This paper details the approach taken by the Enabling Works Contractor of the southern section of High Speed Two (HS2) Phase One to achieve an ‘Excellent’ score for the BREAAM Infrastructure Interim Assessment. It provides recommendations for how this learning can be applied to other similar contracts on HS2 and wider industry.
Background and industry context
Following calls for a single sustainability assessment method for infrastructure in the UK, the Building Research Establishment (BRE) acquired CEEQUAL Ltd in 2015, bringing together the best of BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) thinking with the experience and legacy of CEEQUAL. BREEAM Infrastructure addresses carbon issues and resource management, as well as the wider range of sustainability categories such as resilience, stakeholder engagement, pollution, ecology and heritage, providing a framework for infrastructure projects to manage sustainability across all these disciplines. It has a five-tier rating system (Pass – Good – Very Good – Excellent – Outstanding), with the aim being to encourage projects to go beyond mandatory requirements.
This paper shares learning on the BREAAM assessment for the Enabling Works Contract on the southern section of High Speed Two (HS2) phase one which includes demolition of buildings within the wider Euston area, utility diversions, environmental and ecological monitoring and a programme of historic environment and archaeological activities. The Enabling Works Contractor (EWC) is Costain Skanska joint venture (CSjv) and the sub-contractor for the BREEAM Assessment was Hodkinson Consultancy.
HS2 Ltd completed a BREEAM Infrastructure Strategic Assessment during 2017. Since that time, the HS2 area teams have been furthering the Project Details assessments to deliver Interim BREEAM certification.
The initial BREEAM assessment was submitted by EWC (Hodkinson Consultancy) with the ‘final’ BREEAM assessment to be submitted by the Main Works Civils Contractor (MWCC) once construction of HS2 is complete. Both the EWC and MWCC BREEAM assessors worked closely with each other throughout the Design stage process, as although this wasn’t a requirement, both contracts saw the benefits in doing so. MWCC would not succeed with their ‘final’ assessment if the initial assessment produced by EWC was not sufficiently assessed, so it was essential that the routes to certification aligned. As part of this, meetings were held on a regular basis to discuss progress and any variations in the BREEAM strategy. This close contact with MWCC enabled the EWC to become the first of the four main works/enabling works contracts on HS2 Phase One to submit the BREEAM Infrastructure Interim Assessment to BRE. Had the EWC and MWCC not worked together so closely, the process of interim certification would have taken longer. Looping MWCC into the assessment during the interim stages meant that they had a good overview of the evidence being collated, even reviewing/verifying it on a quarterly basis. This then allowed MWCC to ensure that the evidence they were requesting from their specialists was consistent with that of the EWC.
When writing up the BREEAM assessment for submission to the BRE, the requirements for both EWC and MWCC were listed separately, as shown in Figure 1. This allowed both contracts to determine how compliance was achieved by the other which made the entire assessment very transparent.
A score of BREEAM ‘Excellent’ (82.66%) was achieved, which exceeds the requirement set by HS2 <Learning Legacy paper Use of sustainability Assessments (BREEAM and CEEQUAL) on the HS2 project>, who requested a rating of ‘Very Good’ as a minimum, with endeavours for ‘Excellent’.
The requirements for achieving ‘Excellent’ were incorporated into each of the original 145 work packages and Master Information Delivery Plans <Learning Legacy paper: Establishing the Super MIDP> to aid the teams in their understanding of BREEAM.
The BREEAM assessor represented the EWC on HS2’s BREEAM Collaboration Group and liaised with HS2, BRE and BREEAM assessors from other areas of HS2 (Central and South) throughout the assessment. As these assessments had long programmes and required significant coordination, BREEAM champions were nominated for each contract to support the management of the assessments. This enabled a clearer line of communication between the BREEAM assessors and HS2.
Presentations were provided to environmental managers to ensure that the requirements and intent of BREEAM was fully understood and at the forefront of environmental good practice on site.
Tracker Plus software was used to monitor the assessment and prepare monthly reports to update HS2 on the progress of actions taken and any evidence. This was done alongside regular internal meetings with the wider environmental team to ensure that BREEAM was a regular item on meeting agendas.
The EWC achieved six innovation credits, including compliance with the criteria of the considerate constructor’s scheme to an exemplary level of practice, use of surplus excavated materials at its highest value, and use of felled timber at its highest value. Three of the six innovations were commitments to achieve exemplary performance in waste diversion, responsible sourcing, and use of a material efficiency metric.
Outcomes and learning
Managing the 145 work packages was no easy task, especially as each BREEAM issue had to be scoped in or out based on the scope of the work package being delivered. BREEAM compliance statements were produced by the EWC BREEAM assessor so that each work package manager was fully aware of the specific requirements relevant to their scope of works. These were completed by the package managers at two stages; initial design and then at close out of the package. An example of these compliance statements has been provided as supporting material for this paper.
This process fundamentally allowed the BREEAM assessor to treat each package as a ‘mini assessment’ to ensure that all applicable evidence was provided ahead of any works on that specific package being completed. As evidence was being reviewed at package level rather than contract level, it allowed for detailed discussions and reviews to take place. These discussions were able to be held with environmental specialists who were able to directly influence designs if any non-compliances were raised. Further, these discussions are going to be used as a useful tool for MWCC to determine exactly what evidence is being used for compliance. This will be particularly helpful if the current MWCC BREEAM assessor is not working on the project at the time of final submission.
Liaison with the BRE from the very outset ensured that HS2 was always designed with BREEAM in mind. This is not likely to be the case with all projects, so it is essential that sustainability aspirations are realised as early as possible to ensure that the design incorporates all the necessary requirements as organically as possible.
Although Tracker Plus served its purpose, it was not a straightforward tool to use as it is not as refined as BREEAM Projects, which is a more visual tool. Submissions to the BRE were unable to be made through this tool which meant that further reporting was required ahead of any submissions. It is understood that BREEAM Projects could not accommodate BREEAM Infrastructure at the time of submission, however with its recent transition back to CEEQUAL this is now possible.
BREEAM champions were nominated for each contract to support the management of the assessments, although within the BREEAM Collaboration Group it was felt that these Champions were only communicated with when an issue arose or direct communication with HS2 was needed.
- Use BREEAM compliance statements from the start of the project.
- Use BREEAM projects for assessment tracking and reporting.
- Appoint and fully utilise BREEAM champions to improve the communication between the assessor and Client.
The author would like to extend thanks to all that have been involved in the Environmental and sustainability team: Kenneth Hills, Simon Taylor, Christopher Seward, Hannah French, Polly Gourlay, Louise Macdonald, Paul Arnold, Joe Walsh, Phil Alcock, Sergio Perez, Ellie Walshe, Alex Davis, Kinga Holda, Isabel Simpson, Siobhan Pereira, Callum Mair, Serena Ward, Lara Young, Alex Meek, Laura Cobden, Joanna Meredith, Marcus Richardson, Gemma Buss, Robert Lockwood, Craig Speed, Eleanor Reed and Kevin Slezacek.
 BRE. How BREEAM Certification Works. [internet]. 2021 [cited 2021 Nov 3]. Available from: https://www.breeam.com/discover/how-breeam-certification-works/.