Monthly Archives: April 2019
Leeds City Council have made a bold and impressive move to implement an inner-city Clean Air Zone (CAZ) in January 2020. Mainer Associates have a healthy project base in Leeds and like to keep up-to-date with local policy and changes in sustainability governance. It is a fantastic move by the city and should tackle the critical issue of local air quality and pollution, head on.
Leeds currently has 6 air quality management areas (AQMAs). It is a statutory requirement for local councils to measure air quality within cities and declare AQMAs to national government. These are areas where emission levels are significantly dangerous to health. Local authorities and boroughs monitor air quality on, nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide, particulate matter and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and compare measurements to levels set by the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Where any measured pollutants breach certain levels, the area is automatically designated as an AQMA.
Why is air quality such a big issue?
Poor air quality has huge implications for society. Implications are environmental, social and economical. Pollution from development and transport in inner city areas increase emissions and directly influence serious respiratory and health implications such as cardiovascular disease. This in turn creates significant cost and unnecessary strain on the UK’s National Health Service. Furthermore, a city with a known reputation for bad air pollution and subsequent quality of life will discourage commerce, tourism and investment.
Air pollution is the greatest environmental threat to our health. It can cause and exacerbate many health problems. These include:
- Chronic heart disease, and,
Air pollution is also a transboundary and intergenerational problem. Public health England published the following infographic to illustrate the extent of these problems:
Do you know the emission levels and air quality of where you live? Or on your commute to work? Providing people with knowledge on air pollution is a great way to engage people to start addressing the issue, especially for something physically intangible in your day-to-day activities. Check out DEFRA’s database to find out emission levels in your local area www.uk-air.defra.gov.uk/data/gis-mapping
Why are Clean Air (Charging) Zones a Correct but Controversial step forward?
CAZs mainly focus on emissions from vehicles and aim to penalise high-polluting transport and restrict their mobility through certain parts of urban areas with poor air quality.
Despite the clear importance of good air quality, CAZs are not always well received from cohorts in the general public. They essentially either prohibit, monetise, and ‘tax’ vehicle movement through certain areas of city or town centres, and are deliberately more strenuous on high-polluting vehicles.
For the CAZ in Leeds, no vehicle will be banned from the zone, but if your vehicle does not meet the emission standards set out by the council you will be subject to a daily charge. You’ll be able to find out whether your vehicle is considered a high-polluter nearer the time when the council have finalised benchmarks.
It will be the biggest CAZ in the country and is a fantastic move from the local council to address a serious and topical issue.
What else can we do?
With air quality being such a pressing and contemporary issue it’s important governments, local councils and the private sector do not purely focus on one method to address the problem. CAZs in cities should implement a mix of initiatives to reduce emissions, from a variety of pollutant sources. Air pollution is a collective responsibility and strategies to address it should not simply be restricted to financial deterrents.
LCC’s fantastic initiative ‘clean air leeds’ are trialling and practising a number of strategies to ensure the cities inhabitants breathe clean air. These are:
- The council are transitioning their fleet to LEV or ZEV.
- Investment in upgrades to public transport and cycling infrastructure through the ‘connecting Leeds’ strategy.
- All 4 major bus companies in Leeds have committed to ensuring their vehicles meet the latest emissions standard by 2020.
- Pedestrianising more of the city to make use of public transport to get into the city more attractive.
- Free parking for ULEVs at al council car parks
- Smart city initiatives – to mitigate stop start driving and idling.
- Collaboration with the private sector to conduct research into the ability for hybrid vehicles to have automatic switching to electric power when in an area of high pollution – cool!
Interestingly, the new BREEAM 2018 New Construction guidance aims to help developers and the construction industry tackle this issue from another angle. The new guidance requires you to confirm whether developments are located within a low or high pollution location, any development within an AQMA is automatically considered a high pollution location. BREEAM then sets out different emission benchmarks for NOx, VOCs and particulate matter depending on the developments location and the number of credits you want to achieve.
There is an increasing eagerness among investors, building owners, landlords, facilities managers and building occupiers to understand actual building performance. With the new 2018 version of the BREEAM New Construction scheme there are now opportunities to achieve credits under a Post-Occupancy Stage of certification. But what about the ongoing performance and associated costs of buildings once in operation?
Please Mind the Gap
Since the release of The BREEAM 2015 In-Use scheme (International version applicable to all countries) BREEAM has been able to assist numerous portfolio owners worldwide in reducing operational costs and increasing their buildings’ efficiency. The BREEAM In-Use scheme helps bridge the ‘performance gap’ between modelled outputs and operational realities, and thus enhances tenant and asset value and increases market demand. The scheme enables building owners and managers to understand how satisfied building users are with assets. Through the In-Use tool, asset managers and owners are empowered with information to improve asset performance and internal environments for building users’ wellbeing and productivity.
By identifying performance gaps through BREEAM In-Use developers can take steps to achieve a better performing building and increase tenant-value.
