Monthly Archives: February 2019

UK Homes – The Current Verdict

Last week the UK Governments Committee on Climate Change (CCC) released a report condemning the current quality and performance of UK homes in relation to the countries targets in reducing co2 emissions.

The new report titled ‘UK Housing: Fit for future?’ can be found here.

The main arguments:

  • To meet legally required emission targets will demand elimination of all GHGs from UK buildings.
  • Reductions in domestic emissions have stalled.
  • Energy use in homes has increased 14% between 2016 and 2017.
  • Retrofit, refurbishment and adaptation to domestic and commercial building stock is behind in relation to intended policy targets.
  • Cost-effective measures for retrofit are not being rolled out at the required level.
  • We have the technology and knowledge for low carbon and resilient homes but current policy and standards do not instigate change at the scale and pace needed.
  • UK building standards are inadequate (See our previous article on Part L here) and inadequately enforced.


  • Cost-effective measures for retrofit are not being rolled out at the required level.
  • We have the technology and knowledge for low carbon and resilient homes but current policy and standards do not instigate change at the scale and pace needed.
  • UK building standards are inadequate (See our previous article on Part L here) and inadequately enforced.


The CCC recommended several strategies for the government to act on. The summaries are given below:

  1. Performance and Compliance: Close the ‘performance gap’.
  2. Skills Gap: The inconsistent approach of UK policy has created a skills gap in housing design and construction. A nationwide training programme is needed.
  3. Retrofitting Existing Homes: Make use of low carbon sources of heating such as heat pumps and uptake energy efficiency measures. Repairs to existing homes should reduce indoor moisture, improve air quality and water efficiency and incorporate flood protection.
  4. Building New Homes: Design new homes to be climate resilient, energy and water efficient and low -carbon.
  5. Finance and Funding: Urgent funding gaps need to be addressed.

An interesting theme throughout the detailed recommendations is to remove future and current connections to the gas grid and heat homes through low-carbon heating systems such as heat pumps or heat networks. See the full 36 recommendations here.

The CCC clearly want to make bold and positive steps towards decarbonising our housing stock. It will be interesting to see whether the government will adopt and act on any of the recommendations outlined in this new report. Let’s hope they make time for positive actions on the sustainability of the UK’s housing stock amidst the B-word!

Regardless on what the government decides to act on, the UK cannot meet climate and emission-reduction objectives without major enhancement in the energy performance of UK housing and near complete decarbonisation of the housing stock.


Here’s How Mainer Can Help

Mainer Associates deliver sustainability services in the domestic construction sector. These include Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) and Part L, Planning and Sustainability Statements, and Renewable Energy Assessments.

Standard Assessment Procedures and Part L

SAP is an energy assessment methodology used to assess and compare the energy performance of housing developments. It is the recommended method of energy assessment from the UK government for domestic dwellings to meet Part L building regulations.

Whenever a residential property is re-let or sold, it must have an environmental performance certificate (EPC). The retrofit recommendations in the report by the Committee on Climate Change will intend to improve EPC ratings. Mainer Associates have a greatly experienced team of SAP assessors who engage with project teams to find cost effective solutions with the best sustainability outcomes, to meet Local Planning Authority requirements.

Planning and Sustainability Statements

Mainer Associates have experience in undertaking a variety of planning strategies and statements to accompany planning submissions. We can review planning policy and establish where and how residential developments need to meet sustainability regulations to assist your application in achieving planning permission.

We also have energy specialists and low carbon consultants to establish energy strategies and statements. From high-level benchmarking calculations to full dynamic simulation modelling we identify potential low carbon strategies and quantify emission savings. Using DSM and SAP provides clients with extremely detailed calculations that they take forward into later design and construction phases.

Renewable and Low carbon Energy Consultancy

We have a team of renewable and low carbon energy consultants who specialise in low carbon energy solutions, establishing bespoke installations for individual dwellings and larger housing developments.

Mainer Associates assist in developing business cases and project planning for low-carbon installs and have great colleagues in the industry to stay at the forefront in best practice and knowledge on renewables.

To support our dynamic simulation modelling we have specialist software for PV projects, enabling us to model PV arrays in an unrivalled amount of detail, providing clients with robust evidence and arguments on the feasibility of installation.

Some Take-Home Facts

  • Housing targets include 1.5 million homes by 2022.
  • Heating and hot water account for 25% of the UK’s total energy use and 15% of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • 4% of GHGs result from electricity used in homes.
  • Direct emissions from homes were 64 million tonnes CO2 in 2017.
  • The CCC’s cost effective pathway for meeting carbon budgets would put the UK on track to a 24% reduction on 1990 levels by 2030.
  • Only 18,000 heat pump units were sold in 2016.
  • EPC data indicates that D is the most common EPC rating.
  • 4.7million homes in England failed to meet the Decent Home Standard in 2016.


Part L 2020: What to Expect and Potential Changes

Mainer Associates expect there to be significant changes to Part L Building Regulations in 2020. This article describes the current issues experienced by the UK’s domestic and non-domestic building stock and the unintended consequences of current legislation. The potential changes to Part L to address these consequences will also be discussed.


The pitfalls of current legislation

Our building energy standards are shaped by the European Union’s 2010 Energy Performance of Buildings Directive and the 2012 Energy Efficiency Directive. It is expected they will still influence UK regulations post-brexit. Several ‘unintended consequences’ from this legislation that are generally experienced in-built assets throughout the UK include:

  • Homes are overheating.
  • A focus on air tightness has led to poor indoor air quality, creating a dependence on mechanical ventilation to address high VOC concentration, airborne moisture and high particulate pollution.
  • Energy performance gaps.



