Sustainable Innovation

French Building Sector should speed up process of BREEAM-HQE alignment

The UK based Sustainable Building Organisation BRE Global, the French CSTB and its certification body Certivéa have signed an MOU in June 2009. The objective is to align the Environmental Building Certification Schemes BREEAM and HQE. The organisations want to develop one unique certification scheme for the French market. An important requirement is the compatibility with other BREEAM certification schemes in Europe. The progress seems to stagnate. The French Building Industry Partners should urge the responsible parties to speed up the process in order to maintain their international market position (1,2). 


BRE and CSTB have signed MOU in June 2009 for further international alignment of Sustainable Building Certification Methods – notably BREEAM and HQE.

What happened since June 2009 ?  In France, the main certification scheme so far remains HQE. The Best Practices of Bouygues Immobilier show some good examples of this. In the French press, there is hardly any news about BREEAM scheme, nor about the BRE-CSTB alignment project that is going on. How come ? What is happing ? Why should the French Building Industry be concerned ?

BREEAM is being rolled out all over Europe

In 1990, the UK based Building Research Establishment (BRE) has launched the BRE Environment Assessment Method (BREEAM). It involves an environmental assessment and certification for Retail buildings, Offices, Education, Prisons, Courts, Healthcare, Industrial, Specialised buildings and Multi-Residential buildings. Since the nineties over 700,000 buildings have been registered and 135,000 buildings have been assessed by one of the 4000 official BRE licensed accessors, certified by BRE Global (3) .

Whilst the first certification projects started abroad, it soon became evident that environmental legislation, climate and soil specifics vary from one country to the other. BRE Global therefore created the BREEAM International Framework. This framework is a tool to allowing an adaptation to local contexts while ensuring comparison of buildings across borders.

In Europe, the BREEAM Europe Commercial scheme was the first step in that direction. The Commercial Scheme allows retail, office and industrial buildings to be assessed using one unique methodology across Europe that takes into account specificities of each national context.

BRE Global is now taking the principle one step further. The organisation, still based in Great-Brittan, is creating partnerships with local building certification bodies or national Green Building Councils. The partnership objectives are to develop local versions of the scheme available in the local language and managed locally to ensure national ownership within the overall International framework.

As a consequence, it will be much easier for international companies, public organisations and building developers to compare sustainable buildings between countries.  One unique methodology across borders to facilitate the reporting of the environmental performance of their buildings at the corporate scale while ensuring that their local design teams have access to national needs and construction practices.


Principles of the BREEAM assessment method, one single ‘note’ is given, based on an assessment of all aspects of Management, Healt & Wellbeing, Energy, Transport, Water, Materials, Waste, LandUse & Ecology, Pollution and Innovation (3),

Since 2008, a number of countries have validated the BREEAM International framework through their official bodies : Among them are The Netherlands , by the Dutch Green Building Council, who lauched their locally adapted version of the scheme called BREEAM NL in October 2009 ;  Ireland, Spain and Latvia are in the process of working on the adaptation process in close cooperation with industry stakeholders; Turkey, Norway, Sweden, Russia, Poland and Bulgaria through their respective national Green Building Councils (GBCs). The GBC of these last countries have also decided to adapt BREEAM into their national sustainable building certification scheme and will soon be setting up working groups to start the process (4). More countries are still in discussion.

Local guidelines are built interactively in a series of consultations with stakeholders such as governmental bodies, building industry partners and scientific experts. This ensures maximum ownership and relevance of the scheme. For the participating companies joining BREEAM International methodology was seen as a very logical business step as their customers increasingly require Sustainable Buildings, on an international scale.

In green countries assessments of projects are currently carried out using the BREEAM Europe Commercial guidelines.[AA1]  

France has developed the HQE scheme for tertiary buildings

In France, the ‘Centre Scientifique et Technique du Batiment’ (CSTB) and its certification body ‘Certivea’ are responsible for the ‘Haute Qualite Environmentale’ (HQE) method. The method was launched in 2005 in France. It consists of 14 pillars spread over 4 themes ‘ Eco-construction’, ‘ Eco-Management’, ‘Comfort’ and Health’ . HQE has become the new standard for tertiary buildings in France. 380 buildings have been certified since. It is expected that half of the tertiary building to be operation in 2010 should be HQE certified (5). Apart from projects in Belgium, Luxembourg and Algeria, the HQE method has so far not been further adapted outside France.

The 14 pillars of the HQE method (5), 3 pillars should be ‘very good’, 4 pillars should be ‘good’, the rest could be ‘basic’ performance

What are the plans of BRE, CSTB and Certivea ?

