The Origins of BREEAM

How BREEAM began


BREEAM is by far the world’s longest running environmental standard. It also has international recognition as well as British recognition. Its development began at the Building Research Establishment’s HQ in Watford, in 1988. They are now known as the The BRE Group.

Read more ›

Passivhaus standards house

Passivhaus Principles for Beginners

A plain English guide on Passivhaus, or Passive House, one of the world’s noted energy performance standards

In the last two decades, you may have come across what is known as the Passivhaus principles.  Also known as Passive House, the Passivhaus standard is the fastest growing energy performance standard in the world.  At present, 30,000 buildings around the world fulfil this criteria.

When did the first Passivhaus standards come into being?

The fathers of Passivhaus are Professors Bo Adamson (Sweden) and Wolfgang Feist (Germany), who created the standard in the early 1990s.  In 1991, a residential development in Darmstadt were the first dwellings to be built to such standards.

The standards can be applied to all building types, whether an industrial estate or a housing estate.  They must adhere to the following principle:

“Build a house that has an excellent thermal performance, exceptional airtightness with mechanical ventilation…”

How do buildings with the Passivhaus standard differ from conventional buildings?

Energy efficiency is the biggest difference.  Fuel bills are considerably lower which not only benefit the environment, but also its occupants.  The imaginative use of shading and, in some cases, the pre-cooling of the supply air, makes conventional heating systems redundant.

Furthermore, this improves the indoor air quality of your home, office, factory, or public building.  Natural cross-ventilation through opening windows also helps.  Due to the way how Passivhaus buildings are designed, there is no need for conventional heaters apart from, perhaps, a heated towel rail.

This diagram seen below shows you how a Passivhaus heating system works in your home.

Passive House Diagram

Lighting Feature
posted in News

How Lighting Affects Our Mood

How different kinds of lighting affects the way we are

Whether they encourage us to leave quickly, linger longer, or move us to produce creative works, the kind of lighting does have an effect on us.

The type of lighting we see in our supermarkets, office blocks, restaurants, or our humble abode, has an effect on the way we work, rest or play.  It enables us to relax, eat slowly, or increase our productivity in the office or factory floor.

Lately, the use of blue light has risen in popularity.  Besides its use in fluorescent tubes, blue light can be seen in LED lighting, countless flat screen monitors and television sets, and our mobile devices.  It has had its fair share of critics due to its wavelength on the electromagnetic spectrum.  Blue light falls between visible light and invisible ultraviolet light.

On the other hand, blue light keeps us productive.  Its most common uses (fluorescent lighting, LEDs) are also energy efficient.  The warm light of an incandescent light bulb is less energy efficient.  Incandescent bulbs (or any suitable equivalents with warm light) are good for relaxation.  They are best suited for restaurants, working on creative projects, and for relaxing at home.

Bright lighting encourages haste.  This is why your local branch of McDonalds (other fast food restaurants are available) or Primark has bright lights.  He or she is encouraged to order their Extra Value Meal or cheap clobber, then leave the premises as quick as possible.  It also helps the in-store CCTV system.

For happiness and productivity, nothing can compare with natural light.  No LED or fluorescent lighting system can hold a candle to sunshine.  Natural light also helps you to sleep and aids your Vitamin D storage.  Leveraged properly, it can be used to improve energy efficiency by means of solar based heating and electrical systems.

Where natural light isn’t quite abundant, LED lighting is the next best thing in workplaces.  Its running costs are inexpensive compared with fluorescent lights, and the long discontinued incandescent light bulbs.  They pay for themselves within the first three years.  We at Mainer Associates can point you in the right direction.

Mainer Associates, 10 May 2017.


IKEA’s Wembley store

IKEA’s Smart Lighting Move

How IKEA’s Trådfri range of smart lighting could be a ‘must-have’ accessory for the home

Will the last person to buy an incandescent light bulb please remember to switch off the lights before they leave…? For today’s households and facilities management companies, smart lighting hasn’t only come of age. It is now a mainstream thing as today’s LED-based systems are more affordable.

