Baxall’s ambitious journey towards achieving net zero
The design and construction of buildings understandably have a key impact upon our environment. Estimates suggest that the built environment contributes up to 40% of the UK’s total carbon footprint – including the construction, operation and maintenance of buildings – while the UK Green Building Council states that approximately 10% of emissions are directly attributable to construction activities.
In 2019, the UK became the first major global economy to pass a net zero emission law requiring us to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by the year 2050. Attention is now acutely focused on the construction industry to see how we’re going to pull our weight in helping to achieve this major environmental milestone.
Making tangible progress on net zero is fundamental to Baxall as a business. Being carbon and resource-efficient isn’t a passing fad or trend; for decades humans have been operating beyond the finite resources our planet can sustainably offer. At Baxall we believe delivering net zero by 2050 should come sooner and that’s why we have set ourselves a bold target of being net zero carbon even earlier.
As a company we’ve spent a lot of time and effort trying to understand precisely what our impact is on the environment. Obvious key focal areas include transport, zero vehicle emissions and encouraging the use of electric vehicles with charge points at our offices (and incorporating that into our design).
Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) is at the core of our business on all new builds and includes strategic partnerships not only with UK-based companies, but also in Germany and Ireland. MMC brings a host of carbon cutting-related benefits, from reducing vehicle movements, eliminating waste and helping to construct more efficient buildings. Another of our core strengths lie in the retrofit/refurbishment market, which is a sector that presents a huge opportunity moving forwards. By closely monitoring and assessing an existing building we can accurately measure its performance improvement and energy usage.
Tech-driven approach to maximising buildings’ efficiency
While we have a solid reputation as a traditional main contractor with design and build capability, we realise this approach doesn’t always fully deliver what the client needs (or thinks they need). To address this, we are evolving the Baxall business into a new, forward-thinking model to encompass a more complete, holistic approach incorporating the brief and design elements. This will enable us to understand if a building is being properly maintained and performing in line with the original brief.
In September 2021 Baxall successfully secured government funding to support us with an exciting 24-month project known as the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) – one that we believe to be an industry first for the built environment. Working alongside academics from the University of Kent we are developing an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven data analytics framework using data related to the construction process, and ‘smart monitoring’ sensors to assess the operation of buildings alongside occupancy performance data. Ultimately, this approach will enable us to assess the performance of the people within a particular building i.e. the people who are using it. Taking for example, a school: has pupil absenteeism decreased, have exam results improved and have staff retention levels increased? By helping us to make intelligent decisions on the construction process, materials and design, we can show clients demonstrative proof that our buildings are performing well. For the retrofit market, we will be able to offer consultancy services using our ‘smart monitoring’ to evaluate buildings and use the data to offer evidence-based solutions to address existing problems.
This knowledge all links back into understanding our impact on the environment and how we can use rich data to continuously improve and refine a brief, while driving the zero carbon agenda It’s a very different type of business model and as an SME ‘disrupter’ who enjoys doing things differently, it’s one we’re wholeheartedly embracing via the KTP.
“Making tangible progress on net zero is fundamental to Baxall as a business. We believe delivering net zero by 2050 should come sooner – that’s why we have set ourselves a bold target of being net zero carbon even earlier.“