The Reusables: Replace Everyday Essentials to Improve Your Sustainability

No, this isn’t a new channel 4 programme for you to binge watch, although it would be a good one!

Have you ever given thought to how many of your everyday essentials are bought, consumed and disposed, sometimes in a matter of minutes! The circular economy has gathered momentum in recent years amongst academics, private sector professionals and government policy. But how does this translate to us and our everyday lives and consumer habits? – One of the main trends at the moment is RE-USE.

Our current economic model is linear and underpinned by energy from finite resources,

This clearly isn’t sustainable.

Consider the number of consumer items you use only once and then dispose of throughout a single day… now think how many of those could be replaced with something that can be used over and over again.

Re-use is a central component to a circular system and economic model, we reconfigure the TAKE-MAKE-DISPOSE, to MAKE(from returned or re-manufactured stocks)-USE-RETURN.

The Circular Economy is multi-faceted with many interesting components to consider, further information can be found here.

Here, we’ll look at five wonderful, and at first maybe a bit weird ways, to swap out everyday disposables for reusable alternatives.

  1. Baby Wipes

In 2017 almost 700,000 babies were born in England and Wales. Baby wipes or any kind of cosmetic wipe create huge problems for the UK’s sewerage networks. In London alone,  Thames Water removes 30 tonnes of wet wipes and sanitary towels everyday day, costing Thames Water £12million a year!

Fear not,  there are now all-in-one kits for reusable wipes that use essential oil blends to clean used wipes. The kits eradicate single-use cosmetic wipes, reduce pollutants entering our water systems, reduce cost to infrastructure, and save you money!

2. Beeswax Wraps

Are you always throwing away mouldy food from the back of the fridge? Cotton cloths impregnated with beeswax allow you to wrap up food items using the same piece of material over and over again. You not only prolong the shelf life of your food and reduce your food waste, but also remove the need for plastic cling film or containers.

WRAP states household food waste is at 7.1million tonnes per annum.

3. The Contactless Cup

Re-usable coffee cups have been available a while now. But many people still don’t use them. Could this be the answer to increasing their uptake? A major coffee retailer has now designed a re-usable coffee cup that integrates contactless payment technology. This is a fantastic example of how to make re-usable products more approachable to consumers and how we can integrate them into current systems and everyday lives!

4. Wool Dryer Balls

Do you use a dryer to dry your laundry? You can reduce the time required to mechanically dry your clothes and the number of dryer sheets you use with new wool dryer balls. Dryer sheets can only be used once, wool dryer balls can be used 1000 times and absorb water. You’ll spend less money on dryer sheets, use less energy, and spend less time on laundry. No one likes laundry!

5. The Classics  

There are of course the everyday classics that often we need reminding of. Reusable coffee cups and water bottles are the main players. Although now quite mainstream and widely used, single-use plastic and unrecyclable coffee cups are still a problem for us as consumers to tackle. Did you know Glastonbury Festival went zero plastic this year and prevented almost 1 million single use plastic bottles from being consumed!

However, we shouldn’t stop at products we drink! Shops and supermarkets are now making it far easier to make use of reusable containers. The main ones are grain products, stored in large containers that you dispense into your own ones to take home.

There are some smaller retailers where you can now even reuse tubs/bottles for washing up liquid and toothpaste!       

Environmental Social Governance: The Changing Attitudes of Investment Funds


Environmental Social Governance (ESG) Investing has shifted from a bit part player in investment screening to mainstream practice for investment decisions.  The influence of activists, NGOs and media campaigns on the environmental scandals of large corporations has meant corporates can no longer avoid adhering to ESG principles, and in particular, addressing climate change. The actions of NGOs create public attention and deliberately expose the biggest players.

Plastics is the perfect example, their inherent potential to pollute the earth has been known for decades, yet the pressure for corporations to change their production and business models has only become prevalent in recent years. This is largely down to NGO campaigns and media coverage. (The same has happened on plant-based diets – check out our article on planetary health diets here).

However, pressure for companies to implement ESG into their business practices and models is now being applied from the other side of the coin. Investors and investment funds are increasingly integrating ESG into their investment screening and decisions. A company implementing and championing ESG principles indicates less risk, and therefore presents itself as a much more viable investment.

Visual example of how one investment fund, Hermes, determines how companies manage ESG risk.

Visual example of how one investment fund, Hermes, determines how companies manage ESG risk.

It indicates to investors a company is less likely to commit environmental and social mal-practice throughout their supply chains and operations, meanwhile upholding ethical governance policies and practices both within their internal structures (e.g. whistleblowing, executive pay, shareholder rights) and external behaviours (e.g. bribery, illegal practices).

