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14 April 2021

BREEAM And LEED in the Netherlands

Which method do we prefer?

By Edwin van Eeckhoven

C2N has experience with BREEAM and LEED certification processes. We are therefore regularly asked which green certificate we recommend for real estate in the Netherlands. In order to qualify for a MIA-VAMIL green subsidy, the choice is irrelevant because both green certificates are recognised by RVO.

The decisive factor in the choice is the client’s wishes. American clients are more likely to opt for LEED than Dutch clients, because it is an American green label with which they are very familiar. For Dutch clients with plans to build new buildings in the Netherlands, we recommend choosing BREEAM. Why? We will explain this in the following paragraphs. But first a little history.

BREEAM is an originally British sustainability label for real estate, which has been developed since the early 1990s by the BRE, the British equivalent of the Dutch TNO. The label was originally only intended for the British property sector, but at the beginning of this century a start was made on rolling it out to other countries, including the Netherlands.

In early 2008 the Dutch Green Building Council, in collaboration with BRE, launched the Dutch version of BREEAM. This version is laid down in an Assessment Guideline (BRL) and has therefore been given official status within the Dutch construction world. The BRL is periodically updated with input from the real estate sector. BREEAM 2020 is the most recent version.

LEED is grafted onto an early version of BREEAM and has subsequently been further developed by the US Green Building Council. This explains the similarities and differences between BREEAM and LEED.

As mentioned earlier, a country-specific BREEAM-NL BRL is available for the Netherlands which takes into account the sustainable criteria according to the BRE, but uses Dutch standards and guidelines.

In contrast to BREEAM, there is no Dutch assessment guideline available for LEED. With LEED, one has to demonstrate that a building to be certified complies with the American norms and standards which LEED uses. This means double work, because calculations that must be made according to Dutch standards anyway, such as an EPC calculation, must also be made according to American standards.

An additional complicating factor is that LEED uses the American measurement system and not the metric system used in the rest of the world. This means that all units of measurement commonly used in the Netherlands have to be converted to US units of measurement. This double translation into American standards and units of measurement is a time-consuming process.

On the website of the US Green Building Council, you can find a wealth of excellent documentation which provides support during a LEED certification process. However, all LEED documentation is in English and all evidence must be provided in English.

All these requirements result in a LEED certification process that is much more time and money consuming than a BREEAM certification process. The number of buildings with a BREEAM certificate is therefore correspondingly higher than those with a LEED certificate.

It is my experience that both methods can be applied well in the Netherlands. However, for projects involving only Dutch parties, BREEAM is the most obvious method.