Barnes takes constructive steps around sustainability 

Initial construction of an almshouse without a roof

Barnes Construction is delivering an almshouses scheme for Girton Town Charity which is being built to Passivhaus standard - Credit: Girton Town Charity

Sue Wilcock speaks to Daniel Sheldrake and Dan Mackenzie on how Barnes Construction is ensuring that sustainability flows through all aspects of its business. 

When thinking of ‘sustainability’, most presume it just relates to the environment. And although you will get no argument from me that the environment is a vitally important aspect, it is not the only aspect. We should also consider economic and social sustainability. 

Adopting these three core concepts to take a more strategic approach is what is driving the sustainability agenda at Barnes Construction. Chief bid manager Dan Mackenzie and chief design manager Daniel Sheldrake are both taking the lead in ensuring that initiatives touch all facets of the business. 

“We have been involved in sustainable construction since the late 90s, delivering hotel projects that incorporate timber frames and offsite modular fabrication,” says Dan. 

“We have had PV panels on our properties for over a decade. We have installed LED lighting throughout our offices, and all our invoicing, plans and designs are stored and shared digitally. We have also eliminated paper filing and over 97% of our waste is recycled or reused. 

“We also value the communities we work within, supporting charities, job creation and initiatives that support reinvestment into the local economy. 

“In fact, when bidding for a project, we explain how we will support clients to deliver reemployment and apprenticeships, and then provide a platform to encourage our supply chain to do the same. We have always invested locally, and given back as a matter of course, but we do work closely with clients who are further afield, taking their steer as they understand their communities a lot better.” 

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Daniel agrees with Dan but adds that Barnes still see its advancement in sustainability as being in its early stages. 

“To build momentum, we have recently set up a sustainability working group,” he explains. “This aims to provide a forum where any member of staff, whatever their age and experience, can engage and put forward suggestions on how we can improve.” 

Early ideas have included: expanding involvement in the Considerate Contractors Scheme, office-based initiatives such as becoming paperless, as well as monitoring and tracking water and energy usage. 

“We are now expanding these ideas further, bedding them into our policies and ongoing work to reduce our carbon footprint. For example, environment and quality checks have been incorporated into our health and safety inspections onsite, and we are upgrading all our site cabins, so they are better insulated and more energy efficient. We are also looking at the electrification of our fleet.” 

However, what is Barnes doing around sustainability when it comes to construction? 

“Quite a bit,” says Dan. “Sustainability is increasingly prominent as one of the value drivers of projects, and we are working on several schemes in the region where this is high on the agenda. 

“However, two projects are firsts for our business. 

“We are delivering an almshouse scheme for Girton Town Charity which is being constructed to Passivhaus standard, providing a high level of occupant comfort using very little energy for heating and cooling. And just up the road in Cambridge, we are working on a community hub project for St John’s College, which involves refurbishing Grade 1 and 2 listed buildings to achieve BREEAM Excellent standard. This work is going to be a key feature of refurbishment work, especially with the colleges, as they seek to future proof and decarbonise their historic estates.” 

Daniel continues: “On all our projects, we take an approach that considers sustainability and how we can positively influence the design, the materials and the building’s performance. 

“As well as our framework partnerships with local authorities, who are each taking great strides in reducing their carbon impact, we work collaboratively with all of our clients to deliver carbon reductions in construction and in use, which is vital. 

“We also use our experience to positively influence the incorporation of sustainable methods of construction into our projects. This includes panelised system such as SIP, Metframe and CLT, and full modular construction which we use on many of our education and student residential projects. As well as ticking the sustainable box when it comes to materials, these methods reduce deliveries and vehicular movements on site, at the same time as providing quality and programme benefits. 

“Overall though, our focus is on taking constructive steps to forge ahead on these sustainability initiatives and there is a thrust in the business to gain knowledge that we can then share with others.”