Julia Barrett, our Chief Sustainability Officer is looking ahead to COP27, read her thoughts on what to expect from the critically important climate conference and how we are advancing sustainability across our projects.
My reflections on COP26
Looking ahead to COP27
2022 has been a year of extreme weather, three times the normal annual rain fell in Pakistan during the weekslong monsoon, extreme heat in Europe led to wildfires, especially in Spain and Portugal and in China, heat waves and drought dried up parts of the Yangtze River to the lowest level since at least 1865. Closer to home temperatures in the UK exceeded 40C in multiple locations for the first time on 19 July, beating the previous record of 38.7C that was set in 2019 by 1.6C. These events are becoming increasingly more frequent and despite current humanitarian and political crises, we cannot ignore the irreparable long-term impact our actions have on the planet.
Alongside a delivering a pathway to 1.5C, I am interested in developments at COP27 around biodiversity, adaption and agriculture. The pandemic has shown that beyond providing a massive carbon sink for the planet, how important access is to nature for our mental health, alongside the medical and scientific advancements that come from the planet’s natural environments – both on land and in the oceans’ spaces. We still have so much to discover and we destroy it at our peril.
The built environment and sustainability
In the context of the global challenges we face, it’s a fair question to ask how are we at Willmott Dixon addressing the challenges faced by the built environment, and how this – impacts our role creating sustainable buildings and delivering our 2030 sustainability strategy, Now or Never.
When modelling our strategy objectives, we looked at many scenarios that could happen, from rising interest rates that make projects more expensive to deliver, to developing the knowledge and skills within our business to deliver buildings that are net zero in operation. We remain fully committed to the objectives we set out two years ago, helping our customers to deliver brilliant, sustainable buildings. Consequently meeting our key objective of all our new build and refurbishment projects delivered from 2030 being net zero in operation.
Over the past year, Willmott Dixon Construction have started work on Spelthorne Leisure Centre – a project that will deliver Greater London’s first Passivhaus leisure centre, North Tyneside Transport Interchange – creating a building that is net zero in both operational and embodied carbon terms, and Tarleton Academy – delivering a 750 place school in Preston that meets the Department for Education’s demanding net zero carbon in operation standards.
These three brilliant buildings will deliver outstanding outcomes for our customers. Each of them has been designed using a fabric first approach, where we ensure that a high-performance building envelope and construction methodology creates a building that minimises energy usage, operating costs and carbon emissions. It is imperative that this approach becomes the norm across our industry – if fabric first principles are not followed today, our customers are likely to have to incur much greater costs in the future to decarbonise their estate and achieve the net zero carbon future that we are all striving for.
As well as delivering high performing and net zero new buildings and major refurbishments, we are also committed to helping local authorities meet their climate emergency targets by addressing the sustainability challenges of their existing estate through our Decarbonise Today service. Through our Collida Living residential business, we are also delivering scalable residential solutions that meet Passivhaus and net zero carbon standards.
I urge you to keep a close eye on developments during COP27 and if you’d like to find out more about please feel to get in touch at NowOrNever@willmottdixon.co.uk