Breeam vs LEED: What are the Differences?

Collin Fowler

December 24,2022

Collin Fowler is an architect with extensive experience in both commercial and residential builds. He is the lead Building Product Advisor researcher on the latest and most innovative building products on the market.

Nowadays, a lot of organizations are publicly displaying their credentials. This goes as far as green credentials, which help show how sustainable a company truly is. When the demand is higher in this more eco-conscious society, these organizations must prove how green-aware they are. Many multinational companies are driven to show off their businesses, even as far as their buildings, to prove their dedication to the environment.

The environmental assessment of buildings isn’t anything new; this dates back to 1990, thanks to BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method). Assessments like BREEAM vs. LEED allow organizations to express their sustainability and environmental impact. These systems offer numerous categories, from land, energy consumption, material selection, transport, innovation, waste, and so on. While BREEAM and LEED sound similar enough in their purpose, are there any differences? Is one better to use than the other regarding BREEAM vs. LEED?

While these globally accepted programs are often chosen as indicators for a building's environmental responsibility, you may be surprised at some of the slight differences these both offer. They’re important differences too. Learn about the two programs in this guide, and then see which one may be optimal for your organization.

Strictness with Design

Regarding BREEAM vs. LEED, you must remember that only some guidelines are the same. BREEAM just happens to be recognized as the stricter of the two systems. It has more guidelines, plus you’ll have a licensed assessor present to guide the organization through the design process. LEED allows more freedom in the design process and for the guidelines. However, more paperwork must be done for LEED's architects and designers.

The Cost

There is no denying that when it comes to the BREEAM versus LEED debate, you’ll still end up paying a hefty price tag. They both have this in common, and couples are considered a “tie” in this category. However, there are some slight differences in cost.

You can expect to pay between $12,000 to $28,000 for the BREEAM certification. So, what about the cost of LEED? While it depends on the project's complexity, an organization could expect to pay as low as $3,000 or up to $35,000. It’s all just going to depend. BREEAM does have the upper hand, as there is the potential for cost savings.


Breeam vs LEED

For LEED, they measure points relative to cost reduction to the baseline standard for ASHRAE. On the other hand, BREEAM does its measures based on the reduction of CO2 emissions. This can go further into what they’re looking for. LEED, for example, looks at the percentages of local sourcing and recycled content used. In the end, they’re both different, but there is wisdom behind both.


While it’s more simplistic, this difference between BREEAM vs. LEED can make all the difference for an organization trying to decide between the two certifications. The thresholds are different; for instance, LEED's thresholds are based on percentages. BREEAM instead uses quantitative standards for its thresholds.


When it comes to any certification, paperwork can be simply expected. However, even between BREEAM vs. LEED, there are some differences here. LEED requires more paperwork to achieve its certification, while BREEAM doesn’t offer as much. Plus, an assessor steps in to handle the paperwork, making the process more smooth for an organization.

Difficulty Level

BREEAM and LEED have different ratings, and each rating has difficult levels. The BREEAM Outstanding, the highest level of BREEAM, is more difficult for an organization to achieve than LEED’s highest rating, the Platinum.

Region-Specific Standards

Breeam vs LEED

Depending on your location on this globe, you will want to pay close attention to this difference. BREEAM is mostly geared towards European and UK standards, while LEED is more heavily reliant on US standards; this includes ASHRAE. Since the standards for both systems are region-specific, this could increase the likelihood that one is better suited than the other for your organization.

Government Support

As region-specific standards will be important for the BREEAM vs. LEED debate, an organization should consider government support. For instance, the United States government requires LEED as a certification standard. This is similar for other countries; the United Kingdom and the Netherlands government has adopted BREEAM as a standard for certifying government buildings.


The LEED certification needs to be completed by the project team within the company, and it also needs to be sent to the United States Green Building Council for verification. So, this is something that the organization must take care of themselves. It’s different for BREEAM as the certification is done by a trained BREEAM assessor brought in during the project. They report the results to the parent company, which then certifies it. Essentially, you’re bringing in a third party, which can be expensive, but it could potentially mean less delegation and less work for the project team.

Which is better – LEED vs. BREEAM?

When your organization decides between LEED vs. BREEAM, it will be critical to remember that these are measurement tools. They’re not considered poorly created designs. On top of that, these certifications just rate the building and don’t even consider the building’s operations. The design process should indicate which certification method works best in a specific situation, as it’s not entirely “one-size-fits-all.” Both of these systems will have their merits, and both are even highly respected regarding environmental certifications.

In the end, there is no right or wrong answer to this. Rather, it’s about how your organization would like to handle this process. So, what makes the most sense for your building vision? What about the local market or company goals? These are a few factors that should be considered when deciding BREEAM vs. LEED.

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