18th Aug 2023 -

With a dedicated focus on environmental impact, the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) certification has emerged as a globally recognised benchmark for evaluating the sustainability of buildings. In parallel, the innovative application of steel frame systems (SFS) has revolutionised the construction landscape, offering structural integrity, versatility, and a reduced carbon footprint. How are these connected and what are the strong qualities that make projects using SFS an ideal candidate for BREEAM certification? 

What is BREEAM?

BREEAM is a widely recognised and respected sustainability assessment and certification system for buildings. It was developed in the UK by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) and is used to evaluate and measure the environmental performance of various types of buildings. This includes commercial, industrial, and residential structures. BREEAM assesses multiple aspects of a building's design, construction, and operation to gauge its overall sustainability and eco-friendly practices. 

The BREEAM assessment process involves evaluating a range of categories, such as energy and water usage, ecology, materials and resources, waste management, health and wellbeing and pollution. Points are awarded based on the building's performance in each category, and these points are then collated to determine the building's overall BREEAM rating. The ratings typically range from "Pass" to higher levels such as "Good," "Very Good," "Excellent," and "Outstanding". The higher ratings indicate a greater level of sustainability and environmental responsibility.

BREEAM provides a framework for promoting and achieving environmentally friendly and sustainable building practices. It encourages building owners to adopt technologies, materials, and design strategies that minimise the negative impact on the environment and enhance the well-being of occupants. BREEAM certification is sought after by developers, architects, and building owners who are committed to constructing and operating buildings in a more ecologically responsible manner.

How does BREEAM certification work for SFS?

A steel frame system (SFS) construction site for a large project with SFS components against some sunlight and a blue sky.

By integrating SFS into green buildings, you have the opportunity to earn BREEAM points across the various categories outlined above, contributing to an overall BREEAM rating. When it comes to building steel frame systems, BREEAM certification assesses how well these systems contribute to the overall sustainability of a building project. Here is how BREEAM certification works for SFS. 

Materials and resources

BREEAM assesses the sourcing and utilisation of SFS fixings and materials. It considers factors such as the environmental impact of steel production, recycled content, and responsible sourcing. SFS that use recycled or sustainably sourced steel can earn higher points toward BREEAM certification.

Energy efficiency

The energy performance of buildings with SFS is evaluated. BREEAM considers the thermal efficiency of the SFS, its impact on the building's insulation and airtightness, and its contribution to reducing energy consumption. SFS that enhance energy efficiency can contribute positively to your overall BREEAM rating.

Waste reduction

BREEAM encourages minimising construction waste. SFS can help achieve this by being prefabricated off-site, leading to reduced onsite waste generation. BREEAM rewards a project that implements strategies to reduce waste when you install SFS components.

Indoor environmental quality

SFS can influence indoor air quality, thermal comfort, and acoustics. BREEAM assesses how well SFS contributes to creating a healthy and comfortable indoor environment. Properly designed SFS that enhance indoor environmental quality can lead to higher BREEAM scores.

Lifecycle assessment

BREEAM considers the lifecycle impact of SFS, including factors like durability, maintenance, and potential for reuse or recycling. SFS designs that extend the building's lifespan and facilitate future adaptability can earn favourable points.


Projects using innovative techniques or approaches to build SFS systems that go beyond standard sustainability practices can earn additional points under the innovation category. This can include integrating a responsive building envelope that adapts to external conditions or embedding solar photovoltaic (PV) panels directly into the SFS. 

What are the benefits of a BREEAM certification for SFS construction?

Obtaining a BREEAM certification for SFS construction can offer a range of benefits that extend to environmental, economic, and social aspects. Here are some of the key advantages to consider.

Enhanced market valueAchieving BREEAM certification enhances the marketability of SFS buildings. Certified projects are often preferred by environmentally conscious buyers, tenants, and investors, potentially increasing property value and demand.
Positive public imageBREEAM-certified SFS construction demonstrates a commitment to environmental responsibility, fostering a positive public image for developers and stakeholders.
Compliance with regulationsA BREEAM certification ensures compliance with stringent environmental standards and regulations, providing assurance that the project meets or exceeds industry requirements.
Recognition and awardsOverall, BREEAM-certified projects often receive recognition and awards from industry organisations and green building associations. This can further enhance the project's visibility and credibility.
Future-proofingGenerally, BREEAM-certified SFS buildings are better prepared to adapt to evolving environmental regulations and societal expectations, ensuring long-term resilience.
Reduced carbon footprintBy promoting sustainable material choices and construction techniques, BREEAM-certified SFS projects can help lower carbon emissions associated with building construction and operation.