A great tool to achieve CSR and ESG targets
BREEAM In-Use is an increasingly popular tool in contributing to corporate social responsibility and environmental social governance, business reporting and sustainable business leadership.
The BREEAM In-Use assessment process is broken down into three Parts:
- Part 1 – Asset Performance: the performance of the asset’s built form, construction, fixtures, fittings and installed services.
- Part 2 – Building Management: the management of the asset.
- Part 3 – Occupier Management: the management of building users and services. (Only available for Offices).
A Part 1 or Part 2 assessment can be conducted in isolation. A Part 3 assessment is recommended to be undertaken in combination with a Part 2 assessment as the score achieved for Part 2 feeds into the score for Part 3. It is recommended however that assets are assessed against all 3 Parts to map out the overall environmental impact of their asset.
The final outcome of a BREEAM In-Use assessment is a certified BREEAM In-Use rating for the Part against which an assessment is undertaken. This certified BREEAM In-Use rating reflects the asset’s performance across the BREEAM environmental categories. It enables the performance of the asset to be benchmarked, but most importantly, the knowledge obtained from such a comprehensive assessment allows the asset’s performance to be optimised through informed management decisions. By enabling on-going assessments, BREEAM In-Use encourages continual improvement.
Assessing an asset according to BREEAM In-Use means a client can:
- Set key performance indicators for energy, water, waste and greenhouse gas performance
- Understand the performance of assets within their portfolios
- Benchmark individual assets within portfolios against similar assets
- Optimise the performance of their buildings through good management, maintenance and occupation policies and procedures
- Set performance improvement targets and measure progress over time
- Support BRE on the continuing development of BREEAM In-Use by identifying and improving best environmental performance of existing buildings
Would you like to better understand the operational performance of your assets and increase tenant satisfaction to benefit your assets value? Get in touch!
Mainer Associates have recently created a zero-carbon office space! As a sustainability consultancy, working to improve the environmental impact of the construction industry, it’s important we practice what we preach.
Our recent office move gave the Mainer team a fantastic opportunity to assess how we could improve our operational impacts. We looked at everything, from the carbon emissions associated with our office space and transport to the coffee we drink!
Using a combination of on-site renewables, energy efficiency strategies and meeting current building regulations for new construction on building fabric, Mainer Associates are now operating on a ‘carbon negative’ basis. Our solar PV array has resulted in an A+ EPC rating for our work space.
A carbon negative building is one that generates surplus energy to its own demand and exports the surplus back into the grid, further greening UK grid electricity.
Mainer Associates are a net exporter of zero carbon energy!
The PV array has a 2.36kW capacity and has already generated 60kWh in the first week since installation! That’s enough energy to power our entire office for 6 days! Or boil 600 kettles. Please also read our article on the coffee we drink here.
Energy production from the PV array is currently modelled at 159.8 kWh/annum/m2 of office space, with a negative building emission rate of -41.63kgCO2/m2 per year. In fact, the first 4 days have exceeded this generation as outlined above.
The installation of photovoltaics has proved a fantastic way to achieve significant reductions in carbon emissions, to the extent of gaining a positive net carbon figure. Another benefit has been the ability for Mainer Associates to implement decentralisation of energy generation and consumption.
Decentralised energy is a very topical area of sustainability discourse and has great potential as a strategy to bring about positive change in local, regional and national emission targets. It was an idea discussed amongst Mainer employees in relation to our electric company cars.
The car is zero emissions at the point of use, but as sustainability consultants we recognised we could never guarantee the fuel types used for public and private charging infrastructure are ‘clean’ or renewable. Decentralising our energy consumption using renewable photovoltaic technology has therefore reduced the company’s environmental impact even further. This is a great, small-scale, example of how decentralised energy can lead to truly sustainable consumption.
Check out our original article on sustainable commuting here.
Energy Efficiency and Building Regs
Achieving a carbon negative office space is not simply installing renewable technologies to offset emissions from a poorly insulated and underperforming building. Before the office move, we looked back over our previous blog posts on Part L 2020 and performance gaps to identify opportunities to act on current issues being discussed amongst industry professionals on the sustainability of built assets.
Reducing operational impacts through design involved specification energy efficient LED lighting and a gas fired high efficiency boiler. These efficiency measures mean less energy is consumed to satisfy the businesses’ operational demand.
The office space is also fully insulated to current, new construction, building regulations, helping the building to operate efficiently with reduced demand. The intention was to ensure the Mainer Associates office is at optimal operational performance.
Other sustainability Strategies
The Mainer Associates employees did not stop at energy consumption and carbon emissions. Here are a few other strategies implemented at the office:
- Zoned heating control system
- Natural ventilation
- All timber is FSC certified
- Recycling and organic waste facilities
Reducing plastic waste through our coffee addiction! – see our article on the impacts of coffee drinking here!