Advanced Timber Knowledge

How to impact BREEAM ratings through timber specification


This article will example how BREEAM ratings can be affected by timber specification, focusing on the Mat 03 BREEAM area.

What is BREEAM?

BREEAM, short for Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method, is the world’s foremost method for evaluating the sustainability of buildings. Currently, over 2.3 million buildings worldwide are registered under BREEAM.

Originally founded by the Building Research Establishment (BRE), a former UK government laboratory turned registered charity, BREEAM directs its profits toward furthering research in building sustainability and safety. Remarkably, BRE’s scientific research even contributed to the development of the bouncing bomb used in the Dambusters raid during WW2.

BRE established the Environmental Assessment Method in 1990, and since then, it has evolved, but its core objective remains regulating buildings based on their sustainability.

BREEAM ratings

  1. Outstanding.  % Score: >85%.  Outstanding buildings comprise of less than 1% of UK new non-domestic building, therefore also known as Innovator type buildings.
  2. Excellent. % Score: >70%.  Considered ‘best practise’ buildings, Excellent rated buildings comprise of the top 10% of UK new non-domestic buildings.
  3. Very Good. % Score: >55%.  Advanced good practise, top 25% of UK new non-domestic buildings.
  4. Good.  % Score: >45%.  Intermediate good practise, top 50% of UK new non-domestic buildings.
  5. Pass.  % Score: >30%.  Standard good practise, top 75% of UK new non-domestic buildings.

Not every building obtains a BREEAM rating – there is also an unclassified section for buildings with a percentage score of less than 30%. In addition to ratings, BREEAM also have established minimum standards so unclassified buildings that fail to meet the minimum standards criteria do not get a BREEAM rating.

How is BREEAM calculated?

BREEAM assessments are intricate and carried out by independent licensed assessors who evaluate the building against the relevant BREEAM scheme document, tailored to the type of building.

A BREEAM assessment comprises two parts: the primary assessment, which evaluates the building across nine environmental categories and one category dedicated to innovation. Each category assigns a varying number of credits, depending on its importance, as indicated in the category weighting section.


How Timber is assessed within BREEAM

The primary approach to improving a building’s BREEAM rating is by earning more credits. Timber specification falls under the Materials category, specifically Mat 03, Responsible Sourcing of Materials (abbreviated as RSM).

Every material is assigned a Responsible Sourcing Certification Scheme (RSCS) point score, a crucial element in the Mat 03 credit score. To earn any credits, the material must be covered by an RSCS certification scheme recognized by BREEAM, such as FSC®.

Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how a BREEAM assessor determines the Mat 03 credits, focusing on timber used in external furniture:

Step 1: Timber used must comply with the UK Government’s Timber Procurement Policy or UKTR regulations for imported timber. However, to earn Mat 03 credits, an RSCS certification scheme like FSC® is essential.

Step 2: There are two ways to gain Mat 03 BREEAM credits: Responsible Sourcing of Materials (RSM) and demonstrating compliance with a Sustainable Procurement Plan. The latter covers procurement aspects and is influenced by where timber is sourced, favoring locally sourced timber.

Step 3: Calculate the RSCS score based on the timber’s certification program, with FSC® being highly rewarded.

Step 4: The RSM score is calculated, considering material quantities, using the BREEAM calculator tool.

Step 5: Determine the number of credits based on the percentage score achieved.


How to specify timber to increase credits?

To earn more credits through timber sourcing, focus on timber certification, with FSC® 100% being highly rewarded. Additionally, favor locally sourced timber when possible, as it can impact the sustainable procurement plan credit.


In conclusion, timber and the wider Mat 03 subcategory does have a relatively big impact on the overall BREEAM rating. Granted, the impact of changes may still seem small, but it is useful to be aware that there is a clear path for timber choices to affect BREEAM scores.


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