Digitising Construction: Culture, Leadership and Willingness

Mainer Associates recently held a round table discussion on the digitisation of the construction industry. We welcomed fellow industry professionals to join us for an evening discussion and dinner to converse on the current digital technologies within construction, and create debate on why construction lacks digital uptake. The potential for digital disruption to improve construction is huge, we need to develop a culture within the industry to embrace it.

Representatives from CBRE, Allied London, Turner and Townsend, Manchester Airport Group, Network Rail and Bruntwood came together to discuss this increasingly important topic. Here’s some interesting highlights from the discussion:

“As a sector we are poor at using technology. Contrast what I can do on my smartphone with what I can do at work”. A sentiment that echoed round the room was that the construction industry has not taken the steps that other sectors have done to embrace new methods, new technologies and more modern working cultures. Rather than seek the opportunities in digital and in sustainability, our discussion highlighted that these are seen as costs, not positive investments.

“Why are we transporting air?” One hears a lot about modular manufacturing and how it might disrupt traditional construction methods. Indeed, the control, standardisation and repeatability of modular manufacturing may bring many benefits. However, our guests made clear that the manufacturing is just one part of the cost chain. One comment recognised that “builders and contractors are very old-school and run on small margins” but that they still have “loads of inefficiency”.

We’ve become data junkies thanks to our partnership with an analytics company”. Some of our guests pointed to areas where they have seen change and rapid improvement. One clear area was in the use of data analytics and its application to, for example, understanding the detailed impact of retail footfall or even of the Manchester weather on rents and revenues. One guest’s firm has gone so far as to “disrupt ourselves” by considering the question, “If we were starting from scratch now, with the technologies available and coming soon, how would we go about it?”

This big question goes well beyond the use of tools like Business Information Modelling (BIM) and working in more flexible, “hot desking” ways. Underpinning it all, though, was a recognition that the largest part of any change programme is the culture, leadership and willingness to bring about such change. One can have the shiniest technology tools in the world, but without strong leadership and strong workforce engagement, the tools will soon be sitting on a shelf gathering dust.

It was a great discussion, and many thanks for our expert guests for being so engaged in the discussion with their knowledge and insights.

Digitisation has the potential to vastly improve how work in construction and sustainability is done. Mainer Associates are ourselves pursuing avenues into developing an App to improve our service delivery of BREEAM assessments. We intend the app to primarily offer project teams a one stop service for Man 03 site impacts monitoring and Wst 01 waste management. Watch this space!


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.

Image From 'BreatheLife City' Campaign

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!

The End to the Enhanced Capital Allowance

Following the release of the new financial budget back in October 2018, sustainability professionals may have been left feeling let down at the lack of discussion on environmental issues during Phillip Hammond’s budget speech.

After a closer look at the budget, Mainer Associates would like to discuss two significant changes to public spending within the energy sector:

  1. The end of Enhanced Capital Allowances and first year tax breaks for technologies on the Energy Technology list and Water Technology List from April 2020.


  1. Savings from this scheme will be reinvested into the Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.


The new budget has a clear focus on energy efficiency. The government feels there are better ways to improve uptake of energy efficiency technologies and support large business in reducing operational energy demands and costs.

The enhanced capital allowance (ECA) scheme currently allows large companies and corporations to claim 100% of costs for investments in certain plant and machinery, against their taxable income. The scheme is applicable to environmentally beneficial technologies listed on the Energy Technology List (ETL) and the Water Technology List (WTL). The ECA scheme is a great incentive for companies to invest in energy efficiency and low carbon heating and cooling systems. Tax breaks on such technologies embody clear benefits for positive economic growth whilst reducing environmental impacts.

The government plans to remove these allowances for a large range of technologies on the two lists. This will affect businesses who invest in energy efficient plant and machinery which currently qualify for first year tax credits. Bigger companies with larger revenue may still be eligible for tax relief under the annual investment allowance (AIA) at up to £200,000 per annum.

Click here to find out if your technologies are eligible before April 2020.


A positive step or missed opportunity?


The government has opted to invest £315m into the Industrial Energy Transformation Fund. The primary purpose of this fund is to reduce emissions from energy intensive businesses. The government feels this fund will provide better ways than ECAs to achieve the transition to a low-carbon economy. The fund will assist large businesses to decarbonise their operations through increased energy efficiency initiatives and technologies. The specifics on how this will be done are yet to be fully revealed by the government.

