Amanda Gallagher of Easlár has been named as the 2015 BREEAM Assessor of the Year. Gallagher was rewarded for her consistently high assessment scores and the variety of the work she carried out throughout the year. David Jackson reports


Amanda Gallagher, energy and sustainability consultant at Easlár, is the first Irish assessor to be named BREEAM (BRE Environmental Assessment Method) Assessor of the Year. Gallagher, who has worked as an independent assessor since 2009, was awarded the title at the BREEAM 2015 awards hosted by BRE in London earlier this year; BRE is the trading name of Building Research Establishment Limited.

Easlár, Gallagher’s own company, was founded in 2011 after she had been spent a decade working on BREEAM related projects. Her BREEAM projects include the Diageo Guinness Brew House, the first ‘BREEAM Outstanding’ building in Ireland (shortlisted for a 2015 BREEAM Award), and Mahon Point Shopping Centre in Cork, the first BREEAM In-Use certified building in Ireland.

BREEAM is an environmental assessment method and rating system for buildings. Since it was first launched in 1990 there have been 425,000 buildings certified and a further two million registered for assessment.  It sets the standard for best practice in sustainable building design, construction and operation and has become a comprehensive and widely recognised measure of a building’s environmental performance. It encourages designers, clients and others to think about low carbon and low impact design, minimising the energy demands created by a building before considering energy efficiency and low-carbon technologies.

A BREEAM assessment uses recognised measures of performance, which are set against established benchmarks, to evaluate a building’s specification, design, construction and use. The measures used represent a broad range of categories and criteria from energy to ecology. They include aspects related to energy and water use, the internal environment (health and well-being), pollution, transport, materials, waste, ecology and management processes.

An engineer by trade, having graduated from Glasgow University with a degree in mechanical engineering, Gallagher credits a mix of her education and professional experience with leading her to where she is now in her career. “I have been doing BREEAM assessments since 2005, having previously worked with BRE in the UK. I worked for them again in Ireland in 2008 and I still do some associate work for them now, mainly BREEAM assessment stuff.

“Mechanical engineering is quite diverse. You don’t always use everything you learn in the career you choose but because I do energy and sustainability it certainly does help in my day to day job. My final-year project was to design a wind turbine for high-rise buildings and that is kind of how I got into energy.

“I worked for Scottish Power after university and then worked for BRE. On the energy side of things, having an engineering background was really useful and it still is. There is a lot of technical stuff in BREEAM that you need to know about, even though it is very specific to buildings.”

Assessments and scoring

Gallagher was unaware that she was in the running for the award until she was informed shortly before the announcement was made. BRE take note of all of the assessments BREEAM assessors have conducted throughout the year. Those that have delivered consistently high scores for their buildings in BREEAM are nominated due to their high average scores. The number of assessments that have been undertaken is also taken into account.

“This year, I have also done a few BREEAM firsts,” Gallagher explained. “I did a BREEAM In-Use assessment for Mahon Point Shopping Centre which was the first BREEAM In-Use assessment in Ireland. I have also been doing a lot different assessments. As well as doing the normal BREEAM on new builds, along with BREEEAM In-Use assessments, I had also done a lot of schools projects in Scotland as well.”

The Building Control Amendment Regulations have had a major impact on the building industry and Gallagher insists that BREEAM is no different. An expected, and possibly overdue, update to the non-domestic Part L section of the regulations will increase the difficulty of buildings achieving high BREEAM assessment ratings.

“BREEAM is definitely linked to Part L of the Building Control Amendment Regulations, particularly the energy section of the building regulations,” said Gallagher. “I think it will become more challenging to get a good BREEAM score when the building regulations Part L are updated, because they haven’t been updated for quite a long time.

“It will become more challenging to get the energy credits because the way BREEAM works is that it only awards credit for energy based on how much better you are than standard building regulations. You don’t get credit for just meeting building regulations; you have to show that you have made a vast improvement over the minimum required standard. At the moment it is a challenge to get credits but when the building regulations are updated you will start to see then that it will become even more difficult to do that.”

BREEAM is becoming a popular methodology in Ireland for assessing environmental impacts of buildings and allowing clients to demonstrate value for money whilst benchmarking their buildings against others in the UK and Europe.  There are currently 18 licensed assessors in Ireland with 12 certified projects. The Health Service Executive, Irish Prison Service, University College Dublin (UCD), University of Limerick and Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) have all specified BREEAM in their new build projects.

“When I first came to Ireland, there were not many people doing BREEAM assessments but I have seen it starting to grow over the last five years. There is definitely more activity in BREEAM now in Ireland. What we are starting to see is that the public sector is starting to specify it. The Health and Safety Authority has specified it now on the last four big tenders that it has had out. We are also starting to see a lot of the universities are looking at it.

“DIT is specifying it on all of its new buildings out in Grangegorman and I have done a project for UCD for its science sector; it was awarded a ‘BREEAM Excellent’ rating and it is now going through the post-construction phase. Obviously Diageo was another first; Diageo got a BREEAM Outstanding’ rating on the Brew House and it also has a ‘LEED Platinum’ rating as well, which is quite unusual,” Gallagher concluded. O'RiordanNewsBREEAM,energy
  Amanda Gallagher, energy and sustainability consultant at Easlár, is the first Irish assessor to be named BREEAM (BRE Environmental Assessment Method) Assessor of the Year. Gallagher, who has worked as an independent assessor since 2009, was awarded the title at the BREEAM 2015 awards hosted by BRE in London...