Haute Qualité Environnementale (HQE)

System name

Haute Qualité Environnementale

System initiator and operator(s)

The Haute Qualité Environnementale (HQE) building certification system was developed by the non-governmental organization Association HQE based in Paris, France. Association HQE focuses on research and development as well as on promotional activities.

In France, the HQE certification scheme is operated through 3 different certification bodies:

  • Certivéa (non-residential sector)
  • Cerqual (collective housing)
  • Cequami (individual housing).

Outside of France, the HQE certification scheme is operated by Cerway. To assist those involved in projects applying for certification outside of France, Cerway has recognized a number of HQE “Référents”. These “Référents” are professionals in the construction, property management or planning sectors (architects, engineers, town planners, etc.) who have been accredited after training and examination.

In Brazil, Cerway operates in partnership with the Vanzolini Foundation (Fundaçao Vanzolini) who provides AQUA certification (a direct translation of HQE).

Assessment categories

Energy, Environment, Health, Comfort

These 4 main categories structure a set of 14 target criteria.


HQE certification is available worldwide: each HQE schemes can be adapted to meet the specific context of any country.

The technical documentation of HQE certification is currently available in English, French and Portuguese. Cerway has trained a range of HQE professionals and HQE “Référents” who support and guide HQE professionals worldwide.


The HQE ratings are

  • Pass
  • Good
  • Very Good
  • Excellent
  • Exceptional

The ratings are represented by a maximum of up to four stars indicating the level of achievement in the four categories, energy, environment, health and comfort.


The HQE certification is a 3-step process:

  1. Project initiation
    • The applicant issue an application request with the relevant operator, including a description of the Environmental Targets the project is planning to reach
    • An eligibility check is carried out by Cerway outside France or, in France, by the relevant operator
    • An offer of agreement is made with Cerway outside France or, in France, by the relevant operator – this offer initiates the certification process
  2. Audits : Audits are third party assessment and verification processes which allow to determine that the HQE criteria are met. The results of each audit are captured in a report.
    • The project initiation audit is designed to check whether all project management requirements are met. This audit is optional for the non-housing related schemes.
    • The design audit allows to check that the agreed environmental targets will be met. This audit is also optional for the non-housing related schemes
    • The completion audit is conducted onsite, following project completion.
  3. Certification
    • The audit reports are submitted to a commission run by the scheme operator
    • Upon review of the documentation submitted, the commission may issue approval and issues a precertificate. This can be done after each audit phase: the commission then simply updates the pre-certificate as the project moves from initiation, to design, to completion
    • The final HQE certificate is delivered upon approval of the final, completion audit

Quality assurance

Training of HQE auditors is carried out in partnership with local institutions. Cerway trains individuals, not organisations, to become local “Référent” professionals in HQE certification. These “Référent” then provide further training and guidance to other local professionals. HQE “Référent” are accredited by Cerway following training and successfully passing an accreditation examination.

Further information:

Association HQE http://assohqe.org/hqe/ (in French)

Cerway www.behqe.com

Foundation Vanzolini http://www.vanzolini.org.br/conteudo.asp?cod_site=104&id_menu=758 (in Portugese)

Certivéa http://www.certivea.fr/nos-certifications/certifications-batiments-non-residentiels/nf-hqe-batiments-tertiaires (in French)

Cequami http://www.cequami.fr/ (in French)

Cerqual http://www.qualite-logement.org/certification-et-labels/connaitre-les-certifications-de-qualite-neuf/nf-logement-et-nf-logement-hqe.html  (in French)