How to apply for a BREEAM certification for your SFS project

To apply for a BREEAM certification, you should follow the below section which serves as a comprehensive guide, outlining the step-by-step process. From initial preparation to final assessment, each stage is explored to equip you with the knowledge to gain certification.

1. Pre-assessment

Before you formally apply for BREEAM certification, consider conducting a pre-assessment. This involves evaluating your SFS project against BREEAM criteria to determine its potential to achieve a desired certification level. Also, this step helps identify areas for improvement and sets the stage for a successful certification application.

2. Select an assessor

Engage a qualified BREEAM assessor. BREEAM assessors are trained and licensed professionals who guide you through the certification process, assess your project's compliance and submit the application on your behalf.

3. Design stage assessment

Collaborate with your BREEAM assessor to complete the design stage assessment. This involves providing details about your SFS project's design, materials, energy efficiency measures, and other relevant aspects. The assessor will review the documentation and determine how your project aligns with BREEAM criteria.

4. Submit the application

Your BREEAM assessor will compile the necessary documentation and submit the application to the appropriate BREEAM scheme administrator. Ensure that all required documents are complete and accurate to facilitate the review process.

5. Review and assessment

The BREEAM scheme administrator will review the submitted documentation and assess your SFS project's compliance with BREEAM criteria. This may involve additional clarifications or requests for information.

6. Site inspection

As part of the assessment process, a site inspection may be conducted to verify that the project's construction aligns with the submitted documentation and meets BREEAM standards.

7. Certification decision

Once the assessment is complete, the BREEAM scheme administrator will provide a certification decision, indicating the achieved certification level based on your SFS project's performance. If your project meets the required criteria, you will receive BREEAM certification.

8. Post-construction stage assessment

After construction is complete, you may need to complete a post-construction stage assessment. This step verifies that the constructed project aligns with the design and documentation submitted earlier.

How much is sustainability a part of SFS?

A steel frame system (SFS) structure created from steel frame system components against a blue sky.

While SFS offers benefits such as recyclability and durability, the embodied carbon in steel production and its broader environmental impact must be weighed against these advantages. Here is an overview of the multifaceted nature of SFS sustainability. 

1. Embodied carbon

The production of steel involves significant energy consumption and carbon emissions. The embodied carbon footprint of SFS framing can be high, especially if the steel is produced using energy-intensive methods. However, advances in steel production technology and the use of recycled steel can help reduce the environmental impact.

2. Recyclability

Steel is one of the most recyclable materials, which contributes positively to its sustainability. Steel frame systems can be recycled at the end of their lifecycle, reducing the demand for virgin steel production and conserving natural resources.

3. Durability and energy efficiency

Steel is a durable material with a long lifespan, which can contribute to sustainability by reducing the need for frequent replacements and repairs. Also, SFS can contribute to energy efficiency in buildings by providing a light but strong structure that allows for innovative architectural designs and efficient use of space.

4. Resource consumption

The mining and processing of raw materials for steel production can have significant environmental impacts, including habitat destruction and water pollution. Using recycled steel and optimising manufacturing processes can help mitigate these impacts.

5. Local sourcing and construction waste

When you locally source steel and other materials for construction can reduce transportation emissions. SFS construction can generate waste, but proper waste management and recycling practices can help minimise its impact.

6. Life cycle assessment

Conducting a comprehensive life cycle assessment can provide a more accurate understanding of the overall sustainability of SFS. An assessment considers factors such as raw material extraction, manufacturing, transportation, and end-of-cycle scenarios.

Sustainable SFS components available for construction projects

We are committed to advancing sustainable construction practices through the integration of environmentally conscious solutions such as sustainable SFS components. Whether you are working on a roof, floor or wall, the SFS components we supply ensure a longer lifespan and minimise the need for frequent replacements. We are proud to offer SFS solutions that provide strength, versatility, and eco-friendliness, contributing to a greener and more resilient built environment.

Unlock a world of sustainable construction possibilities by opening a trade account with Building Materials Nationwide. As a trade customer, you gain access to our range of sustainable SFS components, allowing you to create structurally sound and environmentally responsible projects. Our trade accounts also come with personalised support from your own trade account manager, ensuring you have the right materials you need to seamlessly integrate SFS components into your designs. Sign up now or give us a call to learn more.