The Industrial Energy Transformation Fund (IETF) is planned to run for five years and has received positive and negative responses from sustainability and energy intensive industries. The fund should increase the number of energy efficiency projects that are financially viable for businesses and help industrial-scale energy bill payers, remove costs and emissions.

However, there will be definite losers following the end of ECAs with the new fund arguably too focused on large corporations. There will be firms that previously benefited from tax breaks which will not be eligible for new funds due to the size of their operations. Furthermore, the five years allocated for the scheme and current lack of details on how funds will be used does not offer certainty to big businesses.

Other critics argue the government has missed another clear opportunity to make positive and significant investments into renewable energy industries and technologies. They suggest the new budget allocation for investment in decarbonisation focuses too much on energy efficiency and not enough on renewables. The word ‘renewable’ does not feature once in the Budget!


Mainer Associates and Sustainable Commuting

As some of you may be aware, there are currently exciting times ahead for Mainer Associates with the development of a new personalised office space for our growing company.

In preparation for the move, the team wanted to take the opportunity to look at our own operations and ensure sustainable principles were at the core of our new commutes.

The company has invested in an electric vehicle for employees to use for travelling to and from work and to attend meetings within the local Manchester area. The vehicle has zero emissions at the point of use and offers and ideal mode of transportation for Mainer Associates employees.

Mainer Associates feel it is important employees can travel to work with ease and it was clear car travel was going to be the easiest method of transport to travel to the new office. However, the embodied impact of our operations was going to significantly increase – an electric vehicle was an easy choice!

The electric vehicle market has seen continued growth in recent years with charging infrastructure also becoming increasingly widespread throughout UK cities. In 2017 sales of electric vehicles passed the million mark, globally (Mckinsey).

In the UK, the government is now offering grants to those wanting to purchase a new low-emission vehicle to help incentivise uptake in sustainable transport. It’s important to provide consumers with opportunities to make the shift away transportation based on fossil fuels, especially for single-person journeys. For most consumers, price is the key influencer, and in a market where prices on new electric cars are notoriously high, this is a positive step.

Check out information on the governments’ grants here.

Whilst anyone can get a private charging point installed at their home, the UK also has a promising public network of electric chargers. These vary between fast and rapid charger types and most are free! Others charge per kWh used. The UK has invested 400million into the charging infrastructure investment fund and aims to support businesses to build charging points, promote jobs in the industry and encourage private ownership of electric vehicles, giving consumers confidence in the practicalities of owning an electric car.

Mainer Associates currently utilise a private charge point at our new office and the Greater Manchester Electric Vehicle (GMEV) charging network. The GMEV charge points are quick and easy to use. With the ‘charge your car’ mobile app you can see which charge points in your local area are available. You simply plug in your car and use your RFiD card to start charging!

Private Charge Point

Private Charge Point


Public Charge Point - GMEV Network

Public Charge Point – GMEV Network

The GMEV network is a great asset to the city in moving towards a low-carbon economy. In 2018, Transport for Greater Manchester were granted a further £3million for an additional 48 dual bay rapid charging points. This a fantastic move for the city and demonstrates the local government is improving EV infrastructure and incentivising up-take of low-emission transport.


Car Share

Mainer Associates regularly work on developments within large-scale business parks. The asset managers of these business parks often implement car share programmes for tenants and employees to use via online registration.

We have applied these initiatives to our own commuting and travel to and from the new office. Our employees currently practice car shares throughout the week meaning the environmental and social benefits of a zero emissions vehicle are distributed throughout the company.


Logotype Stacked Reverse

Mainer Associates Deliver CPD Session on BREEAM 2018

Download our CPD Flyer

Mainer Associates are now delivering CPD sessions for our clients and project teams, past and present, on the new BREEAM 2018 UK New Construction Scheme. The new scheme was released in March earlier this year and since its publication, Mainer Associates have reviewed the major changes from the 2014 version.

Mainer Associates always strive to improve our BREEAM service delivery, getting up to speed with the new guide has of course been a vital part to this! We’re excited to be registering new projects as 2018 assessments and delivering what we feel, is a bespoke service.

We aim to fully engage with our project teams throughout the whole assessment process, from pre-assessment to post-construction certification. Our BREEAM workshops tackle specific issues with relevant team members and aim to deliver a smooth certification process. To continue delivering BREEAM assessments with the same expertise and professionalism under the new scheme, Mainer Associates have identified high-level and detailed changes to prepare ourselves, and you, for the new 2018 standards.