The cooperation of CSTB, Certivea and BRE should eventually lead to the ‘delivery’ of one unique certification scheme in France by Certivea. Whether this would be a kind of ‘BREEAM-France’ (which would be logical from an European perspective), a HQE-BREEAM mix or totally newly developed international sustainable building guidelines, remains the question.

1. Phase 1 : The first phase (foreseen June 2009 – January 2010) should have resulted in the translation of the BREEAM Europe Commercial scheme (covering retail, offices, and industrial buildings) to French local context. Certivea will act as the certification body on behalf of BRE Global during this first phase, facilitating the communication in France and reassuring the BREEAM methodology. So far, there has not been any communiction about the results of the first pahse. It was heard that working groups with key industry partners should be start this month (april). It remains unclear if CSTB, Certivea and BRE are still willing to proceed.

2. Phase 2a : Certivea would be the new and sole representative of BREEAM in France on behalf of BRE Global for 36 months. The BREEAM certification process will remain the same, in particular BREEAM International assessors will still be carrying out assessments for the clients. Customers would be able to choose between HQE and BREEAM in this period.

3. Phase 2b : was envisaged in case a totally new (third generation) certification scheme would be relevant to the local contact. In this case, a new certification scheme should be developed.

4. As of phase 3 one unique certification scheme should see the daylight applicable in France ánd abroad.

Why should the French Building Industry be concerned about the delay ?

BREEAM is now quickly rolled out over Europe. More and more countries sign up. The number of assessors, certified and registered buildings is largely outnumbering the French HQE standard. Multinational companies ánd International Public Bodies develop Sustainable Purchase Rules on a rapid scale, including Sustainable Buildings.

Meanwhile, the process of the ‘alignment’ of CSTB and BRE seems to be delayed. It remains unclear why. May it be a question of ‘ not invented here’, may it be an English/French rivalry?  In any case : the three step process is unlikely to move foreward without any pressure from the private sector.

It is just a question of time before the Building RFPs of Multinationals and European Union Institutions will contain BREEAM certification criteria. If the French Building Industry wants to keep up their international role, they should make sure to be properly informed and trained on the BREEAM scheme !

How could the process be brought back on track ?

First of all, French property developers should therefore increase their knowledge about this international standard as quickly as possible. For their own proper commercial benefit it would be necessary to gain knowledge about this international certification method, share information and experiences with industry peers abroad, for instance the International Sustainabilty Alliance. See also the article about the Dutch property developer and ISA founding member Redevco.

Secondly the large French Property Developers (such as Bouygues Immobilier, BNP Immobilier, Eiffage and Vinci) should work together in with the CSTB and Certivéa to adapt the BREEAM International scheme to the national French characteristics. Why not creating a ‘French Green Building Council’ , like in the Northern European countries, a platform of public and private representatives ? It would be for the benefit of international transparence,  the environment and the international market position of the French building industry.

Sources : 1. ‘ Rapprochement des certifications environnementales HQE et Breeam’, Isabelle Duffaure-Gaillais, 22/06/2009 ; 2. ‘ Frequently Asked Questions Alignment BREEAM – HQE ’, February 2010 : ; 3.  BREEAM International Presentation Slides 2009. ; 4. ‘International Sustainability Alliance to drive international sustainability standards’ ; 5. ‘Build today, preserving for tomorrow, brochure of Certivea’ 2009.

Real Estate Investor and Developer Redevco is driving sustainable property development in The Netherlands and abroad

For the Dutch property investor and developer Redevco, Sustainable Buildings is key. In its highly competitive and international market, new shopping centers and offices will only be accepted by customers if they match the highest standards for sustainable building.  The company is active contributor to the Dutch Green Building Council and has contributed to develop the European and Dutch BREEAM guidelines. Also in Turkey and Germany Redevco has built and renovated exemplary Sustainable Buildings certified against the BREEAM standard. 


Derk Welling is Redevcos Manager for Sustainability, Energy & Environment. The civil engineer with a PhD in business economics has been working as consultant purchasing management before joining Redevco in 2007. Welling explains about Redevcos historical roots, the logic behind the companies conviction about Sustainable Property Development and the companies specific initiatives. 

1. Redevco : European Property Investor & Developer with a strong retail footprint

Redevco has its roots in the Dutch C&A fashion retail chain. The real estate part of the Group, rebranded called ‘Redevco’ has become independent from C&A Group in 2001 and is now owned by Cofra Holding AG in Switzerland. The company employs 300 employees. The portfolio comprises over 750 properties on top locations throughout 20 countries. Its main office is located in Amsterdam (1). 


