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George Clarke explores the Ideal Home Show

This week I made a return to host the Ideal Home Show at Kensington Olympia in West London.

I made my first appearance as an Ambassador for the Ideal Home Show in 2010 and didn’t miss a year all the way through to 2017.

After that, I decided to take a break from it for a few years because of my gruelling schedule and then of course Covid came along and put a stop to all public events for some time.

So, it was really nice to make my return to the show this week, which is a national institution as it’s been going strong since it first launched way back in 1908!

What a unique piece of event/home innovation history.

Think about it, 2050 is only 26 years away! We have so much to do in so little time

George Clarke George Clarke Architect, writer, TV presenter and Ecodan Ambassador

Heat pumps on show

I’m proud to say that Mitsubishi Electric took a stand at the show this year to show off the Ecodan air source heat pumps (ASHP) and it had a big impact.

It was clear that people really want to learn more about new technologies and new innovations that we know can make a real difference to their homes.

Innovation has always been at the heart of The Ideal Home Show (the microwave oven was first launched there) and so it was no surprise that curious visitors were keen to find out more about air source heat pumps.

The show definitely highlighted the fact that even though air source heat pumps are regularly in the press and are being promoted as the future of home heating by the government, there is still a lack of awareness about what heat pumps are, what they do and how they work with the general public.

When I was there I spent a few hours on the stand and I would say 2 couples out of 10 that Ispoke too had some knowledge of heat pumps.

Luckily, they were 2 couples we also managed to sell an Ecodan R290 too! 

So educating and informing those, not in the know, is absolutely crucial for the industry and I was proud that the Mitsubishi Electric Ecodan brand had such a significant presence at a consumer event like this.

So Ecodan being at the Ideal Home Show and banging the drum to promote the air source heat pump industry definitely improved awareness and stimulated a large amount of interest.

However, it also highlighted the fact that there is still a huge amount of work to do to get anywhere near the government’s target of 600,000 installs per year, every year by 2028.

But there was no doubt that the show was a resounding success. I’ll be there again next year and hope Mitsubishi Electric will be there as well to show off the Ecodan system.

It’s about more than our homes

As you know, HOMES are my passion and I’ve spent most of my career designing, redesigning, refurbishing and upgrading homes across the country.

But I have also being involved is commercial buildings throughout my time as an architect too.

The ecological upgrading of commercial buildings provides a real opportunity for us on our journey to net zero carbon and with so many commercial buildings requiring large amounts of warm heating, hot water as well as cooling, then a heat pump is a fantastic, clean and green way to be able to deliver that heat.

There are estimated to be 1.7 million commercial buildings in the UK and around 85% of them have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating that is less that a ‘B’.

This is pretty terrible when you think about it.

Lots of commercial buildings are operated and used intensely from say 8am in the morning to 8pm at night, and to think that so many of them are thermally and ecologically poor seems like such a waste of heat energy.

So, commercial buildings are a great opportunity for us to get closer to the government’s ambitious ASHP target, and let’s be honest, if people can see that an air source heat pump can ecologically provide all of the heating they need in large buildings when they are at work, at their kids school, or visiting the local swimming pool, then it will give them confidence that an ASHP can heat their home.

Don’t get stranded

Commercial buildings are often easier to decarbonise than homes, so they offer the country some ‘low hanging fruit’ as we push as hard as we can to get to net zero carbon by 2050.

Also, if you are a commercial landlord you want your building to be as attractive as possible to potential tenants who may be interested in taking out a long lease on your commercial building.

Part of making your building ‘attractive’ is to make it green. So many companies now want to be as green and sustainable as possible in every single part of their business and the premises where the staff work is a significant part of that.

Tenants will demand green buildings from landlords, and if landlords don’t rise to that challenge, then their assets are going to be less desirable, less profitable and may even be abandoned altogether.

A commercial building that becomes less desirable becomes a stranded asset. Thats not good for anyone.

None of us want to see abandoned, empty building. One, it is such a waste of a building and two, it can start to bring down the character and reputation of an area and can even reduce neighbouring property values.

The need for leadership

Unfortunately, the UK government isn’t providing clear and bold regulations to make our commercial buildings as green as they should be. Some steps are being taken by government, but as usual they don’t go far enough and they aren’t happening fast enough.

It is going to be a tough journey to net zero carbon by 2050, so the government and industry needs to set ambitious targets, impose regulations and set signposts to help the commercial property industry get there.

Think about it, 2050 is only 26 years away! We have so much to do in so little time.

I’m pleased to say that the more creative and imaginative landlords aren’t waiting around for the government to make decisions. They realise that government is moving too slow and as commercial organisations they want to be ahead of the game and are setting their own targets and standards to create buildings that are powered by renewable source. 

I take my hat off to them for doing that.

Being a pioneering and ecological landlord is good for business as your building is way more desirable, it is good for their tenants because many companies have high standards for their ESG (environmental, social and governance), it is good for the environment and I’ve no doubt it will be good for the landlord’s long term profits too.

A sustainable business opportunity

The construction/refurbishment market is also ready to respond to this growing demand for existing commercial building to be made more sustainable.

Large main contractors have begun to create decarbonisation clusters or retro fit focused teams within their organisations to capitalise on this exciting business opportunity.

We are also seeing a new generation of employees and customers making it clear that they WANT to work within and deal with organisations that not only demonstrate, but also deliver on major commitments to bill and work in sustainable buildings.

Employees want to work in an ecologically strong building not only because it is the right thing to do for the planet, but it also improves their levels of comfort, their mental health, and their well-being within the workplace.

Sick Building Syndrome has been a major problem in commercial buildings for far too long so operating from a high quality, ecologically sound building is good for staff, it’s good for the image of the company and the long-term reputation of your business.

Well done Salford

Published on the HUB on the 20th of November 2023 there is an excellent piece written by Carole Titmuss titled ‘Heat Pumps Help Reduce Salford’s Carbon Footprint’.

Carole looks at the work of Salford City Council who transitioned from a gas burning heating to a ASHP renewables system at its Civic Centre.

It is fantastic case study in how successful green, commercial installations can be. Through good design, engineering and a first-class installation the renewable heat pump system has helped reduce the building’s carbon footprint by 70 tonnes, or around 54%.


That is fantastic news for the city council, for their staff, for the tax payer, for the image of the council and it is also fantastic for the environment too.

Nobody loses.

Everybody gains.

Back to reality for a moment

This is great but the reality is that the UK has fewer heat pumps as a proportion of the population compared to the EU.

The UK currently has just 412 heat pumps per 100,000 people. 55,000 heat pumps were sold in the UK in 2022, but that is embarrassing compared to the 620,000 that were sold in France in the same period.

In commercial buildings there were only around 60,000 heat pump installations in the UK in 2023.

If it is true that we have 1.7 million existing commercial buildings in the UK, with many more new commercial buildings being constructed too, then this a fantastic opportunity for heat pump manufacturers and installers to make our commercial builds switch from fossil-fuel burning heating and cooling systems, to using clean, green energy instead.

We need to educate the public. We need to educate landlords and we need to rapidly increase the number of ASHP installations across the board for the UK to hit it’s legally binding, net zero targets by 2050.

Times really is running out.

We need to act together and fast.

George Clarke is an architect, writer, TV presenter and Ecodan Ambassador