Over the last month, IKEA has embraced smart lighting solutions. Once you’ve got the Swedish furniture giant embracing the idea, you know the technology or design trend has made its mark. What’s more, their systems are even more affordable than the next one in the market (namely the Philips Hue). Whereas you could expect to pay hundreds of pounds for Philips’ system, IKEA’s range starts at £15.

Introducing Trådfri

Trådfri is the name of IKEA’s smart lighting range. Translated from Swedish to English, Trådfri means ‘wire free’, or ‘wireless’. The cheapest item of their range is their plug and play warm light dimming kit, priced £15. To get things started, the Trådfri Gateway Kit is yours for £69. For that, you get two LED bulbs, a remote control, and the gateway device itself (which connects to an app).

In the last decade, IKEA stores have sold LED lighting systems, either as part of stand alone lamps, or ceiling mounted lights. This has included lighting systems for bookcases and kitchen units.

The app only works with IKEA’s own system. As for compatibility with Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home, this could be months away, subject to customer demand. One never knows. Could IKEA’s blessing be enough to bring smart lighting systems to the masses?

Housing white paper

Housing White Paper’s Building Boost

How the Housing White Paper aims to fix ‘Britain’s Broken Housing Market’

The start of this month saw the publication of Fixing Our Broken Housing Market, a far reaching White Paper on Britain’s housing market. Its aim is to address the UK’s housing crisis by increasing density in urban centres and the creation of Garden Towns. Greater local authority control over planning applications and more affordable housing are among the other proposals.

The White Paper opens with the line that the UK’s housing market is broken. It also states how fewer young people are getting on the property ladder. To fix Britain’s Broken Housing Market, it suggests speeding up the development time of new schemes from three years on average to two years. It states the need to build houses “in the right places”, which in layperson’s terms could be due to market forces as well as localised plans.

Also part of the prescription is greater transparency in the planning system. That in the context of local infrastructure needs, from health centres to shopping precincts and bus routes. It also proposes greater competition in the housing market. This part of the white paper is traditional post-1980 Conservative Party thinking. That of challenger companies hoping to ruffle the feathers of established incumbents. On the other hand, this could allow for innovative thinking by architects and self-builders.

The White Paper in relation to affordable housing

Towards the end of the paper, the fourth step focuses on affordable housing. An income eligibility cap of £80,000 is proposed (or £90,000 in London) for starter homes, a plan which aims to offer affordable housing for key workers. Another proposal entails the definition of Affordable Private Rented Housing: in other words, rent controls for privately let houses.

The White Paper offers some extra powers for community involvement and the local authority’s role in planning applications. But the paper doesn’t go far enough. There is nothing in the paper about clamping down on bogus landlords (Rachmanism). There are no immediate solutions like rent controls. It is clearly a case of ‘must try harder’: a C- grade in our view.

Balfour Beatty’s Brexit Broadside

Balfour Beatty’s Brexit Broadside

How Hard Brexit could have a negative impact on construction industry skills

The end of next month could see the triggering of Article 50 by Prime Minister Theresa May. This, being the first part of Britain’s divorce proceedings with the EU, could see the construction industry at a crossroads. The negotiation process, all being well, is set to take two years. What has concerned many EU nationals and businesses is the kind of Brexit terms we may be about to receive.

Among the biggest critics is Balfour Beatty, the well known civil engineering business noted for motorways and railways. The contracting giant expressed its concerns for the future of the rail industry in a recently published paper. It warned that:

“Uncertainty around the free movement of labour in the EU could increase the industry’s recruitment and staffing difficulties as it may no longer be able to handpick highly skilled engineers from other EU countries as is currently the case.”

