August 5, 2021

A blueprint for building back better, faster and greener?

In June 2020, the Prime Minister outlined a new concept to tackle Government public investment projects more efficiently. Dubbed ‘Project Speed’, his vision was simple enough; apply the principles used during the pandemic, notably the Nightingale hospitals, to all public projects. Here, Paul Ruddick, Chairman of Reds10, the modular specialists, gives details of how this vision can be put into practice.

Propelled by the ambition to build back greener, smarter, and faster over the last year, we are already seeing the UK rise to the challenge, evolving to deliver better outcomes through innovation. At the same time the Government published the Construction Industry Playbook, which sets out key policies and guidance for how public works projects and programmes should be assessed, procured, and delivered and drive the changes necessary for successful projects and programmes at speed. Implementation in the public sector is based on a ‘comply or explain why’ approach.

Departments that are embracing the approach are now seeing the benefits. One such example is the Ministry of Defence (MoD), which is currently spending £45m on a nationwide Net-Zero Carbon Accommodation Programme (NetCAP), improving facilities for troops when they are training away from their permanent barracks, while also helping the Government meet its long-term carbon reduction goals. Modular construction specialists Reds10 are working with Landmarc Support Services (Landmarc) and the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) to deliver the ambitious programme that features over 40 carbon efficient accommodation blocks, providing more than 1,900 bed spaces over just 21 months. In just 10 months, 18 buildings have been installed on site, a further seven are completed in the factory and six are in production. The quality of the blocks and the pace of delivery for each building – just 13 weeks compared to at least eight months if built using traditional construction methods – is world class.  

Most of the programme’s buildings are carbon negative, having achieved A+ Energy Performance Certificates (EPC). All buildings to date have achieved Defence Related Environmental Assessment Methodology (DREAM) ‘Excellent’ ratings.

The latest at Westdown Camp represents a 22-point improvement in EPC rating and a 130-tonne reduction in embodied carbon (tCO2) from the original proof of concept. This means the buildings actually generate more power than they use, reducing electricity costs thanks to air source heat pumps, rooftop solar panels and other eco-friendly features.

Lt Gen Richard Nugee taking part in demolitions of old accommodation at Nesscliff Training Area (Credit Landmarc Support Services)

These changes and the subsequent improvements have come at no extra cost through embracing a more considered approach to the cost of carbon. The use of Reds10’s THRIVE Smart building technology provides data on how the buildings are used, enabling refinement of design and specifications of every subsequent building, as well as energy usage optimisation.

There is a lot more still to come. The NetCAP programme will continue throughout 2021 and into early 2022, and innovations in thermal and power storage and building system automation will be implemented. All of this has been achieved through a pandemic with several lockdowns and the resulting materials shortages – so how has that been possible?

A significant breakthrough has been the move from project to programme thinking in the MoD, providing clarity of long-term objectives and in turn enabling all parties to invest in innovations and challenge the way things have been done in the past. This mindset has meant a programme where continual learning and improvement can deliver better results each time. Top-down leadership on the carbon agenda has also provided a new lens through which project success can be measured.

The intelligent use of a UK-based volumetric off-site manufacturing capability has meant that standard details can be used, which drives up quality (air tightness being just one example) and efficiency and enables the supply chain to plan ahead of working restrictions and material shortages.

The most critical ingredient has, however, been a transparent relationship between all parties. The MoD has remained open throughout the process, embracing what we industry experts can bring to transform delivery for the better.

So, higher performing net-zero buildings delivered at pace in a cost-efficient way, at no extra cost and with continuous improvement between each project. Surely, this is the blueprint for all government to build back better, faster and greener.

Paul Ruddick, Chairman of Reds10