One year on: Ian Nicholson reflects on CEEQUAL’s move to BRE

Ian Nicholson, CEEQUAL Technical Director, gives a personal reflection on CEEQUAL’s transition to BRE one year on from the announcement of the move.

ian-nicholson-img_6823-2Having just held the third tremendously successful CEEQUAL Outstanding Achievement Awards, it feels like a lifetime away that CEEQUAL’s ownership changed. Just over 12 months ago we announced the acquisition of CEEQUAL Ltd by BRE Global. For me this was a huge day. First, it marked the end of what had been a long and at times scary 18 months of discussion, negotiation and due diligence, so there was a huge sigh of relief. However, it also marked the start of the next phase of CEEQUAL’s development which, in retrospect, has been one of the most enjoyable periods in my CEEQUAL career to date.

I remember vividly the CEEQUAL board meeting in September 2014 when it was decided to open discussions with BRE about a potential takeover. We discussed at great length and with many twists and turns the two remaining options: commence negotiations for the sale of CEEQUAL, or walk away and compete with the forthcoming BREEAM Infrastructure scheme. Industry had made it very clear that it wanted only one infrastructure rating scheme so the latter option had a high risk of reputational damage. Many around the table, including me, had concerns about BRE’s motivation for wanting to buy CEEQUAL; would they just wind it down and build up BREEAM or did we trust what Pete Bonfield and Chris Broadbent were telling us of their vision for CEEQUAL under the BRE umbrella. For me the decision was particularly difficult, I knew we had great plans for the future development of CEEQUAL but did I want to risk pursuing this at the expense of our reputation. Or did I risk potentially seeing our plans for CEEQUAL vaporise as BREEAM Infrastructure took over. This was a decision of the heart and it weighed very heavily, but in the end I agreed with the overall consensus that we had to do what was right for industry. I left that meeting feeling incredibly nervous – had I read my heart correctly?

In the meetings that followed I continued to be sceptical, but over time the messages from BRE were always consistent: ‘we really value what CEEQUAL has achieved, we want to collaborate with industry and nurture it into the future’. Outside of CEEQUAL I was also starting to work closely with another part of BRE and was seeing the same desire for collaborative working coming to the fore. Surely this wasn’t coincidence, perhaps the perception I had of BRE was wrong. By the summer of 2015 I was becoming much more confident that this was the right thing for CEEQUAL and Pete Bonfield was also assuring me that they would want me to continue providing technical support for CEEQUAL. However, despite all these positive messages there was always the nagging doubt of whether these were empty promises and my heart was still wrong.

November 23rd, the day after the takeover was announced, I arrived at BRE for a long arranged meeting. As we walked around, Chris introduced me with great enthusiasm to everyone we bumped into as CEEQUAL’s Technical Director, and that we would be working together to take the scheme forward. The warmth and friendship I was greeted with that day was so tangible that I immediately felt at home. As I reflected on the drive home, it was absolutely clear to me that we had made the right decision for CEEQUAL. Over the coming weeks I had numerous conversations with people in the wider BREEAM team. Many of them were quite techie but the one thing that was common were questions or comments like ‘so how does CEEQUAL do this or that?’ or ‘oh, that’s how CEEQUAL does it, I quite like that!’; it was abundantly clear to me that people genuinely valued CEEQUAL’s experience. The other thing that has been an absolute joy to witness over the last few months has been how Chris and the BREEAM Infrastructure team have morphed into being the CEEQUAL team. Almost every time I have spoken to Chris he has made comments like ‘I’ve just been to present this award, it was great – there is so much enthusiasm for CEEQUAL!’

Alongside this we have worked together closely; managing CEEQUAL, meeting clients and the CEEQUAL community and working on the development of the next version. It is clear that, whatever we end up calling the next version, the CEEQUAL brand will still be recognised in the industry and the methodology will be enhanced by the collaboration, containing many of the key features of CEEQUAL including a Verifier role, scoping out, and flexible award types.

All of these things combined are what have made the last 12 months one of the most enjoyable of my time with CEEQUAL. It makes me incredibly happy and proud to say that I am part of the team that is taking CEEQUAL forward – my thanks to all of you for supporting us!