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Off-grid, renewable, net zero carbon building by Willmott Dixon


Building Mass made from recycled material


Hours of design from our people and our supply chain

James’ Trainee Challenge: Creating Willmott Dixon's first net zero carbon pod 

James created Willmott Dixon's first, off-grid renewable pod which will be used by students for years to come...

Every year, each office elects a final-year management trainee to plan and deliver a community project, with just £500 seed money. Our trainees engage with local stakeholders and charity partners, galvanising our people and supply-chain partners to support. In 2021, all challenges were guided by Now or Never.

Read more about what our trainee challenger in our London & East region, James Vosper, achieved…

James created Willmott Dixon’s first off-grid, renewable, net zero carbon operational building; the ‘Now or Never’ pod.

With a strong team, including 25 supply chain partners, James designed and built a classroom pod for students at Pixbrook Academy in Central Bedfordshire, providing the school with a sustainable resource and additional classroom space.

The pod, which was designed to Passivhaus Retrofit standards, in terms of the building fabric, airtightness and thermal efficiency, was built off-site via a factory in Norfolk. It is powered solely through eight 450w solar panels, fixed to a green roof.

The pod has several sustainable features, including:

  • Re-use of an existing timber frame
  • Composite cladding manufactured from 90% recycled material using 100% renewable energy
  • Insulation manufactured from over 95% recycled plastic
  • Green roof to increase biodiversity
  • Reclaimed fibres re-manufactured for use as new carpet tiles
  • Solar Panels generate electricity for the building
  • Interior furniture made from reclaimed ocean waste and plastic
  • Re-use of waste material from a local construction site for repurposing into pod foundations
  • Roofing system which provides rainwater harvesting
  • Passivhaus certified windows and doors

Not only does the pod emit zero carbon emissions, but the team also sourced a range of recycled and sustainable materials to reduce embodied carbon. The embodied carbon of the structural elements achieves 84 kgCO₂e/m², meeting the performance targets required by SCORS, RIBA and LETI for 2030. The materials used to build the pod amounted to over £34,200 and were donated free-of-charge.

Michael Gibbs, Associate at Bond Bryan, who supported the project, said: “The primary task of the pod is in finding the limits of the current technology, so that we understand where our attention should be focused when working to the 2030 and 2050 climate goals set by the government. The pod has been hugely successful in reappropriating current resources. Instead of continuing to take raw material from a finite and hugely indebted planet we have found ways of providing functional space with existing products.”

Throughout the project, James engaged the Academy’s students through educational workshops on renewable energy, digital 3D scanning and sustainable materials. He also set up a design competition with the students’ results added into the final design, leaving a legacy for the Academy.

Stephen Adams, Principal at Pixbrook Academy said: “The pod will provide our Academy with invaluable alternative learning space designed to enhance the environmental credentials of the school and cater for pupils who need access to a space outside the usual parameters of the main school. It will be dual purpose meeting the needs of our ecological and SEN education programme.”

The aim is for the Now or Never Pod to be replicated and scaled up. Three timber frames are already lined up for future pods.

In addition to the creating the pod for Pixbrook, James led fundraising initiatives, including a football tournament and the National Three Peaks Challenge. These initiatives raised £11,522 which was donated to the Sue Ryder Hospice, the Royal Free Charity and to support one of our Trainees in their rehabilitation for bone cancer.


First off-grid, renewable, net zero carbon building created for local school.