Winner: BRE Group
No firm working in construction can afford to ignore the pressing sustainability agenda, but this award recognises those going further.
A shortlist of eight strove for sustainability success in front of a critical panel of judges, and it was Building Research Establishment (BRE) Group who emerged victorious.
Working to develop products, tools, standards and qualifications that positively change the construction sector’s environmental impact, BRE proved in 2014 that it also practises what it preaches.
The group’s BREEAM scheme is widely recognised as the UK’s leading certification for measuring new buildings’ environmental performance, through which the construction industry is constantly aiming to hit greater heights of sustainable excellence.
Supplementing that methodology is BRE’s Innovation Park, where practical showcasing of the very best in low to zero-carbon buildings, sustainable innovations and technologies are influencing the way construction is carried out in the UK – and around the world.
To date, BRE’s SMARTWaste initiative has helped more than 10,000 construction projects divert more than 20m tonnes of waste away from landfill.
These achievements are ongoing, with the BRE Trust, which owns BRE Group, ploughing £1m of profit annually back into ongoing research.
However, the judges were also expecting the winner to demonstrate exceptional inward-looking sustainability initiatives, and BRE did not disappoint here either.
The group’s S Plan has been running for seven years and although it is supported through the group from senior management level, BRE relies on a team of 20 volunteers to drive engagement with and improvement of the plan internally.
In 2014 BRE proudly pointed to a number of successful sustainable initiatives.
“In this field, BRE are leaders in innovation and their global reach is excellent in raising the UK’s profile internationally”
These included solar panels on the group’s restaurant roof to feed the kitchen’s hot water boiler, saving 8,000 kWh of gas, which in turn contributed to a wider saving in gas consumption of 25 per cent in the core office buildings.
Furthermore, BRE has demonstrated its innovative approach to sustainable business practices by working with the University of Hertfordshire to develop a ‘Power over Ethernet’ system feeding DC power to computers and tablets direct from solar panels.
Led by the voluntary group, BRE staff demonstrate a clear passion for the group’s sustainable culture.
Initiatives include a focus on transport to work: in addition to 36 per cent of staff cycling or car sharing to get to work, the group has teamed up with a local bus service to provide public transport connections for employees and visitors to the site.
Finally, in 2014 BRE turned part of its attention to biodiversity at the group’s 28 ha main site.
The group is creating a biodiversity trail on site to encourage wildlife such as bees, bats and insects to thrive by bringing woodland and lakes back into operation, opening these natural spaces up to both employees, visitors and local residents.
BRE is also taking its responsibility for education seriously: in 2014, more than 2,100 children toured the BRE Innovation Park to learn about how the built environment affects the climate and what the sector can do to improve its impact.
Highly Commended: Larkfleet Group
Among strong competition, the judges were also impressed by Larkfleet Group, awarding them a high commendation.
Larkfleet demonstrated not just a commitment to sustainability throughout the group, but also an innovation-led business strategy that marks it out as “one to watch”, the judges said.
Larkfleet independently audits its site waste, diverting 96 per cent away from landfill.
In its housebuilding arm, solar panels and A-rated gas boilers are fitted as standard with new units, while the firm is making maximum use of offsite timber-frame construction.
The group’s facilities are themselves equally sustainable: the timber-frame factory utilises solar power, while Larkfleet’s head office has lowered its carbon footprint by investing in renewable energies, leading to the group being zero emissions certified by the Carbon Neutral Company.
The focus on innovation extends to research and development: judges were particularly impressed by the development of rising foundations for housing to alleviate flood risk, and an experimental solar power system aiming to generate carbon-free electricity.
J Murphy & Sons