Rating systems and tools: non-domestic

Provided by Ewan Willars: Head of Policy, RIBA

In addition to the mandatory standards enforced through the building regulations and the semi-regulatory standards of the Code for Sustainable Homes, there are a range of independent standards, which are set out below. These include standards and assessment methods suitable for non-domestic buildings:

  • Energy Performance of Buildings Directive
  • CIBSE Benchmarks
  • LEED
  • SKA
  • Other Methods

Low carbon standards and assessment methods for non-domestic buildings

Standards and assessment methods relating to energy use and carbon dioxide emissions from non-domestic buildings have changed dramatically in recent years. These changes are largely a result of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD).

Under the legal requirements of the EPBD, all EU member states must:

  • Implement national or regional calculation methodologies for assessing the energy performance of new and existing buildings.
  • Establish energy performance standards for new buildings and benchmarks for existing buildings.
  • Require 'consequential improvements' to the energy efficiency of buildings over 1000m2 undergoing refurbishment.
  • Arrange for all buildings to have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) available whenever they are offered for sale or rent. A small number of buildings are exempt (e.g. some heritage buildings). The EPCs of large buildings to which the public has access must be displayed.

CIBSE benchmarks

The Chartered Institute of Buildings Services Engineers (CIBSE) publishes comprehensive guidance on energy efficiency and sustainability in buildings. This guidance includes:

  • CIBSE Guide F Energy Efficiency in Buildings , which includes energy performance benchmarks for new and existing buildings of various types.
  • CIBSE Guide L Sustainability recommends broader environmental performance standards.
  • The CIBSE Energy Assessment and Reporting Methodology (TM22) provides a comprehensive procedure for assessing the energy performance of an existing, occupied building based on metered energy use - this document is available on CD-ROM with an implementation of the method as computer software.
  • Energy Benchmarks (TM46) offers comprehensive building energy benchmarks, including what they are, how they were developed and how to use them. As well as the benchmarks themselves, it provides details of separable energy uses and includes weather and occupancy adjustments.


The Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) is a voluntary scheme that aims to quantify and reduce the environmental burden of buildings by rewarding designs and operational procedures that take positive steps to minimise their environmental impact.

BREEAM assessments can be undertaken using a number of standardised methods, for different building types:

  • Offices
  • Education
  • Higher Education (forthcoming)
  • Retail
  • Industrial
  • Prisons
  • Courts
  • Multi-residential buildings

Projects are assessed using a system of credits. These credits are grouped into the following categories: 

  • Management
  • Health & Wellbeing
  • Energy
  • Transport
  • Water
  • Materials
  • Waste
  • Land & Ecology
  • Pollution

The assessment process results in a report covering the above credit categories. The full assessment is submitted to BRE for quality assurance, checking and certification. Certificates are awarded depending on a rating scale and will result in a building being awarded a PASS, GOOD, VERY GOOD, EXCELLENT or OUTSTANDING rating.


Developed in the USA, the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System is a voluntary standard for sustainable buildings.

LEED was created to:

  • Define 'green building' by establishing a standard of measurement.
  • Promote integrated, whole-building design practices.
  • Recognise environmental leadership in the building industry.
  • Stimulate green competition.
  • Raise consumer awareness of green building benefits.
  • Transform the building market.

LEED provides a framework for assessing building performance and meeting sustainability goals. It is based on well-founded scientific standards and incorporates sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.  

Ska Rating

SKA Rating is an RICS-led and owned environmental assessment method, benchmark and standard for non-domestic fit-outs. The rating helps landlords and tenants assess fit-out projects against a set of sustainability good-practice criteria.

The rating system was developed with designers, contractors, corporate occupiers and consultants, and consists of 104 individual good-practice measures covering Waste, Water, Materials, Pollution, Wellbeing and Transport.

More information on Ska Rating is available via the RICS website.

Other standards

The Carbon Trust publishes a wealth of guidance about energy efficiency in buildings and some guides include energy performance standards. Notable amongst these is Energy Use in Offices, which provides performance benchmarks for four types of office buildings.

Environmental standards for secondary schools in England and Wales are set out in the government's Briefing Framework for Secondary School Projects (Building Bulletin 98), which includes the requirement that new schools achieve BREEAM ratings of good, very good or excellent. The Carbon Trust also publishes guidance on energy efficiency in schools.

UK hospital buildings are rated according to the NHS Environmental Assessment Tool (NEAT) . All new hospital buildings must achieve an excellent rating, and refurbishment projects must achieve very good. NEAT aims to identify the environmental impact created during day-to-day operational activities.