The USGBC will now recognize energy credits from Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) International, the United Kingdom’s green-building rating program, in applications for LEED certification. The credit recognition will only apply to new-construction buildings that first achieve BREEAM certification. To begin, only energy credits in BREEAM International 2011 will be reviewed as compliance paths for points in LEED 2009.

“We’re starting the crosswalk with BREEAM International,” says Scot Horst, senior vice president of LEED and global strategic innovation at the USGBC. “The LEED steering committee approved this approach as an alternative compliance path to start the dialogue,” he explains. “This is game-changing, from my perspective, because in the world of rating systems there is a sense of competition between systems, and what we’re saying is that what matters is that people are doing good environmental work. We want to focus on them and not let competition between organizations or rating systems get in the way.”

One advantage of recognizing BREEAM certification as a compliance path for LEED energy credits is reduced cost and workload for project teams, Horst says. “What’s happening now is that teams on big projects doing both LEED and BREEAM certification are paying ridiculous sums to double their efforts because the rating systems require different things,” he says. “It’s a significant start because it means you don’t have to do two separate energy models.” That being said, Horst claims that the two systems are not a straight comparison. “We know that the way energy credits work is apples to oranges. They [BREEAM] have a carbon score set against three slopes and they do not include plug loads. We know it is going to be a dialogue with the project team to examine what is really going on in a project. We’re going to have to talk to them to find out what is happening, and that’s better than just having them do a separate energy model.”

The recognition of BREEAM credits is not a formal agreement with Building Research Establishment (BRE)—the organization that oversees BREEAM ratings—and in this regard, the recognition does not extend both ways: LEED credits do not formally apply to BREEAM certification requirements. “We recognize that BREEAM is a great system and that people do great work when pursuing BREEAM, and rather than trying to negotiate a crosswalk that would take years, we have to decide to recognize credits on a project-by-project basis,” Horst says. “We want to continue this with other rating systems, too. If we find it is successful, we can keep opening it up. The next step would be to include BREEAM 2009 projects and other credits.” He adds that success in this regard could also expand LEED to recognize credits for other international rating systems such as Germany’s DGNB program.

More information on BREEAM International is available online here. More information on the most recent developments to the LEED system can be found online here.