance with the principles is not always a binary ‘yes’ or ’no’ decision. To make an informed and considered decision the BRE Global consultant in the Stage 1 review and the relevant subject matter expert(s) in the Stage 2 review must consider all aspects of the application as summarised in the following table, and discussed in more detail below.


Principle Stage 1 actions Stage 2 actions
Uniqueness Assessor provides precedents in application form.
Consultant checks for precedents – local and global.
Expert verifies assessor and consultant precedents plus their own. Expert analyses innovation from a detailed technical point of view (if innovation is technological).
Sustainability Benefit Consultant clarifies benefits with assessor if this is not clear. Consultant briefs expert on all potential benefits.
Performance Consultant verifies that baseline is representative of common practice. Consultant reviews potential performance against baseline. Expert verifies information provided by applicant and requests additional information if necessary. If innovation is unable to prove performance due to its early stage, expert defines robust methodologies for the design team to demonstrate this.
Dissemination Consultant will request additional information from assessor if required.
Replicability Consultant will request additional information from assessor if required. If barriers to replication are technical or related to the specialist field, expert to provide additional verification if required.


Global vs local

This is the most important aspect of the innovation application and plays a large part in determining the outcome.

At the highest level BREEAM recognises innovations that are unique on a global scale – that is, they are the first in the world to achieve their stated outcomes.

However, this does not consider the different maturity levels of the global construction industry. What may in some cases be commonplace in one part of the world may be an important achievement and set an important precedent for the industry in another.

One of the first questions in the application form asks for a definition of a ‘baseline’ performance level. This represents current standard practice, and is what the innovation will be compared against. It is a critical question in determining the degree of improvement and innovation that is being achieved and can help to define the local context.

At the Stage 1 review, the consultant will independently check for precedents on a global scale. Any information provided by the assessor to assist this process will help to speed up the review. If precedents have been identified and show that the innovation is not unique on a global scale, the consultant will consider whether the application represents something unique to the local context, and may contact the assessor for further information. If the application progresses to Stage 2, the expert may locate additional precedents based on their knowledge.

Note that ‘local’ is not defined and will vary with each application. It may be, for instance, a region, country, climatic zone or other definition in which the innovation may be considered to bring unique benefits. As an example, if the innovation can only be applied in humid tropical climates, the ‘local’ context, in this case, could be: ‘Koeppen-Geiger climate zone Af’. Be aware, that if the definition becomes too specific to one particular context, it may conflict with the principle of replicability (see later in this article).

Application of technology

Another way of measuring uniqueness is in the application of technology (if the application uses technology). Most innovations build and improve upon existing technology, so BRE Global does not require the re-invention of the wheel for every successful application. Conversely, if the innovation uses commercially available ‘off the shelf’ equipment without modification, robust justification should be provided as to how this is considered innovative.

As an outcome-focused assessment method, BREEAM focuses on what the result will be for the assessed asset, therefore simply the use of new technology is not enough. It must demonstrate clear beneficial outcomes. At Stage 2, the expert is best placed to determine the technical details of the application.

Sustainability Benefit

The potential benefits of the innovation must be clearly defined and measurable from a social, economic or environmental standpoint. The benefits from the innovation must not be detrimental to other sustainability aspects (for instance, causing social harm for economic gain).

At Stage 1 the consultant may contact the assessor for additional information if this is not clear to ensure that at Stage 2 the potential outcomes are communicated to the expert.


The performance of the innovation defines how far the innovation will exceed the defined baseline.

At Stage 1 the consultant will verify that the baseline stated is representative of local practice.

If the performance is measured against existing BREEAM benchmarks, the consultant will judge this against them, and brief the expert with relevant information at Stage 2. If the performance is not measured in BREEAM or requires a qualitative assessment, the consultant will make a judgement on whether the benefits are great enough to be considered innovative and forward their recommendations to the expert at Stage 2.

If the performance cannot yet be proven due to the stage of development of the innovation, the role of the expert in Stage 2 is to ensure that any methodology or research used to demonstrate its benefits is robust and will result in a meaningful case study for the wider industry to learn from, regardless of the results. These may form conditions for any final approval.

Where the innovation is at such an early stage that even this cannot be defined, BRE Global reserves the right to place the application on hold until it reaches a later stage of development.


Sharing the experience of implementing the innovation (both successes and lessons learned) stimulates the industry to develop. The manner of dissemination can be straightforward but must be open for peer review and made available to the wider industry.

This is a key principle applications are judged on. Therefore, if a project will not share details of the innovation for confidentiality reasons, the BREEAM Innovation application will not be accepted.


A judgement must be made on whether the innovation can be realistically replicated in other projects.

Examples of barriers to replication may include a lack of resource, financial, technological or be context-specific (i.e. unique in a very local context). For the innovation to set a meaningful precedent and influence the wider industry it is important that other projects can follow and implement the innovation.

At Stage 1 the consultant will review the response given within the application form and make a judgement on whether the justifications given are reasonable. If in doubt, additional information may be requested, and at stage 2 the expert may be consulted.


The consideration of all these principles and the discussions involved, are the fundamental components of the innovation application review process. Although no single innovation review is the same, this article has outlined the broad steps in this process and will help all parties to better understand what is involved.