It is undeniable NGOs set the tone on ESG, but investors now influence demand for sustainable and ethical business practices.

Why is this ?

There are two main reasons.

In summary, companies with good social and governance characteristics and strong track records of actions to mitigate their impact on climate change, generally outperform others based on ‘basis points’ (bps). This is a common unit of measure for investment returns and growth rates and therefore suggests to an investor a more profitable investment.

However, investment managers with ethical investment criteria will inherently look to ensure a company meets their specific criteria for an ethical investment. This underpins the investment decisions instead of basis points and investment returns. This is the major shift.

Interestingly, it is now widely accepted social factors are now statistically significant in company performance and how ESG practices impact shareholder returns. Previously environmental and governance characteristics of a business were the key players for investors. A companies social ‘risks’ can be so significant that they offset sound environmental and governance practices all together. Social factors now highlight badly performing companies during investment screening.


A Move from Government

In July 2019 the UK government released their Green Finance Strategy which sets out their plans to ‘green’ finance. One of the main intentions of this new strategy is to make corporate disclosure of sustainability performance mandatory within the private sector. The government intends to develop clarity on what and how companies should report sustainability performance. This is to allow investors to make ESG-information led decisions on investments. Through this, the government believes they can restructure our financial systems whereby environmental, social and governance factors are centralised into financial risk assessment. They argue this would hugely assist with achieving the legally binding net-zero carbon target by 2050.

Have a further read on the Green Finance Strategy here.

UK Government Releases Green Finance Strategy

The UK government recently released the new Green Finance Strategy (GFS) with three main intentions:

Greening finance: Restructuring our financial systems to ensure environmental factors a fully integrated into mainstream financial decision making.

Financing Greening: Increased investment in green and low carbon technology through new policy frameworks and £3billion between 2015-2021.

Capturing Opportunity: Government to support the private sector tap in to the global market for low carbon financial services and ensure the UK is a hub for the global green finance market.

Click the image for a visual summary.

Green Finance Strategy Infographic


As a sustainability company offering Environmental Social Governance (ESG) consultancy, monitoring and auditing, Mainer Associates are particularly interested in point 1. Investors increasingly integrate ESG factors into their financial risk screening. The move from the Government to restructure our financial systems to make this mainstream, is a bold and positive move.


The UK is the first country in the world to set legally binding emission reduction targets. The big target that makes the headlines is net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.The government believes the GFS is one way to make sure the UK achieves this.

The argument is that meeting these objectives will require unprecedented levels of investment in green and low carbon technologies, services and infrastructure which will require sustainability performance to become central to investment decisions.

WHAT does this mean?

What we are seeing is a two-pronged approach – ‘greening’ the global financial system to ensure companies with reputable and verifiable sustainability credentials are favoured for investment, and, catalysing investment in technologies.

The transformation of the financial system must go beyond just funding green projects 

It will require fundamental changes in the way investment decisions are made across the economy. All finance will need to incorporate the financial risk of climate change.

But HOW will the Government do this?

The strategy focuses on 4 elements: establish shared understanding, clarify roles, foster transparency and develop a long-term approach, and build robust consistent green financial market frameworks.

The government intend to achieve this is by making the private sector companies implement the recommendations from the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).

The purpose of the TCFD is to develop consistent information on climate related financial risk disclosures for the use of companies in providing information to investors, lenders, insurers and other private or public stakeholders (TCFD).

There are a variety of ESG standards and frameworks to choose from. Due to ESG’s subjectivity from company to company, businesses can essentially select the areas of sustainability and climate change they excel in and address. The Task Force intends to provide clarity for businesses on what financial markets and investors want from disclosure of ESG performance in order to measure and respond to climate change risks, but also educate firms on how to align their disclosures with investors’ needs.


  • Government will expect all listed comps and large asset owners to disclose sustainability and climate change performance in accordance with the TCFD recommendations by 2022.
  • Work with regulators to implement requirements on mandatory reporting.
  • Develop a set of sustainable finance standards.
  • Increase market led action on enhancing nature-related financial disclosures.

The UK’s financial market and private sector need a shared understanding on environmental risks from both a sustainability, and now financial (investment) perspective.

One method is to price risk appropriately to inform efficient allocations of investment. This is only achieved with transparency, which requires standardised climate related data.


TCFD Recommendations


The government will be creating a task force with UK regulators to examine the most effective approach on disclosure, including exploring how appropriate it is to make reporting mandatory. Disclosure will only be useful if educates and clarifies financial decision making.

