Saturday, July 2 2022

Angela Pllu, Head of Environment and Sustainability, reflects on the progress Balfour Beatty has made behind the scenes over the past few months at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh.

It’s been a few months since we last reported on our journey to the zero carbon building site of the future in our Edinburgh Biomes – Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh project.

As the advanced works are coming to an end, we currently have a limited presence on site. But fear not, that hasn’t slowed us down and we’ve continued to work behind the scenes to address some of the thorny issues we face in reducing our on-site carbon emissions.

One of the things we’ve been tackling is the financial costs associated with zero-carbon construction. Generally, we’ve found the upfront costs of low carbon options to be considerably higher than more traditional methods – but of course the costs can be recouped over the longer term through energy efficiency.

We are taking this opportunity to test as many low carbon options as possible, at no additional cost to the customer, by working with third parties and our supply chain partners such as Sunbelt Rentals. They’ve stepped up and subsidized the cost of eco-cabins on site, allowing us to collect the best data on their performance and show the benefits these cabins can actually deliver.

Through these trials, we will understand what works and what doesn’t, both in terms of carbon reduction and cost effectiveness, and once we understand, we can implement these solutions on other projects in our portfolio.

Elsewhere, topsoil was at the “top” of our list.

Although we are always looking to reuse topsoil as it is a nutrient rich, fertile, valuable and finite resource taking around 100 years to manufacture, on a project of this scale we had a substantial amount of spare! We offered the land to individuals and local organizations and were delighted to be inundated with requests from the community.

Made possible by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) agreeing that we could use the ‘Greenfield Soil Protocol’, we delivered some 50 tonnes to the local area. A significant step forward to ensure that this precious resource is classified as a material that can be reused and that its intrinsic value is not lost.

And finally, as I look back on one of the main goals of this experience, I am also delighted to report that we have made significant progress in the development of our employees as well as our supply chain partners.

Across the UK, we have a mandatory Carbon Conscious education program in place, so that all of our employees understand the carbon costs of their behavior and how they can play their part in helping Balfour Beatty reduce its carbon footprint.

We have also started working with our partners to ensure that qualifications and training frameworks reflect the importance of carbon-related knowledge and skills, helping to increase the level of understanding of climate change and how their skills contribute to net zero. One of the key elements we looked at is ensuring that sustainability is included in all learning programs.

We still have a long way to go, but we are happy with how far we have come. It hasn’t been easy, but personally, I’m grateful to work for a company that takes its environmental responsibility so seriously and is willing to work for the benefit of the entire industry.


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