This is where Hard Brexit is going to make employing people from Mainland Europe and the Republic of Ireland difficult. With the Hard Brexit, there is no freedom of movement. The United Kingdom could only be subject to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. This would also mean severing ties with the European Economic Area countries (all EU Member States plus some outside including Norway and Switzerland), the Customs Union, and the Schengen Agreement. The last enables free trade with the Republic of Ireland and the Isle of Man.

Recently, Balfour Beatty has recruited personnel from Greece and Portugal, who have helped to modernise Britain’s railways. Only 0.2% of applicants came from non-EU countries, citing bureaucracy as its principal issue.

Furthermore, exiting the European Union will exacerbate skills shortages in the rail industry. According to their sources, the average age of rail engineers is 56 years old. This is no good if the future Sir Nigel Gresley is separated by visa and work permit issues as well as the English Channel.

With the House of Lord’s inflicting yet another defeat for Government momentarily securing the rights of EU nationals and with HS2 being given Royal Assent, Balfour Beatty’s fears are well and truly justifiable.

Construction Workers

Construction workers share mental health experiences

The introduction of CN’s Mind Matters campaign has drawn a great response from the industry. Workers in the industry have shared their experiences which are hugely beneficial for the campaign aiming to tackle high male depression and anxiety impacting their well-being as well as the economy.

Working in the construction industry can lead to many workers feeling stressed, this can also have an effect on their personal life. As the industry is very demanding, when things go wrong this can have a huge psychological effect on their wellbeing. “The construction industry is made up of 2.1 million people in the UK, that’s 6% of the UK workforce. In England & Wales, 1 in 6 workers has experienced depression, anxiety or other stress related problems. This suggests that 350,000 construction workers may be affected. This was a study carried out by the Office of National Statistics in 2009.” (Information obtained from

So why are construction industry professionals badly affected?

The construction industry is a very demanding workplace not just for workers but also managers. The pressures caused by the working patterns and demands can have a huge impact on emotional health and wellbeing. As the construction industry is male dominated, there is additional pressure on workers to comply with male stereotypes which often expect men to deal with issues without asking for help, causing them a great deal of stress.

“The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is an award-winning charity dedicated to preventing male suicide, the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK. In 2015, 75% of all UK suicides were male.”

This doesn’t just impact them mentally and physically, it leads to an economic effect as well. “Issues caused by mental health is responsible for people taking off 70 million days off sick per year, the most for any health condition. This is costing the UK economy 70 billion and 100 billion a year.” ( Information obtained from


People’s experiences


Workers at all levels provided feedback that will benefit the campaign’s success:

“Generally being stressed out in construction is considered to be the norm. There is a perception that if you are not stressed you are not busy enough.”

“I am very happy in my current role; however, I continue to suffer from depression and anxiety in my personal life. If I ever feel down at work currently I do my best to hide this and tend to stay quiet.”

“Any mistake I make, no matter how small, seems so incredibly big and it’s very difficult to get past it. I go home feeling depressed, can’t sleep and think about it for days afterwards. The feeling keeps getting deeper and the problem keeps seeming bigger.”


“In our industry we work long, draining days. It takes a long time to switch off and even when you’re asleep your head is still racing. This is not healthy.”


“I have worked with several people who have suffered mental health issues as a result of stress and other factors either at home or the workplace. In one case a man committed suicide.”


There are many support groups being introduced into the construction industry to help workers deal with any issues they may have. Here are a few charities and support groups to help you or anyone you know dealing with stress at work:


Milton Park office

Mainer Associates, Milton Park

Mainer Associates are responding to new projects in Oxfordshire and are proud to announce that we are opening our third office in the UK at Milton Park. We are excited to continue working on a range of different projects across Milton Park and the wider region. While we look to serve our existing clients in the area, Mainer Associates are aiming to create new contacts as we look to expand further.

The new office is part of the Innovation Centre at Milton Park. Milton Park itself is home to over 340 businesses and over 12,000 workers making it a vibrant and dynamic place to do business. Our presence at Milton Park will enable us to improve delivering integrated sustainability services quickly and directly to clients across the South of England.

