Despite challenges in our ways of working, 2020 saw us make significant progress this year on our sustainability efforts. We know that we have a long way to go, but we hope that the projects and research that we’ve carried out throughout the last 12 months will stand us in good stead to continue with sustainability efforts in the coming years, in order to reach our target of being Net Zero Carbon by 2030. Here’s what we’ve been up to.
We started the year by beginning a new partnership with United Utilities and Poly Pipe to create a ‘blue roof’ at Bloc (formerly Lowry House). A blue roof is developed to retain rainwater so that the drainage can be regulated in order to reduce the risk of urban flooding which is caused by stormwater run-off. The water is either stored in the blue roof system until it evaporates or it can be released once the storm has passed.
There are other ways of doing this, but blue roofs make use of spaces that might otherwise be redundant, without increasing the footprint of the building.
February saw the start of the implementation phase of the £2.2 million UK-Canada Power Forward Challenge project which will involve 36 sites in the UK (including 6 Bruntwood buildings) and 4 in Canada. The objective is to bring data-driven smart energy services to businesses and trial new initiatives. The project will run until early 2021 and is a collaboration between 8 partners: Qbots Energy, Bruntwood, Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), Hildebrand, Energy Catapult Systems (ECS), ICONICS, Penso Power and Dunsky.
When we updated our business strategy at the beginning of the pandemic, sustainability was - and still is - a key priority for the business. Central to this was the implementation of a Sustainability Programme to better develop and understand our sustainability strategy, so that we could put in place better ways of measuring and delivering sustainable change.
This programme focused on four areas:
- Energy projects
- Data and pilot
- Net Zero Carbon learning
- Our proposition
The aim of this programme was to create a set of tools to be used across all divisions of the business to meet our NZC targets. The project has been successful in delivering a number of outputs, we’ve gained sustainability support from a wider group of colleagues, a roadmap for 2030 has been created and next steps have been agreed as sustainability becomes embedded into the business as part of our overall purpose.
Work began on the Greater Manchester Local Energy Market project: an ambitious plan to revolutionise energy networks across the city region.
The project supports the region’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2038 and will see Greater Manchester’s 10 boroughs draw up plans to increase energy efficiency and pave the way for new technologies and low-carbon infrastructure in the future.
By generating more energy locally and storing it within a localised system, Greater Manchester will be able to improve efficiency – with energy travelling a shorter distance from where it’s generated to the point of use, reducing our overall environmental footprint.
Across the group, we embarked on a benchmarking exercise to set our baselines for water, waste, energy and gas, so that we could map out changes to reach our targets. We used a number of pilot buildings to assess the potential opportunities for reducing our carbon footprint and trial different technologies and initiatives. Once we’ve completed these pilot trials, we’ll be using our learnings and activity as a blueprint for similar buildings throughout our portfolio.
As part of our Data and Pilot workstream, we developed DEC (Display Energy Certificate) ratings reports for 31 of our buildings. DEC ratings act as markers to assess how energy efficient our buildings are and how much improvement is needed to make them as sustainable as possible. These reports are a crucial part of our knowledge and understanding of our building performance and will enable us to monitor and report improvements.
We completed works to install solar PV at Lancastrian House. Over the course of the year, solar panelling has been installed at Lancastrian, Booths Park, The Exchange and Sale Point and will help us to drive down our non-renewable energy usage.
We brought our colleagues on board with our sustainability efforts through our first ever sustainability survey. We wanted to explore what our colleagues knew about what sustainability means for our business, the steps they're taking to reduce their carbon footprint and to educate our teams around how they can help us to reach our Net Zero Carbon targets.
We took part in the 2020 World Green Building Week. The annual campaign aims to empower the building and property sector, policymakers and government to take urgent action to deliver net zero buildings for communities, the planet and for the economy. The GM Green Summit took place over the week and several Bruntwood colleagues took part. Sustainability Director, Bev Taylor discussed the plans for a more sustainable future for Greater Manchester and Strategy Director, Jessica Bowles discussed how, following the pandemic, we can Build Back Better through sustainable initiatives.
In partnership with Farm Urban, the company behind the Greens for Good project, we installed a living wall at Cotton Exchange. This wasn’t just our first ever living wall installation, either, this was also the first in the UK to be built in an office. The hydroponic edible wall was installed using Farm Urban’s cutting-edge vertical farming system. Hydroponics enable plants to grow without using soil, by feeding them on mineral nutrient salts dissolved in water. Using this method allows us to create space-saving, high-tech urban farms that produce hyper local, pesticide-free food in a sustainable way.
Last month, a number of fit outs at Circle Square received carbon negative certification from our supplier, Interface - a real achievement for the site. Interface is a prime example of best in class sustainability practice outside of the property sector. Interface have been working to eliminate their negative impact on the environment since 1994, when they declared commitment to becoming the world’s first environmentally sustainable and restorative company.
We rounded up the year by committing to achieving a number of ISO accreditations. These will act as an accelerator by driving process improvement and demonstrate our commitment to a ‘best in class’ approach. It also gives others - such as partners and customers - an easy way of validating our sustainability credentials, something that will be extremely useful as we look to move into new areas and bid for new projects. Here’s an outline of the ISOs we’re looking to achieve:
50001 - Energy management standard based on continual improvement
14000 - Environmental management standards that focus on specific approaches (audits, communications and life cycle analysis).
20121 - Sustainable events guidance.
26000 - Social responsibility guidance encouraging businesses to go beyond legal compliance.