Successful certification process. What does it involve and when to start it?

LEED and BREEAM certificates are well established on the Polish real estate market as the two most popular systems, and they are some of the key requirements for class-A buildings confirming the reduction of operating costs, positive effect on the health and wellbeing of the users and environmental friendliness. It is true that the certificates are very similar to each other, but they differ in terms of the process and the time required to receive them. The common feature of LEED and BREEAM certification is the close cooperation of the Client (builder or real estate developer), Design Team, Contractor and qualified LEED or BREEAM specialist. Since the certification process involves an entire range of issues, from the location of the building and availability of services to the specific technical parameters required for quick and economical certification, such cooperation is a key element during building certification.

The efforts for certification should be started as soon as possible to ensure that the guidelines and requirements for green are considered during critical design decisions.

At the first stage of the certification process, the Consultant conducts an introductory workshop with the Client and the Design Team. This meeting is used to discuss and determine the technical guidelines, conditions, restrictions and requirements for documentation, potential costs and benefits or impact on the leasing and use of the building. The meeting and the detailed analysis lead to the development of the certification strategy (or the so-called Pre-assessment), which is the plan of action for all entities involved in project implementation, both at the design stage and during construction and use. Cooperation with an experienced LEED or BREEAM consultant is critical to the success of this stage, in order to select the optimum solutions and avoid unnecessary costs at later stages.

We use the arrangements and guidelines of the strategy phase later during the design process and subsequent project stages at the meetings with the Client and the design team to review and implement specific technical requirements for the individual LEED or BREEAM guidelines. It is at this stage that we also conduct a number of expert analyses, e.g., regarding the energy efficiency and life cycle cost, to assist the designing process and provide additional information so that the Client can make the economically and environmentally optimal design decisions.

Once the design has been prepared in accordance with the requirements of the selected system and the documentation for the certification body is ready, the project may apply for the “Design stage,” during which the certification body checks the quality and completeness of the documentation. This step is optional but recommended because it enables confirmation of the specifications of the project already at the design stage and in an early phase of the commercialization of the building. It should be noted that under LEED for Core and Shell it is also possible to obtain the so-called Pre-certificate, which is based on a simplified documentation submission procedure and which enables verification of the project already at an early stage but does not eliminate the need to have the documentation reviewed by the certification body at later stages.

The construction stage is assessed next, and this phase also requires close cooperation of the Builder, Contractor and LEED or BREEAM specialist. It is at this stage that the origin and parameters of the materials, environmental impact of construction and construction site organization are verified. This process ends with the preparation of documentation that confirms the implementation of LEED or BREEAM requirements and that is subsequently subject to the “Construction Stage” (in the LEED system) or “Post-Construction Stage” (in the BREEAM system) assessment, and it is on the basis of this assessment that the certificate is awarded. This stage is crucial to demonstrate that the specifications required to receive the LEED or BREEAM certificate and the strategy determined with the Consultant have been fulfilled.

Upon successful verification of the construction documentation, the building receives the LEED or BREEAM certificate to confirm the economic and environmental benefits of the applied green solutions.

Jerzy Wójcik,
Irena Konoplina

The Green360° blog has been created to provide educational content and aid the development of the industry of certified sustainable construction. Green360° is the publishing part of JW+A.

Green360° will contain practical information and studies relating to LEED and BREEAM certification and facts from the commercial real estate market.

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