Our new address at Milton Park:

Mainer Associates
Milton Park Innovation Centre
99 Park Drive
Milton Park
OX14 4RY

We now take enquiries on 01235 854042.

For more information about Milton Park please visit

The Ethos of ESOS

A look at ESOS, HM Government’s Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme

Saving energy could be seen as our tithe for saving the environment. More than ever, in our short time on Earth, we need to apply this approach openly and transparently. One idea is ESOS, Her Majesty’s Government’s Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme.

ESOS is the UK’s implementation ofArticle 8, sections 4 to 6 of the European Union’s Energy Efficiency Directive (2012/27/EU) and only time will tell whether this Directive will remain post Brexit. The crux of ESOS is its assessment procedure which takes into account energy consumption across the business, and identifies where savings could be made.

Companies based in the UK, employing more than 250 employees, must comply with the scheme. The scheme not only applies to the company’s on-site activities; an ESOS assessment takes into account the carbon footprint for travel to and from the premises. For example, business travel or commercial vehicles used from one site to another.

Under ESOS, energy includes combustible fuels, heat sources (including surplus heat from industrial processes), electricity, and renewable energy. All energy use is covered. For Combined Heat and Power installations, you only need to record incoming fuel levels.

How ESOS works around your energy requirements

Commute to work

Commuting to work may be a thing of the past with ESOS.

The Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme encourages your business to better manage its energy consumption. After assessment, your company is encouraged to identify energy saving opportunities. Instead of a train journey or a long drive, videoconferencing could be considered for meetings. Smart meters could be installed with improved energy consumption reporting facilities available. And renewable energy solutions could be considered to deliver a proportion of demand.

What’s more, some of the energy saving solutions may require little outlay. Existing computer systems could be used for teleconferencing, your next meeting could be a Skype or Facetime call away. Smart meters can be added to your premises free of change. All you need to do is contact your electricity supplier.

ESOS is about continuous development rather than a short term fix. It highlights opportunities for businesses and those that get on board with that process rather than seeing it as red tape, will get the most out.

Ikea Solar Energy

IKEA Steps Up Solar Energy Range

High demand sees increased shelf space for solar energy products

Almost a year ago, after three years, IKEA stopped selling solar energy products. Last April, they had a change of heart and reinstated them. Their two month hiatus coincided with a change of supplier. Before November 2015, their supplier of solar panels was Hanenergy. Their present-day supplier is Solarcentury.

By January 2017, sales picked up. Demand for its range of sustainable energy products have risen by 13.3%. This has included LED lighting, water meters and rechargeable batteries, as well as residential solar energy systems. As to how much of the 13.3% rise in sales were solar panels remains to be seen.

Solar energy has consolidated itself as a renewable form of energy for commercial and residential properties. Recent incentives have made PV renewable energy popular with households. IKEA’s success is in spite of HM Government cuts to the feed-in tariff. Their PV renewable energy systems were first sold in three IKEA stores: Lakeside, Birmingham, and Glasgow and soon, all of its UK stores will have the full range.

The solar panels sold in IKEA stores today are more efficient than those supplied by Hanenergy. Theirs were made of thin film, which lacked the energy efficiency and reliability of the polycrystalline and monocrystalline panels offered by Solarcentury.

Solarcentury were formed in 1998 and are one of the oldest companies in the field of renewable energy. Their solar systems have been erected on more than a thousand sites around the world. The company is headed by Frans van der Heuvel with its founding director is Jeremy Leggett, noted for his columns in The Guardian and the Financial Times.

IKEA and Solarcentury are a good fit in terms of their approach to renewable energy. Solarcentury have worked with communities to expand the uptake of solar energy. IKEA have greened their stores with solar panels on some of their branches. And, for the first time in the company’s history, Ikea has a zero waste to landfill figure, paving the way for other retailers.