Redevco has its roots in the real-estate part of the C&A Fashion Group. The Paris (France) and Edinburough (UK) are examples of C&A shops in Redevco’s Portfolio (2). 

Traditionally, a large part of Redevco property portfolio consists of retail real estate (high street, retail parks and shopping centers). About 15% consists of offices and industrial sites. Redevco and its predecessor started the development of the property portfolio in Western and Northern Europe, but in the last year this has been expanded to Eastern Europe, Turkey and Asia (with a main focus on China). (2) 


Redevco’s portfolio largely contains retail properties (82%). The company focussed initially on Western and Southern Europe. Now the scope has extended to Eastern Europe, Turkey and Asia. (2) 

An important upcoming market is Turkey, where Redevco started to develop its own retail portfolio as of 2006. One of them is the ERZURUM shopping center near Anatolia. 


Turkey is one of the new countries in which Redevco is active and developing its own property portfolio as of 2007. The shopping center ERZURUM has recently been opened (32,000 m2), situated close to Anatolia (3) and obtained the BREEAM ‘Very Good’ certificate (4). 

2. Corporate Responsibility at Redevco

Welling explains how the objectives for Sustainable Development are a logical derivation of the companies mission statement. The Property Developer has put as its mission to ‘make the right type of property available’ and ‘create sustainable retail solutions in an urban environment which is inspiring and appealing for the future generation’. Redevco’s CR approach, can best be summarised by our key principle: Business in Balance. Welling: ‘Balance is the keyword both in how we do business and in the activities we carry out for our clients. We strongly believe that a balanced approach to business ensures the best results, both commercial and personal, in the long term’. According to Welling, ‘Business in Balance’ means combining People, Planet and Profit in a balanced way. In this vision, people and the world around them are inseparably connected.  

Energy efficiency and Carbon Intensity is an important aspect of making buildings appealing for future generation: 

1)       For the existing buildings : Finding ways to reduce energy consumption and associated carbon emissions 

2)       For the new buildings : Developing zero-energy building using Low or Zero-Carbon technologies(5)   

A policy of small steps is being created to bring environmental, social and economic advantages. Specific actions are undertaken related to :  

(1)     Reducing of Business and Commuter Travel, alternatives to air and car travel, using videoconferencing and telecommuting when possible, using car fleets with lower carbon emissions 

(2)     Reducing carbon emissions, energy, water consumption in the Redevco offices. 

(3)     Maintaining Carbon Neutrality (since 2006) : after having made every effort to reduce emissions, by offsetting residual carbon emissions. 

These are corporate related actions. 

As of 2008 a first public Corporate Social Responsibility Report was published, following GRI guidelines (self-declared, level C).  

The CSR report communicates the energy generated on-site : In total 1,23 GWh was generated by reneweable technologies not requiring imports of fossil fuels and 144 MWh by low-carbon technologies. Though small (0,2%) compared to total estimated consumption, the proportion is expected to grow. Energy providers need to be prepared to accept an energy surplus in the future when building users can generate more energy than consumed. 

Redevco maps the economic vs environmental performance of its building properties. Though collecting relevant data from tenants remains a challenge according to Welling, Redevco has managed to calculate the carbon emissions of its properties based on the GHG Protocol and map this with financial performance. The resulting dashboards show ecological and financial performance on one figure (see illustration) which allows to identify the exemplary and future proof projects, or, to the contrary the projects that need urgent revision from economical and ecological viewpoint. 


Financial and Environmental performance mapped to identify Futureproof Projects 

Building play a very important social role in society. The people’s well-being, their quality of life ánd productivity are closely related to the built environment. The quality of air, light, ventilation and heating system, the usability and accessibility are very important indicators whether a building is a pleasure to work or live in. Which has an important spin-off to the local communities. Redevco practices this knowledge by closely involving  stakeholders early in the process of building development and renovation. For instance, in cooperation with civilian represenatives it prioritises listed buildings in communities for renovation 

Redevco believes that corporate giving can be a useful action to enhance the position of the local communities, adding value to the retailers-customers and bringing in motivation for its own employees. The company donates to local projects in e.g Rumania and is donating to European projects. Among the projects are a cooperation with the Amsterdam based ‘Good Company’ for local voluntary work by Redevco employees. 

