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Energy Saving Opportunities for Construction

15 Jun 2015

Also published by UK-GBC

The newly-launched Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) should bring a whole load of opportunities for the construction sector.

Traditionally there has been more focus on how efficient a building itself will be and less on how energy efficient the construction process is. However, for main contractors like BAM, direct energy savings can mostly be made during design and construction phases. Despite a lot of focus over the last few years there’s still not been enough happening to improve energy performance in construction. ESOS should help to change that by focusing on cost effective opportunities for reducing energy, emissions and therefore costs. 


We’ve been measuring and managing our carbon emissions since 2008 and in that time have reduced our emissions from construction by 29% and from transport by 20% (both on a normalised basis). Overall we’ve saved around £2.8 million, which may not sound a lot but in an industry that’s currently doing well to make margins of 3%, it’s a good result. We know there are more savings to be had, and so we’re looking at ESOS as an opportunity, to build on the work we’ve already done and to leverage more support from our teams and management to seek out further energy improvements.

So what’s our energy story been so far, and what opportunities does ESOS bring?


Smart energy monitoring and management on sites

We centred our emission reduction around enhanced and smarter monitoring and management of energy on construction sites, where the majority of our impacts and spend lies. We’ve focused on ensuring all of our sites (regardless of whether we or a client pays for the energy being used) are monitored using remote metering, not something that’s been common in construction. This has allowed us to produce more accurate energy profiles for our projects, to cut out energy waste (a big problem previously) and to identify measures which can be applied across the business to improve energy efficiency, rather than just one off projects.

20% improvement in energy efficiency since 2010, saving £611K

This is an approach recommended within the Environment Agency’s ESOS guidance, which highlights that, given the nature of construction (it’s transient, there are no baselines to work from, energy profiles are heavily influenced by type of work) organisations should assess opportunities on a portfolio level across the whole organisation. What’s not stated though is the importance of monitoring all energy and fuel use, as otherwise it’s difficult to build up a picture of where energy is used and therefore how to reduce it. At BAM, about 37% of the energy we’ve used since 2008 has been provided by clients, amounting to 36 million kWhs and around half of the fuel used on our sites is purchased by subcontractors.


Using data to drive energy improvements

Capturing data at a project level has allowed us to get a full picture of our impacts and costs and to implement measures to improve our performance. In our case, this has included measures like incrementally improving the thermal efficiency of our temporary accommodation, installing zoning and controls to our temporary electrics installations to cut out waste and providing staff with reports showing them how they’re performing and where they could make savings. 

We recently trialled and are now rolling out a new type of generator that will be used as standard on sites with certain demand profiles to reduce fuel consumption. To make these measures stack up in construction, we need to assess cost/payback in different ways. For instance, some measures won’t make sense for a single construction project (e.g. upgrading insulation on existing site cabins). However, if you consider the benefit at a portfolio level, over time the required investment makes financial sense. When we don’t own the assets we use (and that consume energy) we need to change our procurement policies (as in the case of the generators mentioned above).

We’ve also focused particularly on reducing emissions from transport, by improving our fleet (following an energy saving trust fleet review in 2010), incentivising employees to drive less and where they do drive, to opt for more efficient vehicles.


Opportunities for construction and facilities management industry

As well as helping to drive further savings, we see ESOS helping to create new opportunities for the construction sector, either in retrofit or refurbishment (helped by ESOS assessments that identify energy improvements in existing buildings), or through new services. We’re increasingly working with clients through our facilities management business, BAM FM, to help them assess the performance of their buildings and identify opportunities for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. For instance we’ve recently started work with Savills to carry out detailed energy benchmarking on a portfolio of buildings we manage for them in order to identify cost effective savings.

We’re also looking at new ventures, such as offering financing options to help make the business case (and we’re on the lookout for new opportunities, which we hope ESOS will help to generate). And there’s a spin off benefit too, while ESOS drives more evaluation of how buildings perform, we can take that learning into new projects.

As a light touch regulation, there is the potential for many to simply pay lip service to ESOS. However, I hope that this won’t be the case. We have a great opportunity to improve the way we monitor and manage energy, saving us and our clients’ money… it’s really a win-win.


Jesse Putzel is Senior Sustainability Manager at BAM.

For more information on how we can help you become more energy efficient, or if you would like to share your ESOS experiences, contact us.



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