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Libby Schweber

Libby Schweber

Merit Award Winner 2014
Comparing the Fit between BREEAM Assessment and Design Processes

Research Abstract

Published in Building Research & Information, Vol.42, No.3, pp. 300-317, 2014.


This paper explores the mapping of environmental assessment onto design and construction processes.  A comparative case study method is used to identify and account for variations in the ‘fit’ between these two processes.  The analysis compares eight BREEAM projects and distinguishes project-level characteristics and dynamics.  Drawing on insights from literature on sustainable construction and assessment methods, an analytic framework is developed to examine the effect of clusters of project and assessment level elements on different types of fit (tight, punctual and bolt-on).


Key elements distinguishing between these types include: prior working experience with project team members; individual commitment to sustainable construction; experience with sustainable construction; project continuity; project-level ownership of the assessment process as well as the nature and continuity of involvement from assessors.  Professionals with experience of sustainability judiciously used BREEAM to support their designs, alongside other frameworks.  By contrast, less committed professionals tended to treat BREEAM purely as an assessment method.  


The study suggests that more attention should be paid to individual levels of engagement with, and understanding of, sustainability in general - rather than to knowledge of technical solutions to individual credits.  More focus should also be placed on ownership of the assessment process and on the potential effect that discontinuities – or interruptions  - at the project level can have on sustainable design.

Winner's Bios

Dr Libby Schweber

University of Reading, UK

Libby has a BA from Harvard University and a PhD from the University of Princeton.  She trained as a sociologist, specialising in the sociology of knowledge.  Her early research focused on the use of statistics and styles of reasoning.  Joining the School of Construction Management and Engineering at University of Reading in 2008 as a principal research fellow, Libby was made associate professor in 2011.  Her current research focuses on the diffusion of low carbon technologies, the mainstreaming of sustainability in engineering consultancies and construction firms and the development and use of policy and professional tools such as BREEAM.

Dr Hasan Haroglu MCIOB

Kingston University, UK

Hasan is a senior lecturer and course director of undergraduate construction management programme in the School of Civil Engineering and Construction at Kingston University, London.  Prior to his current role, he was a research fellow at the Innovative Construction Research Centre, University of Reading, working on the ‘BREEAM-in-Use’ research project.  Hasan holds an engineering doctorate and an MSc in construction management, both from Loughborough University.  His research interests include quality management; design and construction process; sustainable/environmental assessment tools for buildings and procurement and contract strategies.


Judge's comments

“This paper clearly demonstrates how research can reveal the wide variation between formal intent and informal application in the use of environment assessment tools.  It points towards the complexity of situations where the BREEAM assessment tool is applied, and demonstrates the differing motivations of individuals in the enactment of BREEAM certification.  The work is strongly argued with a good critical analysis, and also shows an excellent use of qualitative data from case studies.”