Today, we hear from Tom Reynolds, chief executive of the Bathroom Manufacturers Association.

Architects and designers have often been at the forefront of more sustainable home improvement. But to avoid greenwashing, it’s essential that specifiers see the whole picture around decarbonisation. So, let’s revisit some first principles.

A carbon scope is a measure of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with a specific activity or organisation. There are several different types of carbon scopes:

  • Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions from sources owned or controlled by an organisation. These include emissions from fossil fuel combustion, such as burning coal or natural gas for energy on-site.
  • Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, steam, heating, and cooling consumed by an organisation.
  • Scope 3 emissions are all other indirect emissions that occur in an organisation’s value chain, including activities such as the extraction and production of purchased materials and fuels, transportation of products, and waste disposal. This includes the carbon associated with a product in its use phase.

Bathroom manufacturers are already making great strides on scopes 1 and 2, with many already able to certify that their operations are carbon neutral. Scope 3 abatement, the necessary step towards the elusive net zero, is more difficult.

Firstly, the bathroom sector has a complex global value chain, making it difficult to measure the emissions with such operations, let alone abate them. “ESG” requirements of investors lead the sector to assess scope 3 emissions seriously. With likely carbon pricing coming in the medium term (check the EU’s CBAM), many suppliers may look to reassess their supply chain. It’s something to consider when making product selections.

But secondly, and more significantly, terminal fittings in bathroom installations are part of a broader system in the home. By recommending the decarbonisation of hot water heating to clients, either as an extension of a project or ‘next item on the to-do list’, designers play a vital role in addressing the upstream use phase emissions associated with bathroom products. By transitioning hot water heating away from fossil fuel-based energy sources to clean energy options like solar and heat pumps, specifiers and homeowners help bathroom manufacturers get a step closer to net zero.

Gaining the whole picture around decarbonisation can help specifiers make more genuinely sustainable product choices and facilitate honest and nuanced conversations with clients about the wider steps necessary for authentically green homes.

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