High performance engineering makes low carbon low impact living a reality

Anna Stewart, group chief executive Laing O'Rourke

Contractor Laing O'Rourke has embraced the Green Construction Board’s Infrastructure Carbon Review and pledged support to drive its principles throughout its supply chain. Group chief executive Anna Stewart explains why the business supports this inititative. 

Laing O’Rourke fully recognises the magnitude of the environmental challenges facing the planet, the business opportunities that could arise from taking a lead and the need to collaborate with industry partners in finding solutions. The vision guiding our ‘energy and carbon strategy’ is 'to be a visibly energy and carbon efficient organisation, challenging and changing the market with our clients'.

Maximising our partnerships and our unique capabilities in offsite manufacturing, research and development, digital engineering and direct delivery, we have the potential to drive the industry forward through the delivery of low-carbon solutions. 

The Green Construction Board’s (GCB) infrastructure carbon review (ICR) plays a fundamental role in achieving the 50% reduction in green house gas emissions outlined in the UK Government’s industrial strategy for construction by 2025.  Equally important in my view is the fact that it acts as an important stimulus that challenges an industry which for too long has been resistant to change, to fundamentally rethink every facet of how it delivers.

"We will need to engage more of our people, clients and suppliers in the opportunities this agenda offers. We will also need to listen to and learn from our partners – and build on these successes."

Society is demanding more and more from its infrastructure, buildings and services. The challenge set by the ICR for our industry is to find an approach to delivery that meets these needs – building in efficiency, quality and sustainability. This requires a radically different approach – one that, we believe, must be centred on engineering excellence.    

In response to the ICR, we’ve already begun re-thinking the construction process. Backed by a significant investment in R&D and reinforced through the four cornerstones of our unique business offering - Engineering Excellence Group, Digital Engineering, DfMA and Direct Delivery - we are transforming the environmental efficiency of the assets we create, bringing sustainable low-carbon living a step closer. 

We make low-carbon, low-impact living a reality, by engineering high-performance buildings and infrastructure that cut energy, water, waste and resource use throughout their lives.

When we apply our DfMA and engineering excellence solution to the full, our projects can achieve a 35% reduction in carbon compared to a traditional approach.  The efficiencies of our factory delivery model and the impact of our improved fleet, plant, equipment and site management contribute a cut in lifecycle carbon emissions of around 2%.  Material choices made possible through our DfMA approach decrease embodied carbon, providing a reduction in lifecycle carbon emissions of about 18%. 

"Better design in both offsite and in-situ construction has an important role to play in lowering carbon, but on its own is not enough"

Better design, modelling, quality of construction, commissioning and handover mean our buildings can be much more efficient in use, reducing lifecycle carbon emissions by about 15%. 

Better design in both offsite and in-situ construction has an important role to play in lowering carbon, but on its own is not enough. Cement plants account for 5% of global CO2. Concrete-based construction therefore creates specific challenges and opportunities which we are addressing. Maximising the use of cement replacements, such as GGBS, in our mixes is just part of the solution.

The involvement of our stakeholders in developing innovative alternatives is key. We are exploring a number of avenues - with our supply chain and other partners - for achieving a step-change in the carbon performance of concrete. The desire of many clients to quantify and reduce embodied and/or lifecycle carbon at bid stage gives this extra impetus.  

Laing O’Rourke recently became a member of the Supply Chain Sustainability School – which will assist us developing productive relationships with like-minded partners and encourage more suppliers to engage in this agenda. Furthermore, suppliers to our manufacturing facilities are necessarily more aligned to our ways of working – being engaged on a longer-term basis than is typical of construction projects. The resulting partnerships are supporting the provision of more detailed embodied carbon information – and could facilitate the joint development of enhanced solutions.   

The Infrastructure Carbon Review One-Year-On conference 

Date: 27 October

Venue: BIS conference centre, Victoria Street, London


To register your interest in attending this free event email nicola.walters@bis.gsi.gov.uk

Finally, we need the developers and designers of infrastructure to take a more judicious approach to tendering – where pricing decisions are based on the life-time cost of infrastructure, necessitating a move away from the wasteful practices of short-term, lowest pricing contracting.  By determining the value of a proposition, we will be able to participate in a more meaningful and far-reaching carbon reduction agenda.

We continue to make steady progress on our ‘carbon maturity’ journey to meet the GCB’s infrastructure carbon review. To accelerate these gains, we will need to engage more of our people, clients and suppliers in the opportunities this agenda offers. We will also need to listen to and learn from our partners – and build on these successes. Greater consistency in the industry’s approach to carbon management – and genuine collaboration – will be vital. These are the industry’s priorities for the immediate years ahead.

Anna Stewart is Group Chief Executive of Laing O'Rourke