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Award-winning approach to built environment challenges
Syntegra Energy Consulting

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Syntegra Energy Consulting

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Syntegra Energy Consulting

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Award-winning approach to built environment challenges

There has been much to cheer recently in this environment of political uncertainty with the usual round of awards ceremonies and bold pronouncements heralding the start of the new financial year.

One award winning nomination caught my eye not only because of its impressive citation and the importance of the work the category sought to reward, but also because it represents a huge leap forward in a critical area – recognising the need for organisations to collaborate when developing a sustainable built environment.

We routinely come across companies, in real-time or virtually, who claim to have devised the next big thing in terms of saving the planet.

Some are undoubtedly worthy ideas but doomed to fail because they do not form part of a joined-up approach. In isolation, they will not make the impact they potentially could if they were part of a bigger picture.

I was interested when I read about the launch at the turn of the year of the UK Green Building Council’s (UK-GBC) Innovation Lab, which aims to solve systemic challenges in the built environment through collaborative and sustainable innovation.

Its collaborative approach to analyse future trends and develop new solutions in the construction industry was long overdue as issues around the built environment became the hot topic among green campaigners.

I was even more impressed when, after the initial launch phase, construction giants Carillion joined the Lab as a partner.

With its broad range of construction consultancy expertise, and the ability to lead by example, this was a sound move and should really drive development in this field.

A quick look at Carillion’s recent financial figures shows all those doubters that profitability and sustainability can go hand in hand and are not, as some would argue, mutually incompatible.

Since 2011 they have achieved a reduction in their carbon footprint of more than 30 per cent, 94 per cent diversion of waste from landfill and a 40 per cent reduction in operational water use.

The company has set itself a number of challenging targets to reach by 2020, including contributing £40m to profitability through sustainable actions and ensuring 100 per cent compliance from suppliers to source materials from responsible and ethical sources. It has already achieved £33m in additional profits through its actions.

Carillion’s chief sustainability officer David Picton said: “Despite many different names for sustainability, one thread remains the same: businesses without visionary engagement, inspiring stories, responsible compliance or public trust are businesses without competitive futures. Our people and our partnerships continue to build a better business, connect a better society and create better environment.”

Now the company’s inspirational approach to business has led it being named winner of the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Sustainable Development.*

UK-GBC head of learning and innovation Cat Hirst said:The open innovation format of UK-GBC’s Innovation Lab sets a precedent for collaboration in the built environment. Using our unique position to convene organisations from across the built environment, we have been able to harness the collective intelligence from key professionals to analyse and address the issues that affect our industry.

“The Innovation Lab is already generating some important insights that will go on to inform the innovation process as the participants begin to target issues that require a radical approach to innovation.  What’s clear is that these industry wide issues need to be tackled in collaboration, and cannot be solved as effectively by a single organisation.

“Research and Development levels across our industry are painfully low; the UK currently only spends £43m on construction R&D. The risks to a single company of investing in developing a solution for such a high-cost industry is often seen as prohibitive. But we desperately need to find ways of working together to achieve radical change if we are to challenge business as usual and transition to a sustainable way of working.

“At UK-GBC we’re seeking to catalyse this change by using our unique position to convene our member organisations to work together to address the issues our industry faces.  We want to ensure there is the time, space, and structure for open innovation to occur for the built environment.”

The scope to change the built environment for the better is huge. Discussions such as those prompted by the Innovation Lab are vital, the involvement of big name partners key to its success. Because if they can do it, so can other companies – especially if they just take the plunge and talk to each other.

*Full list of winners of the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise available here

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