Building back better… and greener!

In recent years, the need to improve sustainability within the UK’s built environment has been steadily gaining momentum. Then COVID-19 struck and this need for healthy buildings has been emphasised even more in order to ‘build back better’ after the pandemic.

As several examples from across our business and client base highlight, we are now seeing many organisations within the construction industry rising to the occasion, by leveraging sustainable solutions that benefit both their occupants and the environment.

In this article, Director Stuart Byles reveals how Pexhurst is helping to accelerate the transformation towards a sustainable built environment and future.

How is Pexhurst working with clients to deliver sustainable solutions?

We recognise that in order to affect change and reduce our industry’s huge carbon footprint, we must adapt conventional practice in a way that makes sense for our clients. 

As a main contractor, we have traditionally worked to client specifications. More recently however, we have adopted a proactive approach with clients at the tender stage. This means we are actively suggesting sustainable alternatives to traditional materials, ranging from eco-friendly flooring to precast concrete slabs.

We are currently working on a top 50 list of Pexhurst endorsed sustainable alternatives that we plan to present to all our clients moving forward. This will not only accelerate the move towards more environmentally friendly options, but also give us a commercial advantage over our competitors.

We have embedded BREEAM into our offering and are proud to have nine BREEAM accredited Site Sustainability Managers (SSM) - two directors, two contracts managers and five site managers who have completed online and in-class training - they support the achievement of the sustainability design aspirations of a project at the construction, handover, and close-out stages, including the target BREEAM rating.

To qualify as an SSM, candidates must undertake pre-course online training, then attend a one-day classroom training course before undergoing an examination. In addition to this, all our staff have undergone a BREEAM awareness course which offers a basic understanding of the principles of BREEAM, followed by a more detailed approach to understanding the best ways to maximise the potential of client projects.

Click on the image to find out more about BREEAM

As a business, how is Pexhurst fostering sustainability?

We are committed to driving change by decreasing our carbon footprint and are exploring a transition towards becoming a net zero carbon company. But rather than paying to reduce an equivalent amount of carbon emissions through voluntary carbon offsetting, we are looking at how we can actually decrease our carbon footprint.

To begin this process, we are calculating our CO2 generation and comparing this by project across Pexhurst, as well as with UK construction sector energy benchmarks to help us set targets.

Across all of our projects we are seeing clients opting for daylight linked dimming solutions and air source heat pumps to heat and cool their buildings, both of which have been designed to reduce energy usage across their buildings. 

We are adopting the same strategy on our live projects using smart cabins with energy saving lighting and grey water recycling, segregating waste for easier recycling and reduction of landfill and changing all temporary lighting to low wattage LED versions. Our Head Office also features PV panels which has made a massive difference - the equivalent of planting 778 trees since they were installed in 2018!

The photovoltaic panels at Pexhurst Head Office

How can the construction industry pave the way for a greener future?

For everyone within the construction industry, it is important to remember that the choices we make today will be felt for decades to come. While building greener can be more costly upfront, it is worth emphasising that greener buildings have lower operational costs than traditional ones and their asset value is around 10% higher.

We need more cross-industry collaboration to ensure all key stakeholders across the supply chain are working towards the same goal: to reduce emissions. Material suppliers, for example, have a responsibility for reducing their emission, but they also need the demand for sustainable solutions from contractors like us (and our clients) to help them invest in the transition…

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