Companies must know what financial markets require from disclosure in order to respond to financial risks related to sustainability. This will also support financial institutions and policy makers to differentiate between companies and projects. This creates a cycle whereby the better performers are regularly preferred, thus raising standards for other companies to achieve if they want to gain investment.

We make decisions like this in our everyday lives on a small scale. From where to do our food shops, what make-up to buy, or even who to bank with. One supermarket might facilitate re-forestation projects, pay employees a living wage or have strong equal opportunity policies, whereas another may not. But how do we ACTUALLY know?

posted in News

Planetary Health Diets: The Answer to Sustainable Food Systems?

In the past decade, huge investments have been made in plant-based companies that produce meat and dairy alternatives. Such companies in America alone have had over £12billion pounds of investment in the last 10 years and of course coincides with a rise in the prevalence of vegan and vegetarian diets. But why?

The environmental impacts of the meat and diary industry have been rigorously reported in recent times with documentaries such as cowspiracy exposing the true environmental costs through global multimedia platforms such as Netflix. Previously, the negatives associates with food were dominantly discussed in isolation to health and nutrition, but we are now discussing them in relation to the health of our planet.

Food systems contribute almost 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions and two thirds of these result from producing animal feed for livestock. With global population ever increasing, we must take stock of our food systems and extent of our demand for certain food groups. It is estimated between 1800 to 2500 gallons of water are required for one pound of beef. Of course, there are also negative externalities involved in establishing mono-culture crops for the purposes of plant-based substitutes which we also need to accept. However, it is widely accepted the intensity and pressure on our natural systems to produce livestock in comparison to plants is far greater.

The point here is to consider how we can make small changes to how and what we consume. The key challenge we are faced with is to provide an increasing global population with nutritional diets from sustainable food systems, it is too simplistic to focus on one food group, although reducing meat consumption will play a big role. A sustainable food system is not only one with plenty of supply, but one in balance with the ecosystems it operates within.

Our current systems make truly sustainable diets difficult to achieve. A new report from the LANCET Commission Food Planet Health released in 2019 put forwards their concept of planetary health diets, to guide international restructuring and decarbonising of food systems. A planetary health diet describes behaviours of food consumption that are both healthy and environmentally sustainable, measured using scientific targets for intakes of specific food groups. It essentially concerns the health of humans and the state of the natural systems on which the health depends on.

Some strategies to be implemented across the globes food systems at local, regional and international scales are:

  • Reduction in yield gaps – a crops ‘real’ yield is regularly far less than its actual potential yield. – sustainable intensification.
  • Educating farmers on the emissions embodied in different feeding regimes and feed production systems.
  • Realigning land management processes whereby reducing emissions is a central strategy.
  • International agreements on targets for healthy diets and sustainable production, based on unanimously accepted science.
  • Use of technology to optimise water and fertiliser usage.
  • Land use for agriculture to become a net sink of carbon instead of a net source.
  • Reduce food waste within production by 50%.
  • Improve information on plant-based food, reduce their costs and improve their accessibility.
  • Agricultural and marine policies on production should be orientated around nutrition rather than quantities.
  • Redistribution of global use of nitrogen and phosphorous.
  • Only use land already allocated to agricultural to meet demand from growing populations through zero-expansion policies at international and national scales.

Click on the Infographic for a closer look at how you could contribute through different consumption habits!

Infographic from LANCET suggesting the balance to a achieving a planetary health diet.

Infographic from LANCET suggesting the balance to a  achieving a planetary health diet.


Why this new approach ?

We should always consider different cultural context and give consideration to the role animal based foods have in people’s diets across local and regional geographies. It is therefore arguably impractical to target one food group, but instead far more pragmatic to improve food systems as a whole, albeit a significant task!

Commute to work

Leeds to Implement Clean Air Zone in 2020

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.

Image from to illustrate how different levels of air quality air considered in relation to health.

Image from to illustrate how different levels of air quality air considered in relation to health.

Air pollution is the greatest environmental threat to our health. It can cause and exacerbate many health problems. These include:

  • Asthma
  • Bronchitis
  • Chronic heart disease, and,
  • Strokes


Air pollution is also a transboundary and intergenerational problem. Public health England published the following infographic to illustrate the extent of these problems:


The extent of the air pollution problem.

The extent of the air pollution problem.

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


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.

Boundary map of the proposed clean air zone. Source Leeds City Council.

Boundary map of the proposed clean air zone. Source Leeds City Council.

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.

BREEAM In-Use gaining momentum

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 Go Zero Carbon

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!


On-site Renewables

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!




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.