The unintended consequences from past and current building regulations and current Part L have come as a result of:

  • Designing for compliance and not acknowledging how actual operational use of built assets differ from design intentions.
  • Compliance gaps.
  • Lack of management, monitoring and analysis of buildings, post-occupancy.


Part L 2020

It is anticipated Part L of building regulations ‘Conservation of Fuel and Power’ will be amended in 2020. The most significant potential change is a switch from CO2 to primary energy as the metric to assess building performance. This suggests a big step towards a fabric first approach , designing buildings for energy efficiency from the start, instead of designing an asset and then installing renewable and low carbon technology to meet CO2 reduction targets.

Maximising the performance of building fabric before considering electrical and mechanical systems is a great step towards improving sustainability of the built environment.


Potential Changes to Legislation

There are potential changes to the UK building regulations with intention to address key challenges to achieving better performing buildings and the increasing influence of above-regulatory standards.

Potential changes to energy and sustainability standards in the coming years:


  • Re-calibration of fuel factors for new homes.
  • Elemental standards for existing buildings.
  • Limiting efficiencies for fixed building services.
  • Adoption of SAP10 to deliver new minimum standards and accommodate ventilation/overheating changes.
  • A switch from CO2 to a primary energy metric.


  • A ‘fuel neutral’ notional building for new non-domestic buildings.
  • Elemental standards for existing buildings.
  • Limiting efficiencies of fixed building services.
  • SBEM changes to deliver new minimum standards and to accommodate any ventilation and overheating changes.
  • A switch from CO2 to a primary energy metric.

Future regulations on ventilation are likely to provide clarity on Part F guidance and simplifying the approach to calculating ventilation rates. There is also expected to be an review of air tightness testing procedures and the competency of testers along with a review on the way the national calculation method (NCM) credits air tightness.

In regard to overheating, by 2020 the government will have to decided where the requirements to reduce overheating risk should be placed in new legislation. Will this come under Part L or the new AD? It is also expected the method for determining overheating risks for dwellings will be changed in order to help address this issue at design.

The New (Draft) Greater Manchester Spatial Framework: What sustainability professionals need to know

In January, Andy Burnham and the Manchester City Council (MCC) released a draft version of the eagerly anticipated new Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF). The new framework is currently undergoing consultation and has some bold and positive targets for environmental sustainability. As a sustainability consultancy based near Manchester and working on large developments within the city, Mainer Associates have decided to provide you with a one-stop tour and information guide on the council’s environmental sustainability targets.


Greenfield Vs Brownfield

MCC are clearly favouring brownfield development. Although not be evenly distributed throughout the Greater Manchester districts, there will be a net reduction in green belt allocation by 4.1%. The council will give preference to applications that develop previously occupied sites.

Carbon Emissions and Climate Change

MCC have set the ambitious target for Greater Manchester to become a carbon neutral city-region by 2038. All new development will need to be net zero carbon by 2028. This is a big statement for the city and demonstrates the council’s intentions to put the city at the forefront of climate change action. Strategies to achieve this include:

  • Significant up-scaling of photovoltaic energy.
  • Reducing heat demands in homes.
  • Shifting away from carbon intensive gas.
  • Reduce heat and cooling demand for commercial buildings.
  • Increasing biofuel use.
  • Retrofitting existing building stock.
  • All dwellings should seek a 19% reduction against Part L regulations.
  • 20% reduction in carbon emissions on all new developments using on site renewables and low carbon technologies.

Air Pollution

Greater Manchester (GM) has signed up to achieve the achieve the World Health Orgs. (WHO) ‘BreatheLife City’ Status by 2030. Check out Manchester’s involvement in this initiative here.

Transport accounts for 31% of GM’s CO2 emissions, the other 2 thirds are predominantly from domestic and commercial buildings. Areas of the city have also been designated as an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) meaning nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter emissions are exceedingly high, certain areas exceed WHO recommended levels!

National government therefore requires GM to establish a Clean Air Plan which the 10 districts will complete together. Current options the council are considering are detailed here.

clean air image









Whatever combination of options the city council decide on, they must reduce NO2 as quickly as a class A clean air zone would, detailed above. The city could therefore see a controversial yet very effective penalty system, that financially penalises drivers with non-compliant vehicles driving through the designated zone.



Interestingly, MCC appear to be adopting circular economy principles into their waste management strategy. The circular economy is an innovative economic model and trend in sustainability practice. It aims to eradicate the take-make-dispose model of current systems and apply circularity to economic systems and business models.

The council want to wholly re-conceptualise waste as a resource and will develop a new resource strategy to set out strategies to achieve a circular and zero-waste economy for the city.

The city is also championing and acting on national concern for single-use plastics. Plastic Free Greater Manchester is an initiative to eliminate single use plastics across the greater region, engaging businesses, organisations, charities and individuals to remove this unsustainable consumption.

Green Infrastructure and Biodiversity

Green and blue infrastructure is a vital resource for any city. It provides a whole host of benefits ranging from cleaner air to enhancing inhabitant wellbeing. Protection and enhancement to the cities green space and waterways across the inner city and wider districts are central to councils approach. Some of the objectives are detailed here:

  • Protect/enhance river valleys and waterways.
  • Utilise the urban pioneer programme to assess investment and management of natural assets.
  • Achieve an overall enhancement in biodiversity.
  • The council will develop its own defined standard to ensure sufficient quality and quantity of green infrastructure.
  • Continue the work being undertaken by the City of Trees campaign to plant a tree for every GM resident.

Did you know, less than half of Greater Manchester residents currently have access to natural green space within 300m of their home!