Why Phipps Decided to Pursue BREEAM In-Use Certification

In February 2020, Phipps’ Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) was awarded the highest BREEAM In-Use rating in the United States. This post by Phipps Wellness and Sustainability Specialist Meghan Scanlon, WELL AP, shares why Phipps elected to pursue BREEAM In-Use certification to guide ongoing management of the CSL.

Green building certifications in the US in particular have typically presented a one-and-done pathway for new construction. You designed your building to meet the certification’s precise checklist, you achieved certification, and that was it. But what often happened was that, even for well-intentioned teams, over time a project’s original green goals got lost due to staff turnover, limited budgets, deteriorating systems and quick fixes. There’s been a welcome expansion in green building certifications to include building management to ensure ongoing performance. BREEAM In-Use is one of those certifications.

The Importance of Certification

Certification provides accountability.

In building management, you’ll inevitably run into challenges. And when that occurs, if you don’t have a formal certification to maintain, any unofficial strategies can easily be forgotten. Having the accountability of ongoing performance monitoring and verification makes it that much harder to give up when facing challenging management situations.

Certification memorializes a commitment to evolution.

Pursuing a certification like BREEAM In-Use signals intention to evolve with new research and best practices. An evolving certification can provide a testing opportunity to ensure the values that a project originally prioritized are still important and in practice, present new challenges for a project to consider pursuing over time, and help position and keep a project on the forefront of industry best practices. BREEAM In-Use features both benchmarking and improvement pathways, so not only does it allow you to gauge your existing performance, it also offers reach goals to help structure ideas for future projects to ensure continued achievement of your green goals.

Maintaining Building Management Success

BREEAM can confirm design strategies.

The CSL’s original green goals, including net zero water and energy consumption, had never before been accomplished in one project. Our pursuit of BREEAM In-Use allowed us to confirm that our design worked and the project’s original lofty green goals were still being met. The Living Building Challenge doesn’t require annual reporting; a building performance certification like BREEAM In-Use requires ongoing reporting that demonstrates we continue to meet our goals.

BREEAM can confirm ongoing values alignment.

Phipps is passionate about doing our part to address climate change. Certification helps us walk the talk, compelling us to think of the future when drafting plans and policies with improvement targets and environmental and operational resilience in mind. And it provides an opportunity for us to confirm that our management strategies and operational practices are, in fact, aligned with our values. 

BREEAM can set you up for success.

While BREEAM In-Use is a certification for existing buildings, its value can be amplified if considered from a project’s inception, if possible. Thinking through daily management of your building during design will set you up well for ongoing performance. For projects that don’t wish to officially certify, BREEAM’s benchmarking process provides the opportunity to review your management strategies to identify areas for improvement and to set you up for building management success. When a project is ready to certify, BREEAM focuses more on impact than on a specific approach, so project teams can document how they meet each issue’s intent, rather than its strict terms.

Challenges to Maintaining Performance

Knowledge gaps and educational opportunities.

BREEAM In-Use provides opportunities to educate and to bring people to the table. Phipps’ pursuit of certifications, including BREEAM In-Use, provides opportunities for us to knowledgeably speak with a range of professionals to explain not only what we’re doing but also why we’re doing it. In doing so, we’re shoring up knowledge of and support for these types of projects. And extending participation beyond the design team, specifically to management staff, promotes understanding and fosters a sense of ownership.

Staff continuity and institutional knowledge.

There’s also a very real possibility of staff turnover. When that happens, your team may lose specialized knowledge of your building. Preparing standard operating procedures, as required for documentation, becomes well worth the effort when key project team members depart and take with them years of institutional knowledge about your building’s particulars.

A management-focused certification like BREEAM In-Use presents opportunities to further your commitment to your lofty green goals and ensure ongoing success in managing building sustainability performance. Maintaining sustainability performance presents its share of challenges, but even these present opportunities for success.

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