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BREEAM Indoor Air Quality Credits.


BREEAM is the world’s leading assessment method for calculating a building’s environmental impact. The certification system recognizes the use of assets that improve the well-being of the building’s occupants and protect natural resources. Developments with BREEAM certification are significantly more attractive as property investments. 

The Credit System

The system measures sustainable value across a number of categories from health and well-being to energy and pollution. Meet the benchmark standards within these categories and credits will be awarded. BREEAM Certification is gained through these credits, with the final performance rating determined by the total number acquired. The more credits, the higher the rating. View the latest BREEAM Technical Manual for full information. 

Indoor Air Quality Credits

Here, we are focusing specifically on credits that can be obtained through improving indoor air quality. There are five credits available in this section, sitting within the Health and Wellbeing category. This is split into two areas: minimizing sources of air pollution (four credits) and improving the potential for natural ventilation (one credit). There are also additional innovation credits (two credits) that can be accrued.


The objective is to make a series of design, specification and installation decisions that will reduce indoor air pollution within the building


One Credit - Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Plan

To gain this credit, you must show that an indoor air quality plan has been produced and put into practice. 

The IAQ plan needs to consider whether contaminant sources have either been removed or diluted and controlled. In addition, it needs to include procedures for a pre-occupancy flush out to remove any pollutants inadvertently introduced during construction. Measures also need to be put in place to protect both the HVAC systems and indoor areas from dust and other sources of pollution during refurbishment and fit-out works.

In order to ensure that all contaminants have been removed effectively, the plan should include processes for third-party testing and analysis. Finally, the IAQ plan must show a commitment to maintaining the indoor air quality of the building, with regular maintenance and cleaning schedules of the HVAC system, ductwork and filters.

One Credit- Ventilation

To gain this credit, you must include measures to minimize the concentration and recirculation of pollutants in the building.

Ventilation pathways need to be designed to minimize pollutants. This means, in air-conditioned and mixed-mode spaces, the air intakes and exhausts should be placed over 10m apart, with intakes over 20m from sources of external pollution. Alternatively, they should be designed in accordance with CEN/TR 16798-4:2017. In addition, all HVAC systems should incorporate suitable filtration as defined in EN 16798-3:2017.

In naturally ventilated buildings, opening windows and ventilators should be over 10m from external pollution sources. 

If areas of the building are subject to large and unpredictable or variable occupancy patterns, carbon dioxide (CO2) or air quality sensors need to be installed. The sensors should either be linked to the mechanical ventilation system, link to fresh air controls, or alert the building manager when CO2 levels exceed the recommended set point. 

One Credit - VOC Emission Levels (Products)

To gain this credit, you must ensure products used in construction meet the testing requirements and emission level criteria

The majority of products used should meet the specified criteria in Table 20. This includes all decorative paints and varnishes, which shouldn’t exceed volatile organic compound (VOC) emission levels and also need to be fungal and algae resistant in wet areas. 

At least five of the seven following product categories also need to be compliant: wood panels, timber structures, wood flooring, textile and laminate flooring, suspended ceiling tiles, flooring adhesives and wall coverings. 

One Credit - VOC Emission Levels (Post Construction)

To gain this credit, formaldehyde and TVOC concentration levels must be within specified limits OR corrective measures put in place to meet these limits

There are two measures that must be met in order to gain this credit. These levels are measured post-construction, but pre-occupancy.

  1. The formaldehyde concentration level needs to be less than or equal to 100µg/averaged over 30 minutes. 
  2. The total volatile organic compound (TVOC) concentration level needs to be less than 300µg/over 8 hours. 

Where levels exceed the limits, to gain the credit you must show that remedial measures have, or will be taken, to reduce the levels to within these limits. This includes re-measurement via the BREEAM Assessment Scoring and Reporting Tool.

One Credit – Adaptability: Potential for Natural Ventilation

To gain this credit, your ventilation strategy should adapt to provide natural ventilation throughout all occupied spaces

Your building ventilation strategy will need to demonstrate flexibility to adapt to potential occupant needs and changing climatic scenarios. 

You can show that occupied spaces are capable of providing fresh air entirely via natural ventilation. To do this, you need to confirm that room depths are designed in accordance with CIBSE AM10 and openable window areas are equivalent to 5% of the gross internal floor area. Alternatively, you can show that adequate cross-flow of air is provided using ventilation design tool types that meet the requirements of CIBSE AM10. 

You’ll also need to show that the natural ventilation strategy is capable of providing at least two levels of user-control on the supply of fresh air. Note: this credit is not applicable to prison buildings.

Innovation Credits

BREEAM aims to support innovation within the construction industry. As such, extra innovation credits are available for buildings that go above and beyond best practice. An additional 1% can be added to a building’s overall score for each innovation credit achieved.

One of the ways these credits can be acquired is by meeting exemplary performance criteria, as is the case for indoor air quality. By exceeding the standard assessment criteria for VOC emission levels, it is possible to gain up to two additional credits. 

Up to Two Credits - Exemplary Level Criteria: VOC Emission Levels (products)

To gain these credits, you will need to meet the initial criteria across all product categories, PLUS reduce formaldehyde emission levels

One Credit

  1. All decorative paints and varnishes specified meet the criteria
  2. All seven remaining product categories listed in Table 20 meet the criteria
  3. For products B-F, the formaldehyde emission levels have been measured and found to be less than or equal to 0.06mg/m3 air

Two Credits

  1. All decorative paints and varnishes specified meet the criteria
  2. All seven remaining product categories listed in Table 20 meet the criteria
  3. For products B-F, the formaldehyde emission levels have been measured and found to be less than or equal to 0.01mg/m3 air


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