4 Operational / QA /

03 Preparing the assessment

Information correct as of 27thJanuary 2022. Please see kb.breeam.com for the latest compliance information.

A new approach to provide a better QA service - KBCN1449

Background

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:
 First Submission
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.
  1. There are 12 Non-Conformances (a combination of Minor and up to 2 Major NCs)
OR
  1. 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.
Resubmission
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.

Addition of credits between stages - KBCN0512

Where credits previously not awarded at the Design Stage are subsequently achieved at the Post Construction stage, these can also be added in, provided sufficient justification and supporting evidence is in place. Full supporting evidence, as required in the technical manual, must be sourced and provided for audit when requested.

BREEAM AP/Sustainability Champion validity - KBCN0527

For credits to be awarded for the use of, and the BREEAM AP/Sustainability Champion to appear on the Certificate, the assessor must ensure that the BREEAM AP/Sustainability Champion qualification was valid at the time of appointment, and maintained throughout their involvement in the relevant project stages.

Qualified status is maintained through membership of the relevant schemes, for example the BREEAM AP scheme, and listing on Green Book Live. Evidence demonstrating their status must be collected by the assessor and provided for QA purposes. 

Where an individual’s status has lapsed during the relevant period, or the project has continued for an extended period of time without their involvement, the credits cannot be awarded and they cannot be listed on the BREEAM Certificate.


BREEAM Recognised Software and BREEAM Projects - KBCN0514

BREEAM Recognised Software may be used to compile assessment data and evidence for submission for schemes which must be submitted via BREEAM Projects, at the current time. If you wish to use one of these, the referencing document and a zip file containing the evidence from the approved system must then be uploaded within the BREEAM Projects assessment tool.

Compiling of Site Inspection Reports at the Post Construction stage - KBCN0517

BRE strongly advises that assessors should have a formal, written site inspection report which will act as standalone evidence (separate from the BREEAM assessment), and that this should be referenced as evidence for the applicable credits. The report should contain full details of what has been witnessed on site and which credits/criteria the particular comments relate to, and may include copies of photographs (which are required for many credits as evidence in any case). It is preferable to produce a separate record of the site visit, which can stand as evidence to back up the assessment report. Where an assessor uses their site visit as evidence of compliance they will need to record the following information outlined below as a minimum in a site inspection report: The assessor may feel that it is desirable to record information above and beyond this list, and would be encouraged to do so wherever they feel it is appropriate or necessary to confirm compliance.  

Conflict of Interest statements - KBCN0520

If the assessor believes there is or may be potential for a conflict of interest then the first step to managing it is to declare it to BRE Global, along with any measures proposed or taken to manage the potential conflict. BRE Global can then confirm or advise steps that need to be taken by the relevant parties (including ourselves) to maintain the objectivity of the assessment and its outcome. The assessor should inform BRE Global of any potential conflict at the registration stage of assessment; or at the appropriate time thereafter when the potential conflict becomes apparent and before the assessment is submitted for a certification decision Licensed assessors can and often will need to advise clients, project teams and asset owners/managers on whether one or more proposed solutions comply and how to interpret assessment criteria for the purpose of determining, designing or proposing compliant solutions. This type of advice does not necessarily constitute a conflict of interest, but assessors should be mindful in doing so that it does not lead to one. When submitting the assessment to the BREEAM QA Team the assessor must submit a signed statement confirming the roles undertaken by the assessor/assessor organisation and how any potential conflicts of interest have been managed. A statement confirming that there was no conflict of interest is not sufficient. In such circumstances the assessment and evidence submitted may be subject to closer scrutiny. Where BRE Global has unresolved concerns relating to the potential conflicts of interest, additional measure may be imposed to verify the integrity of the submitted assessment.  

Design and post-construction stage evidence - KBCN00038

Both design (DS) and post-construction stage (PCS) evidence are required for a post construction review (PCR) or post construction assessment (PCA).  It is, however, possible to provide only PCS evidence where the DS evidence is completely superseded and unnecessary. To comply with the principles of robustness and completeness, both DS and PCS evidence have to be submitted at PCR or PCA unless the PCS evidence makes the DS evidence obsolete.

Evidence: Types of evidence required to demonstrate compliance with BREEAM - KBCN0402

The list of evidence details the typical types of information that the Assessor needs to collate to assess compliance against the requirements of a BREEAM issue. The evidence type listed against each requirement is not exclusive and other types and forms of evidence (listed or not listed in the table) can be used to demonstrate compliance against a BREEAM requirement.  Key to demonstrating compliance with the BREEAM requirements is that the Assessor has used, and references, an auditable trail of evidence, regardless of the form that evidence takes in relation to each BREEAM requirement.  For example: if, for a particular BREEAM requirement, the list asks for a letter from the client confirming compliance, but compliance can or has been demonstrated via a building specification then the Assessor can reference that piece of evidence as demonstrating compliance and does not need a letter.  However, the Assessor must confirm acceptance by the Technical team in advance of the certificate submission to avoid findings being raised in the Quality Assurance process.  Please note that the BREEAM team is unable to advise Assessors whether a particular piece of evidence demonstrates compliance as this is the Assessor’s responsibility. The BREEAM team will not fail the QA of a certification report on the basis that evidence referenced in the report, confirming compliance with the assessment criteria, is not an identical type to that outlined in the schedule of evidence. For further information please refer to the ‘BREEAM evidence requirements’ section or ‘Appendices’ section in the relevant Technical Manual. 

File Formats: Assessment and Calculator tools - KBCN0513

To ensure that all assessments are received in full with no text or sections missing, all BREEAM UK New Construction 2011 and 2014 and BREEAM International New Construction 2013 and 2016 assessments, which are not being completed within BREEAM Projects, should be submitted in their original (Excel) format. Assessment/calculator tools (including those applicable to earlier version), originally provided to assessors in Microsoft Excel format, should also not be converted to PDF before issuing to BREEAM for quality assurance. BREEAM 2008 (or earlier) assessment reports may still be submitted in PDF format.    

Getting the referencing right - KBCN0522

When referencing evidence it is the role of the assessor to demonstrate how the credits for each issue have been awarded. The assessor must therefore provide their thought process and clear location references (i.e. page and/or clause numbers, etc.) that give the auditor or any other reviewer of the assessment a clear auditable trail as to how each individual criterion within an issue has been addressed. A good example: "Section 3.2.5 (page 23) of Ref 46 shows compliance with Criterion 11a" A poor example: "Ref 46 shows compliance with Hea 04", or, "Ref 46 shows compliance with Criteria 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8"

Provision of Design Stage evidence for Post Construction audit - KBCN0504

Where compliance is demonstrated at post construction by confirming ‘no change’ from the design stage assessment, or where the evidence requirement states ‘as design stage’, the design stage evidence should be reviewed by the assessor as part of their post construction assessment, and therefore referenced and provided for audit within the post construction submission. This evidence may be audited if the issue is selected for QA, and non-conformances may be raised in relation to the evidence if issues are found, as final certification cannot take place when there are any outstanding non-conformances from evidence relating to either stage of the assessment process.
Information correct as of 27thJanuary 2022. Please see kb.breeam.com for the latest compliance information.