A CPD Session Tailored to You

Mainer Associates can tailor the session to your specific role in a development. Whether you are a developer, contractor, architect, M&E engineer, ecologist or acoustician or anyone who has or will be involved in a BREEAM certified development, we can make sure the information we discuss is what you need to equip your team for your next BREEAM project.

We recently delivered our BREEAM 2018 CPD to Wates at their Leeds City College development. Prior to the session we listened to what the Wates team wanted to gain from the CPD. We then delivered the update specific to their demands and outlined how the changes would impact their role during a BREEAM assessment in terms of time, work load, responsibility and cost.


High-Level Changes

During our CPD sessions we will initially take you through changes that we feel are most significant.

Ene 01 and Post-Occupancy Assessment

There’s now a strong emphasis from the BRE on monitoring, reporting and improving the actual operational performance of buildings to ensure BREEAM assets are truly sustainable. Ene 01: reduction of energy use and carbon emissions has seen significant changes to ensure developers acknowledge performance after handover. Credits are now available for detailed modelling of different post-occupancy scenarios. Design teams are then required to hold energy workshops to consider how these scenarios could influence the building design.

Under Ene01 the client can commit funds to a new post-occupancy assessment stage (POS). Monitoring and reporting on energy and water consumption compare actual performance against modelled scenarios, consumption targets and design intent.

The post-occupancy certification stage is an optional stage of assessment but provides a fantastic way for clients and facilities managers to identify areas of intense and inefficient performance.

POS provides opportunities to review energy and water targets, site ecology, occupant health and wellbeing and building commissioning. It alerts building owners to defects and opportunities to address performance gaps to maintain tenant and asset value.

Part L 2020

Changes to Part L are on the horizon and are expected to massively influence BREEAM standards and they way buildings are designed.

Part L 2020 is expected to make primary energy consumption the basis of energy performance assessments, illustrating a shift away from quantifying CO2 emissions. Architects and design teams will have to implement the ‘fabric-first’ approach and design efficient buildings from the start. They will have to enhance the performance of building components and materials prior to considering mechanical and renewable technologies.

This is a big change, the industry cannot solely rely on renewable energy generation and energy efficient technologies to make buildings perform efficiently.

Mat 01 Building Life Cycle Impacts

Mat 01 Environmental impacts from construction products – Building Life Cycle Assessments now requires design teams to carry out whole-building life cycle assessments (LCA) and different LCA options on the superstructure of the building during concept design.

This is a whole-sale change from BREEAM 2014 and will require more work and cost at an earlier RIBA stage to ensure credits are achieved.

Detailed changes

Once we have discussed the high-level changes we will take you through specific detailed changes, credit by credit.

This involves outlining new benchmarks, explaining new and re-structured issues, identifying changes to how credits are awarded, and confirming any new requirements that will impact your role in a development certified to BREEAM.

We can tailor the detailed changes, tackling the new requirements specific to you, depending on your role and responsibilities throughout a BREEAM assessment.

Contact – Arrange a Session

Would you like your team or employees to be aware of the new BREEAM 2018 requirements and get ahead of the game for your next BREEAM registered project?

Get in touch with the Mainer Associates team to organise a session!

Ben Wells:

No.3 Wellington Place Achieves BREEAM Excellent


The building

No.3 Wellington place is a Grade A commercial office building situated in the heart of Leeds City centre on Wellington Street. It is an important building in the Wellington Place business district, contributing significantly to districts urban aesthetic at the north-eastern entrance. It offers contemporary commercial office space for businesses to use, and prosper in.

Our work

Mainer Associates were contracted by our longstanding client MEPC to ensure the building achieved a BREEAM Excellent rating. Mainer have guided the client and project team throughout the development of No.3 Wellington Place from pre-assessment, design stage and post-construction to make sure the building achieved excellent environmental, social and economic performance standards and benchmarks. Doing this has allowed MEPC to realise the true value of their asset and offer a premium and sustainable built environment for their tenants.

Achieving Excellent

This project achieved credits across all BREEAM categories in Management, Health and Wellbeing, Energy, Transport, Water, Materials, Waste, Land Use and Ecology, and Pollution.

