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Rising to the Carbon Challenge

Rising to the Carbon Challenge

How our teams mobilised our 10 Tonne Carbon Challenge on their projects, to create intelligent solutions to reduce carbon for our customers.

By Tim Clement, head of carbon & environment, Morgan Sindall Construction

The challenge empowers our project teams for a focused week, to work with our consultants and supply chain to find intelligent solutions that reduce carbon from the buildings we deliver by a minimum of 10 tonnes. We started the process in October 2021, saving 1,471 tonnes in one week. In 2022, we completed the challenge four times, and I’m pleased to say that our teams found ways to exceed expectations with most of their solutions.

Collaboration is key to the success of the challenge and it’s going to be the biggest factor that enables us to collectively drive out carbon from the built environment. On our own we can’t possibly know all the solutions, there are new products and ways of working being developed all the time, particularly within our innovative supply chain.

As part of our decentralised culture, we also know that what might work for one project may not work for another. All our projects are uniquely designed and built to our customers’ requirements. But the 10 Tonne Carbon Challenge has allowed us to collect all this great information and share it so that it might inform future projects. Who knows when we might need to recall carbon saving solutions to restore a historical castle or to build a leisure centre by a beach?

We’ve delighted our customers, who are working to strict carbon reduction targets and we’ve been able to make some significant reductions. We’ve also been sharing our findings as part of our school and career engagements as we enlist the future generation of young people into the green revolution in construction. It’s an exciting time, with most of the hard work still to be done in the future.

Some of the headline results from the 10 Tonne Challenge:

  • We reduced our carbon output by a total of almost 12,500 tonnes, equivalent to heating over 4,600 UK homes for a year
  • The highest carbon saving in one instance was 1,977 tonnes and the lowest 10 tonnes
  • Our average saving for the year was 291 tonnes.

Reflecting back, what have I learnt?

Firstly, some of the greatest successes of the challenge also saved cost, particularly those where we were able to find opportunities to reduce material consumption. Resource efficiency is the arena of win-win carbon and cost reduction solutions! Secondly, our teams that have used our whole life carbon assessment tool, CarboniCa, to achieve the 10 Tonne Challenge have found it much easier than those who have tried to work out the carbon savings separately. This affirms our view that CarboniCa is not only a credible measurement tool, but also an effective carbon reduction tool and as we utilise it on more and more projects we're able to make impactful results.

10 Tonne Carbon Challenge highlights

Below are just some carbon saving examples our teams have developed. They’re not necessarily the biggest savings by number and they’re not in any particular order. A famous band once sang ‘all the small things’ and I believe the small contributions are really important when it comes to reducing carbon. No matter how big or small, we’re keen to develop and seek new ideas that reduce carbon and fight climate change.

  • Wirral Growth Company – 1,977 tonnes CO2e removed. Through consistently challenging the design and procurement of the project - which see's the team develop 150,000 sq foot of grade A office space. They found opportunities to save carbon in the site fuel, the concrete foundations and floor slabs, the concrete reinforcement, the steel frame, the SFS and the external wall sheathing board.
  • University of Birmingham Molecular Sciences Building358 tonnes CO2e removed (and counting!). By adopting a systematic approach to running CarboniCa, the team were able to pinpoint the carbon hotspots and opportunities for reduction. Through some major changes – foundation design, removing metal ceiling details, reducing the grade of access flooring and omitting suspended ceilings – and myriad minor changes, the team have demonstrated that an iterative approach to carbon reduction can yield significant savings.
  • University of Glasgow Maclay Residence10 tonnes CO2e removed. The Challenge is also intended to inspire others to take action, and for that reason smaller carbon savings can be as impactful as larger ones. Our team in Scotland re-purposed and re-deployed hundreds of items of furniture, equipment and mattresses to the local area, avoiding the need for new items to be manufactured.
  • Buntingford First School358 tonnes CO2e removed. The team drove down the concrete volume and increased the proportion of cement replacement in the concrete mix of the foundations, and also made use of HVO fuel for the site operations.
  • Abergavenny 3-19 school101 tonnes CO2e removed. The project team have been able to secure structural steelwork manufactured exclusively using an electric arc furnace, which has a lower embodied carbon impact than traditional blast furnace steelmaking. They also challenged the design to reduce the tonnage of secondary steel required.
  • Great Yarmouth Marina Centre266 tonnes CO2e removed. After reviewing the structural, architectural and building services designs of this beach-front leisure centre, the team were able to reduce the height of the building, saving significant quantities of steel.
  • Addenbrooke Care Home324 tonnes CO2e removed. The team adopted the use of the Porotherm block product, making a significant embodied carbon saving over traditional blockwork.
  • Springwell Gardens370 tonnes CO2e removed. The team ran a detailed carbon analysis on this £31 million city-centre residential project in Leeds to prove that switching from traditional rebar to a roll-out prefabricated rebar mesh in the floor slabs saved both material quantity and waste on the project.
  • Milton Keynes University Hospital – Radiotherapy Building439 tonnes CO2e removed. A concrete mix with increased cement replacements and a reduce concrete volume in the foundation design both allowed the team to make significant embodied carbon savings.
  • University of Huddersfield – New Faith Centre – 14 tonnes CO2e removed. The team reused packs of block paving that the university had ‘left over’ from a previous project and incorporated them into the landscape design.
  • Carnbroe & Sikeside Community Campus181 tonnes CO2e removed. The project secured an early electricity grid connection for the site set-up, avoided huge volumes of imported fill through re-use of existing fill and switched to a suspension wire services containment system, which reduce material consumption and waste.
  • Cosham Fire Station534 tonnes CO2e removed. By challenging the foundation design, the team influenced a design change from piled foundations to pad foundations, saving both carbon and cost.

Written by

Tim Clement, Head of Carbon & Environment, Morgan Sindall Construction

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To find out more about our Intelligent Solutions approach to reducing carbon click here.