The BREEAM always rises to the top

The BREEAM method encourages everyone involved in construction and procurement to think about low carbon and low impact design, minimising the energy demands created by a building before considering energy efficiency and low carbon technologies.
A BREEAM assessment uses recognised measures of performance, which are set against established benchmarks, to evaluate a building’s specification, design, construction and use. The measures used represent a broad range of categories and criteria from energy to ecology, and include aspects related to energy and water use, the internal environment (health and well-being), pollution, transport, materials, waste, ecology and management processes.
Some of the best performing buildings assessed under the standard were recognised at the annual BREEAM awards, which was hosted by TV architect Charlie Luxton in London on March 3.

The winning building in  the Education category was a new build primary school to replace the the existing building in the village of Brandon, County Durham.

An Outstanding building
The single storey building houses educational and ancillary facilities for 390 pupils from Reception to Year 6, as well as providing a 26 place nursery, a day care facility and facilities for community use (parent / community room and training rooms), which can be securely accessed from the rest of the school building. These are available for use both during and after the school day.
Durham County Council had aspirations to achieve BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ and ensured that the entire project team were fully engaged in the process and that all aspects of the BREEAM assessment were reviewed on a regular basis. As a low carbon building, the development sought to minimise energy consumption through design, such as improved performance of the building envelope as well as maximising the use of natural daylight  and ventilation. It also strived to use a range of sustainable low impact construction materials, procured locally where possible.
Brandon Primary School accommodates 390 pupils, and has proven to be an exemplar template for the development of sustainable educational facilities in the county, with some sustainability and design principles already successfully applied to the development of two further schools in the county.

The benefits of BREEAM
Paul Hopson, Senior Project Manager, Durham County Council, explains the benefits of using BREEAM methods: “From the outset we aspired to create the most sustainable school possible for the pupils, staff and community. The results were not disappointing. When deciding how best to deliver and evaluate this pledge, we always returned to the BREEAM system. The broad assessment methodology model covered all major aspects of the schools sustainable development and was integral in our push for the Outstanding rating.
“The Council, Designers and Constructors have all worked together with teachers, pupils, Governors and the wider community throughout the schools development. The result being a building that’s both a practical teaching tool for staff to integrate sustainability into the various curriculum subjects, while enriching the local area and Brandon as a whole.

“Looking specifically at the design, it’s the joined-up thinking approach that’s particularly pleasing. A typical example being that each individual classroom roof faces south west and is equipped with north facing windows. These windows provide natural ventilation and glare free light while the roof mounted solar panels are pitched at an optimum angle to capture the maximum solar energy.
“Whilst the environmental benefits speak for themselves, it is the integration between the building and the occupants that has proven most significant. The new environment has inspired teachers and pupils alike to explore the bond between their new school and natural environment in which it sits. The building has proven so successful in this regard that we’ve incorporated the design concept and building form into future primary school replacements.”

Inside and outside
The school has been designed and built to ensure the ethos of sustainability runs collectively throughout the building and the community it serves. Early planning was essential to the project’s success, along with the appointment of an in-house BREEAM trained Sustainability Officer, which brought tangible benefits via careful planning and the monitoring of progress.
As the new school was constructed a few meters away from the original building it replaced, careful pupil control and safety were paramount. Learning opportunities were captured via regular contractor workshop/presentations and site supervised pupil visits.
The internal environment benefits from natural ventilation via earth pipes, solar shading, photovoltaic arrays, solar water heating, a biomass boiler, rainwater harvesting and plenty of natural light. Externally, wildlife areas, bat roosts and an aquatic wildlife wetland provide an environmentally friendly setting.
The school and grounds are now used by the wider community and include a 26 place nursery, day care facilities and community rooms. The school also includes Sport England specified playing fields and a multi-use games area - both for shared public use.
Through careful adherence to the BREEAM model the new school presents itself as a valuable and practical learning resource on environmental matters.

Further information on BREEAM and Brandon school
The BREEAM assessment method is administered by BRE, which provides expert and impartial research, knowledge and advice for the built environment sector and is a founding member of the UK Green Building Council. BREEAM is the preferred scheme for a number of the national Green Building Councils across Europe, including the Netherlands   Norway.
For further information on BRE, visit Further information on the Brandon Primary School project can be found at