Accomplishing an Excellent BREEAM rating is no easy task. It demands significant environmental benchmarks to be met. The project required rigorous efforts between the project team and our assessors at Mainer Associates to ensure this rating was achieved.

Mainer fully engaged with the client, contractor, architect and engineer to make sure an Excellent rating was always attainable from design stage to post-construction. When aiming for such a significant rating it is vital the project team do not miss out on credits that can be accomplished in the early stages of the development.

Here are some highlights from the No.3 Wellington Place development that contributed to a BREEAM Excellent building.


  • Intelligent PR controlled LED lighting systems with daylight sensing
  • Sophisticated building management systems and smart metering for monitoring energy usage
  • High performance solar control floor to ceiling glazing
  • Pre-cooling technology
  • Optimum life cycle energy efficiency with a 4 pipe coil system
  • Photovoltaic panels to provide 5% of the buildings energy supply
  • Electric vehicle charging points
  • Superb accessibility via public transport


  • Access to open space with a rooftop terrace
  • Smart design to maximise natural light and enhance occupant wellbeing
  • 24-hour access for occupants
  • Full disabled accessibility
  • Bicycle parking with maintenance stations
  • Cycling facilities, with showers and changing space
  • Proximity to public transport links
  • Thermal Comfort Measures


The client now has a fantastic contemporary building that has been built to a renowned sustainability standard, having positive affects on tenant value. With an emphasis also on low-carbon consumption and energy efficiency measures, the superb environmental performance of this building is matched by tangible cost-savings.


POURS FOR THOUGHT: How sustainable is your daily caffeine fix?

Coffee drinkers in the UK consume around 95 million cups of coffee a day at home, work and on-the-go. 80% of UK households buy instant coffee for home consumption (BCA).

Coffee culture in Britain has seen an astronomical rise in the last decade alongside new behaviours of brunching and ‘going out’ for breakfast. The recent rise has been vital for the resurgence of independents as consumers seek alternatives to the standard roasts of global café chains, complete with latte art from hipster baristas.

We are slowly but surely moving away from the British stereotype of tea drinking. A classic Builders’ brew is becoming harder to find. But what does this behavior change mean? What impacts does it have? 42 coffee beans are required for an espresso, but how do they end up being run through a coffee machine, or sat at the bottom of your favourite mug as a freeze-dried instant product?

As coffee lovers ourselves, the Mainer Associate team have brainstormed together to give you some ideas to ponder over the next time you’re eagerly anticipating your pre-work caffeine.

However you like your coffee, this is important!

The Beans

Most coffee beans consumed in the UK are produced in South America and where you, or the place of your daily coffee stop, get their coffee beans from is very important, right down to the specific farm! The decision is loaded with multiple environmental issues.

Coffee was traditionally grown under natural shaded canopy where farmers worked around current vegetation rather than removing it. The contemporary demand for coffee has seen this method be brushed aside for sun cultivation techniques. Farmers remove current vegetation to create monoculture plantations and use fertilisers to enhance yields, at the cost of bio diversity.

To make a sustainability conscious decision about the beans in your coffee you can make sure they are sourced from farms accredited to certification schemes. Fairtrade and Rain forest Alliance are the big two.

Fairtrade focus on the ethical aspects of coffee production, ensuring a fair price for farmers and investing in local communities.

Rain Forest Alliance ensure the growers are a certified Sustainable Agricultural Network, forbidding deforestation and championing methods to maintain ecosystems.

A third option is Soil Association certified coffee beans. This scheme ensures the beans are grown under organic conditions without the use of fertilisers.

Look out for these certification schemes the next time you buy coffee!

Ground Vs Freeze Dried 

80% of UK households purchase instant coffee for consumption in the home (BCA), but what processes are involved in getting the coffee in this form? – the process is certainly not instant!

All coffee beans are initially roasted between 150o c and 250o c depending on the type of roast buyers want.

For freeze dried coffee, manufacturers receive roasted coffee beans. From here, the beans undergo a range of treatments that involve energy intensive heating and cooling and consumption of water.

Extraction: the beans are ground and passed through pipes of heated and pressurized water.

Filtration and concentration: Coffee is treated to increase concentration. It is either separated with a centrifuge, removing water through evaporation, or freezing the water content and mechanically separating the coffee concentrate.

Recovery: During previous processes, aromas that are vital to flavor are lost. These can be captured and passed through the coffee with steam. Alternatively, oxygen is removed from the coffee extract by foaming other gases such as CO2 to preserve aromas.