3. How can Corporate Responsibility be a motor for Innovation for Redevco ?

The Turkish projects have proven to be an important driver of Sustainable Development within Redevco. Redevco wanted to develop this new Turkish retail projects according to the latest ‘Sustainability Standards’. The guidelines of the Building Research Establishment (BREEAM) considered to be the most appropriate in Europe, according to the sustainability working group from the International Council of Shopping Centers Sustainability Working Group (ICSC). However these standards had not been adapted yet to local (retail) standards, nor Turkish Sustainable standards were available. Redevco decided to assist in the development of the BREEAM Europe Retail guidelines. 

Also closer to home, in the Netherlands, Redevco and ABNAMRO Bank and other partners have created an independent council, the Dutch Green Building Council (DGBC). This private initiative aims to encouraging the use of the Dutch equivalent of the international BREEAM method (BREEAM-NL). The BREEAM-NL norms exceed the Dutch regulated norms and are aiming for the best ecological and economical standards of building development As of 2009, over 250 organisations have become member, all profiting from an exchange of BREEAM trainings, certifications and sustainable building innovation. 



The Dutch Green Building Council, official member of the World Green Business Council 

Redevco is using its knowledge to build and renovate buildings around Europe now. The C&A Store in Mainz in Germany, for instance, has been renovated according to the Redevco Virtual Eco-Store concept. Principles of the Virtual Eco-Store are : Principle 1 : Reduce energy demand : better insulation, new lighting concept, more efficient ventilation, wind traps (double doors), Results : over 50% energy reduction and a CO2 emission rate is down 88%. Principle 2 : On-site energy sourcing : PV panels and the district heating system of Mainz keep the netto energy consumption low. Pinrciple 3 : Source remaining demand responsibly : In this case : hydropower. The Mainz C&A Eco-Store has been certified ‘Very Good’ by independent BREEAM auditors in 2008. 


Germany, Mainz, C&A Eco Store built and owned by Redevco  

The International Sustainability Alliance 

Redevco also became a founding member of the ISA – International Sustainability Alliance ( The ISA will join forces with international companies, Green Building Councils, research institutes and other stakeholders in the real estate chain to achieve a common goal: driving an international sustainability standard for the built environment. ISA now has over 20 Founder Members (BNP Paris Bas Real Estate, EDF Group, Unibail-Rodamco, Corio, Dutch Green Building Council, CSTB, BRE Global, C&A and Sonae Sierra) and is focusing on: 

  • measuring the environmental performance of buildings and the economic impact and added value of a corporate sustainability strategy (data from over 2,600 buildings across 29 different countries is already being collated)
  • encouraging consistency of metrics and reporting
  • providing world class, secure, internet-based tools to collect, benchmark and intelligently report on building data
  • accelerating progress through independent research, measurement and evaluation of economics and new innovations, technologies, processes and techniques
  • ensuring that consistent, transparent sustainability standards achieve maximum reach, continue to grow in scope and advance in value as new knowledge is gained

The database can be used for multiple purposes, such as internal & external reporting on KPIs, benchmarking and certification. 

4. Does the economical crisis change the Sustainability Objectives of Redevco ?

The economical crisis certainly has its impact on property development. Projects have been postponed or cancelled. However, the projects that remain are characterised by clear ecological and economical advantages : better insulation, good ventilation, energy efficiency and a pleasant working environment. 

Redevcos business focus is on managing its existing properties, but remains to invest in new buildings. With respect to Sustainability, for its existing properties, energy efficiency practices such as insulation and new ventilation methods as applied in Mainz, remain the key objectives. 

5. What are trends and outlooks in the sector with respect to Corporate Responsibility ?

Welling expects that all (retail) companies will be obliged to become transparent about their energy consumption and carbon footprint. Notably the international organisations such as the International Sustainability Alliance will play an important role to define the relevant information to be exchanged in the building construction value chain, such as energy consumption and carbon emissions. 

The environmental footprint of the total value chain will be more clear : The Building industry will be able to identify even better which buildings and building practices are sustainable, from an economical and ecological viewpoint. 

Welling adds that the International public-privte bodies have an important role to create the industry standards. For instance, BREEAM is becoming the European standard for Sustainable Buildings now accepted by an increasing number of European cities of which The Netherlands, Spain, UK, France, Norway, Sweden and Turkey. Country reference cheest are being made with local bodies to elaborate on international standards combined with country specifics such as local norms, national legislation and translations in the national language.

Property investors will be expected to play a pro-active and reponsbile role through the value chain. This means a clear demonstration of business ethics, code of conduct and integrity as well as  certification and sustainable purchasing. Corporative giving could also be an important signal to retailers and local communities.  

Sources : 1.; 2. ; 3. ; 4. ; 5. Corporate Responsibility Report 2008, september 2009.