Brilliant Buildings: meeting our customers' sustainability needs

Alasdair explains how our sustainable approach to buildings is helping achieve net zero.

Last year, we launched Now or Never. Our decisive decade. One of the key themes of the strategy is Brilliant Buildings, which sets out our ambitions for delivering projects which are net zero carbon in operation, future-climate ready and enhance the health and wellbeing of their occupants.

Our target for Brilliant Buildings is that 100% of our new buildings and major refurbishments will achieve net zero operational carbon by 2030.

Over the past year, we’ve seen increasing demand for sustainability and a realisation that the built environment sector can support our customers’ sustainability needs as part of the wider UK target to be net zero carbon by 2050.

In the past year alone, we have secured two new Passivhaus projects. One of these is for Caerphilly County Borough Council, where we’re developing homes which will be built with high levels of insulation, high-performance windows with insulated frames, airtight building fabric and a mechanical heating and ventilation system. As well as helping to reduce carbon emissions, these buildings will result in low energy bills for tenants and support the growing need for affordable housing in the county borough.

Another is Spelthorne Leisure Centre, which will be the first wet and dry leisure centre to achieve the Passivhaus standard in Greater London and will be designed to consume up to 70% less energy compared with a standard new building. Finally, we’re delivering the University of Oxford’s St Peter’s College, where we will be creating two four-storey buildings to the ultra-low carbon Passive House Institute Low Energy Building standard.

In addition to delivering buildings to the excellent low carbon principles that the Passivhaus standard demands, we have been working on several other initiatives that support the delivery of net zero carbon buildings.


For example, several customers have selected our innovative, capital cost free Community Solar Energy model. Our offering means customers can effectively purchase the energy generated by photovoltaic panels on their buildings from a local social enterprise community group, which means they don’t have to invest directly themselves in solar power, nor maintain it themselves, but they reap the benefits of generating their own renewable electricity.

Bristol Beacon, an iconic music venue in the city, is aiming to be one of the first projects to use the scheme, supporting their aim to become the first carbon neutral music venue in the UK.

Furthermore, EnergySynergy™, our approach to closing the performance gap, is helping our customers reduce the emissions of their building during occupation. Now included as standard practice on every non-domestic project, our approach is helping to unlock significant carbon and cost savings. We’ve just started our monitoring on the University of Warwick’s IBRB building, which we completed in March this year, following excellent results on the university’s Sports and Wellness hub.

This combination of low-carbon design principles, coupled with monitoring and renewable energy options, will enable us to deliver building that are net zero carbon in operation such as Silverwood School, for Wiltshire County Council, and Lancashire-based Tarleton Academy, which will be a pilot for the Department for Education’s net zero carbon policy for future schools. We’re also working with Inspired Villages and Legal & General Capital to deliver our first net zero carbon retirement village in Caddington, Bedfordshire.

But it’s not just the carbon our buildings emit, we’re examining our wider footprint, looking at the carbon associated with our materials and supply chain. This year, we’ve carried out embodied carbon assessments on 71% of our projects where we have early design responsibility. And we’re working with our supply chain partners to; examine the carbon footprints of their products and help them take steps to reduce carbon in their operations.

Finally, our new business Collida, is an integrated built environment platform, that empowers customers by giving them greater control over their development needs. To do this, we bring together specialists in sustainable design, procurement, and delivery under one roof, then supercharge them with cutting-edge technology. All Collida buildings are net zero carbon in operation, with lower embodied carbon when measured against relevant industry benchmarks, all delivered using high levels of MMC.