Skip to content

Sustainable building standards

Sustainability is central to all our policies, strategies, activities, programmes, projects and services.

As a consumer of resources the built environment construction, use, refurbishment and disposal at end of life has a major impact on the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of the people of Wales.

We ensure that the support we offer and investment decisions we make on providing infrastructure give long term sustainable solutions.

We require all new buildings promoted or supported by us or our Sponsored Bodies (SBs) meet our sustainable building standards, with some exceptions.

This includes projects procured directly and indirectly.

These standards are:

  • For residential development in general, previous energy efficiency standards have now been superseded by the 2014 amendments made to Part L of the Building Regulations (Wales). In response to DCLG’s withdrawal of the ‘Code for Sustainable Homes, other aspects of sustainable development are subject to further review, pending evaluation of alternative benchmarking standards. Residential ‘Extra Care’ schemes represent an exception to this situation and are required to meet the criteria for BREEAM accreditation (as referenced below).
  • For non-residential developments, with some exceptions (see below) for certain buildings, a Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) rating or an equivalent quality assured scheme is required.

Policy Requirements (non-domestic)

The requirements are based on floor area:

 Building floor area  Policy Requirement
<=250m2 Exempt
251-1,000m2 No BREEAM Required
Part L+10%* Required
1001-2000m2 BREEAM ‘Very Good’ With
‘Excellent’ for Energy Credits (ENE01)
2001+m2  BREEAM ‘Excellent’

*Part L +10%’ refers to a 10% improvement over the Target Emission Rate (TER) for current Part L of the Building Regulations

What is BREEAM?

BREEAM is a method which is used to assess the environmental performance of both new buildings. It is widely regarded as a measure of best practice in environmental design and management and is used to set the current standard for Welsh Government projects.


The Building Research Establishment (BRE) train Independent Assessors who have to pass an examination to obtain the necessary accreditation before they are allowed to undertake assessment work under a licensing agreement. However, it is BRE who issue the actual Certificate after undertaking a quality check on the post completion assessment.

Assessments are carried out by BRE accredited assessors. Credits are awarded in each category according to performance. Some categories include mandatory credits (for example energy efficiency). A set of environmental weightings then enables the credits to be added together to produce a single overall score.

A list of Independent Assessors can be found on the Green Book Live website (external link): 

Assessment Process

We recommend that BREEAM is considered as early in the design process as possible, and that a Design Stage assessment is undertaken to establish the building’s likely score at the outset. This is in order to identify early in the process the steps needed to be undertaken, the likely scale of costs, and the design needed in order to deliver a BREEAM building.  This will help all parties to share the same information and common understanding of what is required so that only the appropriate amount of work and costs are incurred at the right time.

Types of buildings that are included

The types of buildings include:

  • buildings we directly fund
  • buildings by local authorities, public sector, voluntary sector and SB’s funded by one of our specific capital programmes, such as affordable housing, schools, further and higher education, hospitals and other public buildings
  • buildings on developments where we enter into a joint venture agreement with partners or developers, including the public, private or voluntary sectors
  • buildings on land for sale, or lease or to be disposed of for development by us
  • buildings on land we improve or reclaim or through SB funding that is still subject to financial clawback
  • Buildings constructed by the private and voluntary sector, other organisations or individuals, under our funding schemes "and programmes".


The following are a list of automatic exemptions to the policy:

  • All buildings with a floor space of 250m2 and under
  • All extensions, alterations, refurbishments and change of use of existing buildings
  • Private sector/third party construction projects/speculative development where the Welsh Government provides financial support of less than £1,000,000, or where a commercial loan is provided. Such buildings over 250m2 need to evidence a 10% improvement in the Target Emission Rate (TER) for Part L of the Building Regulations
  • All Use Class B8 (storage & distribution) buildings
  • All agricultural buildings, (these are non-residential agricultural buildings with low energy demand which are exempt from the energy efficiency requirements of the building regulations)
  • All waste and energy buildings, such as waste transfer facilities and power generation stations for example
  • All ‘bare’ land sales (i.e. with no development obligation) or sales for non policy reasons e.g. not for economic development or housing purposes

Design standards

Development Quality Requirements

New and second hand housing developed by Registered Social Landlords utilising Social Housing Grant is required to comply with our Development Quality Requirements which sets out basic requirement relating to space and amenity.

Welsh Housing Quality Standard

Existing social housing needs to reflect the aspirations of tenants. To help achieve this we published the Welsh Housing Quality Standard (WHQS). This standard requires all social landlords to improve their homes to an acceptable level.

21st Century Schools

We are working with the Welsh Local Government Association and local authorities on the 21st Century Schools Programme (external link). It is a major, long-term capital investment programme aimed at developing schools fit for the 21st century.

Sustainable Schools Wales

As part of the 21st Century Schools Standard for Schools in Wales an online guide has been developed to help with understanding and applying sustainable design in school design and refurbishment.

Guidance is available on the Sustainable Schools Wales website (external link)


We are keen to modernise the NHS Estate in Wales. It is a key to improving the delivery of healthcare services for the people of Wales. The modernisation of the estate will require the procurement of high quality facilities, appropriate to the current and future. See the NHS Wales website (external link) for more information.