The release of the BREEAM New Construction 2018 manual has been welcomed by sustainability experts, with the update addressing the industry’s performance gap between design and buildings in use. But what are the biggest changes, and what do they mean?

The update places an increased emphasis on life-cycle analysis when designing buildings, putting greater prominence on building performance and occupancy comfort within the rating system. Alongside this, there is also now an expectation for manufacturers to demonstrate the environmental impact of their products as part of a structure’s long-term life cycle, with buildings now increasingly being viewed as ‘materials banks’.

As the UK’s de facto environmental rating system, the update also changes the way in which the environmental impact of insulation in buildings is assessed, with insulation materials now playing a significant role in achieving a positive BREEAM rating – it could be the deciding factor in achieving the credits required to be awarded an ‘outstanding’ or ‘excellent’ grading.

Which credits can insulation choice contribute towards?

While building elements priorities will undoubtedly vary across projects, insulation must now be considered as part of the overall building performance and building elements. This includes evaluating its impact on several key factors, from indoor air quality and occupancy comfort to acoustic performance and energy usage.

Construction professionals and architects will now need to balance the needs of a structure against the strengths and weaknesses of the insulation products. This will dictate whether greater emphasis needs to be placed on factors such as reduced emissions or thermal performance.

While the update offers new guidance, one factor remains certain with the choice of insulation materials being crucial in not only achieving the desired BREEAM rating but in also helping to promote more sustainable construction practices industry-wide.

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