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.

Spire Nottingham Achieves Very Good BREEAM Rating

Spire Nottingham is a hospital Located in Tollerton, South Nottingham near Nottingham City Airport offering a range of hospital services. The hospital will deliver a modern sophisticated environment for patients, providing oncology and endoscopy units.

The hospital is a redevelopment of a brownfield site sitting within several grade II listed buildings adjacent to a live runway that was previously used in the second world war. The design of the hospital was very important, ensuring that the aesthetic, design and layout were both sympathetic to the surrounding landscape and enhanced patient wellbeing. Building materials were used to complement the adjacent buildings. Another important aspect of the design were windows allowing patients a ‘view-out’ into the surrounding scenery.

The building was completed in 2017 and has recently been certified as a BREEAM Very Good building. Mainer Associates worked closely with Parker Wilson Consulting and the design team to ensure the asset was compliant with BREEAM standards throughout the course of the development.

Our BREEAM Assessors engaged with responsible team members at design stage and as a result, the development initially achieved a very good rating for design-stage certification. This alleviated a lot of unnecessary work and pressure from the project team at later stages of the development and construction phase. BREEAM Credits that are more practical and viable to gain in the early stages and contribute towards the rating were achieved.

Doing this puts any project in a good position to achieve the targeted certification at post-construction stage. Although it may sound obvious, for BREEAM assessments, starting at the start is critical.

Mainer Associates have enjoyed working alongside Parker Wilson Consulting as M&E Engineers, Morgan Sindall as the main contractor and Halliday Meacham as project Architects, on what is now a fantastic healthcare building.

Significant sustainability measures that were implemented on the project to help reduce the buildings environmental impact and achieve a very good rating included, selecting LED lighting, sustainable drainage systems, passive design measures and installation of photovoltaics and a heat recovery system.

The LED lighting helps the development maximise energy efficiency and with daylighting controls also installed, lighting is not used unnecessarily. The engineers also demonstrated a 15% reduction in the buildings cooling load as a result of passive design measures. This reduction reiterates the importance of committing to credits early in design stages. The combination of PV and heat recovery systems offer further operational energy reduction and provide more sustainable forms of energy production.

Overall, it has been a great project to be part and it is reassuring healthcare buildings are being built to exemplary sustainability standards.


Mainer Associates Welcomes New Graduate

As part of our growth and expansion Mainer Associate’s would like to introduce our new Graduate Sustainability Consultant, Dominic Wintie.

Dominic studied for a BA in Geography at the University of Manchester before staying on to complete his MSc in the same discipline. He tailored his studies and research projects to focus on cities, development and the key theories surrounding sustainability practice and governance. With an interest in development of urban landscapes and the sustainability of the built environment, Dom completed the BREEAM Associate course to broaden his professional knowledge on sustainability standards for the built environment.

The associate course was a fantastic way to gain a head start when looking for professional opportunities at Mainer Associates. It gave him initial insight and experience into the process of BREEAM assessments, which is a significant part of Mainer Associates’ work. Dominic initially conducted a part-time Internship, getting to know the team and getting to grips with the consultancy Mainer Associates conduct for their clients.

After completing the internship, Dominic was offered a Graduate Sustainability Consultant role. His role includes assisting the senior consultants in conducting environmental and BREEAM assessments, reviewing project information against the standards and criteria, updating online project platforms and helping to produce reports for project teams.

The addition of a graduate is a key to the on-going expansion of Mainer Associate as a sustainability consultancy. We are currently expanding into new areas of consultancy such as environmental-social-governance frameworks. We aim to be a leading multi-disciplinary environmental and sustainability consultancy with several employees trained in multiple areas of expertise. Appointing a new graduate gives us the opportunity to shape and train our workforce to the needs of the business, so important for the future aspirations of Mainer Associates and those of our clients.

Mainer Associates Achieve Gold Membership at Construction Line

What is Construction Line?

Construction line is an online platform that works to connect procurement, supply chain and environmental management companies that have completed PAS-91 questionnaires and mandatory health and safety accreditation. They collect and validate company information against accreditation schemes so that companies can minimise risk and improve performance when working with others in the industry.  

Using construction line and its accreditation schemes makes contracting work easier and smoother. It enables access to over 35,000 company profiles that have already completed pre-qualification questionnaires (PQQ) and offers the ability to advertise potential contracts. 

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Milton Park Hosts First Autonomous UK Vehicle Trials

Milton Park

Milton Park

Innovate UK fund autonomous vehicle trial

An exciting project will be launched at Milton Park in the UK after a successful bid to Innovate UK.

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2017 Green University League Table Results

Manchester MetropolitanThere’s endless league tables in place which rank universities in a plethora of different categories, but the Green University League Tables take ethical and environmental factors into account when assessing universities, and the rankings of universities varies greatly due to this difference. In 2017’s results, you can see a large increase in the number of universities passing the assessments – a big change from previous years in which even Russel-Group universities found themselves failing.

This year has seen Manchester Metropolitan University take the lead as top of the first class universities. Scoring highly in its environmental policies and carbon management, the university is showing promising awareness towards the environment and its usage of potential harmful resources. Energy usage awareness is key in this assessment, and a first class university will consciously monitor this and promote environmentally aware consumption.

Sustainability Services

Waste and recycling is a major element of providing sustainability services and growth for any area. The universities that pass this league table’s assessments show innovative growth in waste disposal and management technologies, and keeping their students and employees eagerly informed through appropriate training and awareness.

The sustainability a university shows in this scoring system is of major importance to the students attending the university, and the staff involved in the establishment. It’s of paramount importance for a university to be taking part in socially responsible investing; this could include anything from investments into alternative energy sources or implementations of less impactful waste management. Sheffield Hallam University in 2016 showed a great example of this by introducing a new environmental standard for its campus, and invested in its environmental impacts campaign to reduce their carbon footprint and improve waste management.

Another important factor of assessment in the Green University League Tables is educating students on the importance of sustainability and awareness. First class universities showed proactive measures to educate students, with extra-curricular activities based around the need for sustainable development and how this can be achieved in different scenarios. An example of this can be found from the University of Liverpool, in which progress has been made in the past few years to reduce the volume of laser printer waste and energy usage in the IT departments – Information was given to the residents of the university informing them of facts they might not know regarding updates to their PC and leaving different devices on for extended periods of time.

Kings Place: Britain’s BREEAM Leader

Why the Kings Place development off Regent’s Canal has at this moment in time, the highest BREEAM rating in the United Kingdom

The BREEAM award winning Kings Place, London. Image by Keith Paisley (via Shutterstock).

The award-winning Kings Place: seen with Regent’s Canal in full view. Image by Keith Paisley, 2011 (Creative Commons License: Attribution-Share Alike).

In the last decade, the area around King’s Cross and St. Pancras stations has undergone a dramatic change. Until recently, it had been a down-to-heel part of London. Firstly, this was sparked by the Eurostar trains being moved to St. Pancras station. In 2008, the opening of Kings Place added another performance venue to the capital. Almost a decade after opening, its recent BREEAM assessment has given the arts venue something to talk about.

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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.

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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