Dehydration: The final process returns the coffee extract to a dry form. For spray drying, air is heated to around 250oc to remove the majority of water content. Freeze drying involves freezing the extract to -40oc and cutting the solid substance into pieces before grinding it into particles of appropriate size. They then experience a heat vacuum vaporising the ice. (madehow)

Finally, further aromas are then spray back on to the dried product.

Instant coffee is therefore hugely consumer-centric, it’s all about convenience for us. However, consider all these energy and water consuming steps in the process when you’re next making the family brews!

A top tip when drinking instant coffee at home – only boil the water you need. Small changes help make bigger ones.


The rise in the coffee consumption has also led to increased awareness in the waste produced from our new habits. Like a lot of industries, coffee is very linear. But, efforts from producers, sellers and consumers can turn coffee waste into a resource.

For those with coffee grinders in the home, spent coffee beans can be placed in green food bins or used in your own compost.

Even large companies are starting make the coffee industry more circular. Douwe Egberts use 33,000 tons of spent coffee grounds per year in the production of their instant products to fuel a biomass boiler that produces steam for the treatment processes (Veolia).

Also, with coffee, think plastic! Does your machine at home use plastic coffee pods? Or do you get your daily coffee on-the-go in a takeaway cup? Using a reusable ‘keep-cup’ is a fantastic way to completely remove this waste from your consumption and most high street chains give you money off! The UK throws away 2.5billion unrecyclable coffee cups a year (Environmental Audit Committee). Consumers have a critical role in changing this.


From Design to Operation – Mainer Associates Attend a BRE Academy Event Addressing the Performance Gap in Buildings.

In early September 2018 Mainer Associates attended the BRE Academy’s event on the performance gap in buildings. Operational building performance is a very important issue for developers and prospective tenants. The ability for built assets to perform to the intended design specifications and intended operational use is critical for two reasons.

Firstly, buildings need to be energy and operationally efficient to reduce costs and environmental impact. Secondly, the performance of a built asset helps create the environment tenants work in. It will enhance and maintain (or decrease!) tenant satisfaction/wellbeing in the workplace. As a result, tenants retain their staff, and developers retain their tenants, increasing their letting value and reputation.

The BRE’s event highlighted that built assets can experience a performance gap when compared to their design intent. Even when occupant satisfaction is at a good level, the actual operational efficiency of the building can still be significantly worse than intended. Research into the performance gap conducted by the BRE academy demonstrated a 200%-450% difference in operational performance from the buildings they sampled.

Why is this?

The presentations and attendees discussed this question and produced very interesting arguments:

  • Inadequate, generic, modelling at design stage
  • Insufficient handover of buildings to occupants and building managers
  • Lack of building maintenance and operational management
  • Inadequate monitoring of energy and water consumption
  • Designing for compliance, not use
  • Building in challenges during the construction process
  • Buildings are used/operated in ways that the asset was originally not designed for – particularly relevant to historical buildings.
  • Occupant Behaviors
  • Lack of collaboration between landlord and tenant
  • Little continuity of staff on development projects


These are all important points to consider when trying to address the performance gap. No two assets will be the same, and different influences on operational performance will change throughout a building’s life cycle.

Mitigation suggestions from the BRE event included improving energy modelling, ensuring that buildings are designed for actual use, and where possible, engaging tenants in the process.

Another suggestion to mitigate performance gaps is better management and monitoring, collating correct information and supplying it to the correct people and engaging them with the data through appropriate training.

The new BREEAM 2018 New Construction Manual aims to directly address some of these problems. The ‘reduction of energy use and carbon emissions’ issue has been restructured to offer 4 credits on the prediction of operational energy consumption. This involves design workshops focusing on operational performance, undertaking energy modelling during design and post-construction stage and carrying out risk assessments to highlight any significant design or technical risks that could impact performance.

In combination with this, BREEAM new construction 2018 has a post-occupancy certification stage. It confirms the process of monitoring and reporting on building performance once occupied and requires a BREEAM Assessor to report on actual energy consumption using energy models. It’s overall aim is to help design teams, facilities managers, occupants and building owners understand actual building performance to identify and rectify any deficiencies.


Please get in touch with Mainer Associates so we can assist with energy modelling and BREEAM objectives and help close the performance gap.