Worker sorting construction waste into designated material skips

UK’s largest contractor Balfour Beatty accelerates journey towards decarbonisation

21 Feb 24 3 minute read

One of the UK's leading infrastructure organisations, Balfour Beatty, has engineered a process to accelerate its journey towards decarbonisation, a circular economy, and digitalisation.

Balfour Beatty aims to deliver Scotland’s first net zero college pathfinder project under the Scottish Government’s Net Zero Public Sector Buildings (NZPSB) standard.

Collaboration is key

After being awarded the Fife College Campus contract, Balfour Beatty will be responsible for the delivery of three buildings spanning over 20,000m2.

Inside the new campus you can expect industry-standard workshops for engineering and construction, a university hub so learners can study to degree level with a range of university partners on campus, a purpose-built learning café, sports hall, and an innovation and events hub to cater for different College and community events.

As part of Balfour Beatty’s COP26 focus, (COP26 - Sustainability - Balfour Beatty plc) renewed and more sustainable ways of working were explored and of the key outcomes of this was greater awareness of everyone’s role in the transition to net zero.

Head of Supply Chain Development, Jim Brannan explained: “I was constantly consuming information about how the world was changing, and not for the better. I couldn’t ignore the evidence of the climate crisis any longer and felt motivated to take action. As a large business, I recognised our potential impact and  moral responsibility to act and educate the industry along the way.”

It was already well on its way to becoming a more circular organisation, but Balfour Beatty had to work smarter and faster from the very beginning of this project.

Jim Brannan continued: “It’s not about recycling or reusing, it's about rethinking and reimaging our processes and innovating right from the design stage to the manufacturing of materials, through to the construction.

“Collaborating from the start is key to the longevity of all businesses across our industry.”

Focusing on sustainability

As Balfour Beatty assessed its own green credentials, it collaborated with Zero Waste Scotland together with their Industry partner Insight Futures (IF) and their CIRRCLE modelling tool and digital platform to work in collaboration with  their supply chain to gain more detailed sustainability information than had previously been gathered.

To do this, the team launched the Climate Accelerator initiative which included the use of a Climate Action Benchmark Assessment, targeting mechanical and electrical suppliers.

The assessment was conducted to highlight which stage each supplier was at on their circular awareness and innovation journey. Once results were gathered, suppliers were then signposted to support and key recommendations for how to progress their sustainability agenda.

Zero Waste Scotland offered suppliers who took part a range of support, including access to technical expertise, funding and practical advice based on research and evidence.

The assessment identified development opportunities for 75 respondents across 49 companies who completed the assessment, which will result in a change of pace across the sector.

The assessment process was also supported by a Climate Accelerator Conference where the customer, Fife College, Balfour Beatty, the designer and the supply chain were all brought together to discuss.

This process allowed for cross-sector information sharing and a key barrier identified was the use of packaging and the competing requirements needed to prevent M&E equipment from damage and dust during transit and installation.

Whitecroft Lighting, Balfour Beatty and the University of Cardiff have recently held conversations to move this forward and explore solutions.

Packaging is not just a waste issue, but also a productivity issue. It’s labour-intensive right from the start, from unwrapping materials, to disposing of the packaging. But what if you didn’t dispose of the packaging and instead returned it to the manufacture to be reused multiple times?

This is just one of the many solutions Whitecroft Lighting, Balfour Beatty and the University of Cardiff are exploring alongside a ‘digital container’ - where packages are scanned when delivered and the journey is tracked and logged assisting with delivery and payment processes, and ensuring the circular process is upheld. This showcases a circular solution that benefits all across the supply chain.

Throughout the Fife College Campus project, Balfour Beatty will work collaboratively with the supply chain, encouraging them to action the support they have received and implement changes across their processes during this contract and beyond. Balfour Beatty is clear that the circular/net zero transition is not something the supply chain can solve on their own.

Jim Brannan commented: “This approach will result in significant carbon and financial savings not only for this project but for future projects.

“Net-zero carbon, circular innovation and digitalisation are key drivers, not only to survive but thrive in this decisive decade.

“All companies today must now focus on sustainability.”

Organisations are uncovering new opportunities and reimagining their business models with the help of Balfour Beatty and Zero Waste Scotland. Decarbonisation, circular economy, and digitalisation performance is essential for businesses to be fit for the future.

Part funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

“We’re investigating solutions to help drive the industry forward, not just ourselves or our projects. We want to bring real change and lead the way".