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Watch: Carillion showcases green agenda on mammoth Battersea regeneration

The contractor is implementing a range of measures to hit both clients’ and its own green goals but warns government must play its part in backing low-carbon construction.

Sustainability is about more than creating a low-carbon environment; it makes good business sense.

Embracing a sustainable business model can help protect the environment, of course.

But it should also benefit the communities the company works in and benefit the business both financially and in terms of staff retention.

Clients increasingly include sustainability as a core part of what they want and contractors are increasingly stepping up to the plate.

Carillion is one such company working to place sustainability at the centre of its business.

One of the company’s most high-profile clients at the moment is the Battersea Power Station Development Corporation.

“Battersea is a chance for us to be a responsible operator in a very tightly controlled area right in the centre of the city”

David Picton, Carillion

Carillion is building the £450m phase one of the enormous redevelopment of the iconic power station and its surroundings, known as Circus West.

This will see Carillion build 866 apartments in 12 sections. Construction began in December last year and is due to finish in autumn 2016.

Huge CHP beyond self-sufficient

The team is keeping sustainability in mind throughout. In total, Carillion will remove 110,000 cu m of soil from the site, with barges on the Thames used to do much of this. During peak bulk excavation this will take up to 75 lorries off the road each day, saving 4.5 tonnes of carbon per day.

“This cuts the carbon footprint and answers some of the environmental responsibility targets,” says Carillion chief sustainability officer David Picton.

All the bathrooms have been constructed offsite, with 1,350 pods to be craned into place when ready.

A combined heat and power plant will supply power to all phases of the project, including phase one. Initially, however, the scheme will use its own energy centre; the huge CHP plant will be installed underneath the riverside park once phase two is complete.

Once in use, the plant will not only power all seven phases of the power station development, but will produce excess heat that will be sold back to grid for use in other local developments, including over the river in Pimlico.

Economic and social sustainability at Battersea

Carillion’s sustainability targets don’t just cover the environment, but look at economic and social sustainability for the local area as well.

Mr Picton explains how the project will engage with the community over three to four years.

“Battersea is a chance to work with the local community and build up proper relationships, be that with local schools or charitable causes”

David Picton, Carillion

“We get a chance to be a responsible operator in a very tightly controlled area right in the centre of the city,” he says.

The company has committed to placing 100 14-19-year-olds in work on the project, as well as 80 apprentices.

More than 200 local schoolchildren have been invited to see the site, while approximately 300 training courses for staff will be hosted over the project’s duration.

Battersea Power Station Phase 1 in numbers

£450m Contract value for Circus West

148 weeks Length of programme

110,000 cu m Soil to be removed

85,000 cu m Cement used

1,350 Bathroom pods constructed offsite

750 Lorry journeys saved by using river barges to transport soil

100 Number of 14-19-year-olds placed in work on site

80 Apprentices who will work on the project

866 Apartments to be built


“It’s a chance to work with the local community and build up proper relationships, be that with local schools or charitable causes,” Mr Picton says. “It establishes links with the community we can leave behind.”

Carillion has invited a number of local youth groups onto the site, with football training and zumba classes held on the grass in front of the power station.

The firm has also targeted local procurement, with a number of suppliers contacted through Meet the Buyer. More than 4,500 jobs will be supported by the development at its peak.

“When you think about the economic regeneration that we’ll bring to this area and the legacy we’ll leave behind, we genuinely believe this is responsible business,” Mr Picton says.

Sustainability target success

Carillion launched the final version of its 2013 Sustainability Report last month.

Success against social sustainability targets across the business includes achieving 40 per cent local spending including SMEs on contracts in the UK (against a target of 30 per cent), ensuring 86 per cent of apprentices who completed their framework had an “employment outcome” (target: 50 per cent), and getting 12 per cent of employees to take special leave for community engagement within areas in which the company works (target: 6 per cent).

“We’re able to give ourselves a tick on these targets, but we did miss our target for 100 per cent of contracts to contain a community needs plan,” Mr Picton says. In the end, 73 per cent of contracts met this requirement.

“We’ll keep working on this. If you’re going to be authentic on sustainability, you have to engage with local communities. All are different from each other, but it’s so important that you can’t give it up.”

Green Deal difficulties

One particularly challenging area last year was the Green Deal. “The theory behind it is a good one – anything that tackles waste and energy is good,” Mr Picton says.

“We made a major investment in acquiring Eaga and did have intentions to work in this area. But the market changed around us. The Green Deal became very difficult to administer and whatever we tried, it became difficult.”

“The Green Deal became very difficult to administer and whatever we tried, it became difficult”

David Picton, Carillion

The company undertook a £40m restructure in 2013, with chief executive Richard Howson admitting in October last year that he was “disappointed with the slow start” of the Green Deal and calling for “something to be done to really kick-start the new sector”.

This action from government never quite materialised, though.

“We had to restructure, which was difficult,” Mr Picton admits. “But essentially, we had to make it more in line with the market that’s available.”

Government action required

Although government intervention with regards to the Green Deal has not had the desired effect, government support is still needed to move the sustainability agenda forward.

“I think it’s half and half between the market and the government – neither can do it on their own,” Mr Picton argues.

“If the government is going to implement something, it can draw on the expertise of the industry – and especially from clients, as they set the aspirations.”

“Efficient construction can never compensate for inefficient design, so you have to get upstream and use BIM and integrated design”

David Picton, Carillion

Early engagement is vital to securing the best sustainability outcomes, and a two-way dialogue is necessary to make progress.

“Efficient construction can never compensate for inefficient design, so you have to get upstream and use building information modelling and integrated design,” he says.

“You can also help the client to see the long-term payback. Often, of course, the commissioner of a building is not the long-term user, but as more of us become FM providers as well as constructors that will help.

“I do think, though, that most of the politicians and organisations I meet are asking the right questions and want to help.”

Green leadership from the very top

Support from the top on the sustainability agenda is vital to its success within companies, and at Carillion this support comes directly from the board and executive management team.

“Our chairman Phillip Green is right behind us and is personally involved,” Mr Picton explains.

It’s this support that is allowing Carillion to plan for sustainability in the long term, developing a 2020 strategy and setting both annual and long-term targets. The goal is to embed many of these targets as company policy.

“It remains challenging but it’s baked right into what we do,” Mr Picton says.

“It’s something we’ve built up for years and we’ve recognised the engagement we have with communities is essential if we’re going to have an effective operation.

“We’ve got a very balanced view – we see the economic, environmental and social side of what we do as an interlaced agenda. We bring them together so that sustainability is not in addition to what we do – it is the way we do things.”

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