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Climate conversations

Paula Morgenstern 27 Sep 2019

Last Friday, 20 September 2019, saw millions of people globally take to the streets, demanding urgent action to prevent further global warming. The students’ concern about their future has generated much media attention and succeeded in creating a new momentum around climate change.

More than a third of global carbon emissions are associated with the construction industry, this is through the manufacturing of materials and the constructions process itself (‘embodied emissions’), as well as through the process of heating, cooling and powering the completed buildings (‘in-use emissions’). And while BAM, and the industry as a whole, have been reducing carbon emissions for a number of years, it is clear that further changes will be needed.

So are we seeing a step-change in the climate conversation?

Everyone, from our staff to our clients, will be hearing more and more about climate change, and many of us may have already felt the effects from extreme weather events, such as this year’s extreme heatwave. We are seeing more people asking how they can help make a difference as individuals. That’s why our sustainability team has been hosting new climate conversations and webinars with colleagues across the business.

Our new series of internal webinars will allow everyone in the business to easily find out how the business is progressing on our Climate Positive journey, enable feedback of their opinions, and hopefully generate new business ideas! Held over a cake and a cuppa, our climate conversations offer people the opportunity to have open conversations around why climate change matters, and what its implications are going forward, both for the business and in our personal lives.

One or our climate conversations in London

We held our first two conversations in London, at our office in Chiswell Street and then also at a site, and had more than 30 people come together to discuss topics such as electric cars, the role of legislation, and the need for international collaboration to tackle the climate crisis. Conversation starter cards prompted the groups along where needed, but often little encouragement was required and discussions got quite animated at times! One of the groups went on to develop ideas to reduce the energy use in their office. Others resolved to look into green energy tariffs at home, provided it would not be (much) more expensive than their current tariff. What was clear from these discussions was that we cannot do this on our own. We all – as a business, as professionals, but also as responsible citizens and consumers, have a role to play to ensure the young people campaigning on the streets will have the future they demand. Most people agreed that if they were 15 again, they would have attended the ‘Friday’s for Future’ protests.

But it’s not just within our business that these conversations are becoming more common. It is fantastic to see that our clients are also challenging us about the benefits of the new buildings we are providing. Newquay Education Trust recently highlighted their new building, The Quay (designed and built by BAM), as an example of action that is being taken to reduce emissions from buildings. Home to Newquay Tretherras, the project involves constructing a new school building, moving the pupils from the old to the new building, and finally demolishing the existing building. 

The new building during contruction

The new building is vastly more efficient than their original one, Michael Tipton, BAM Project Manager, says: “The client has gone from having a building with no or a nominal 50mm of insulation in the roof, to 260mm of insulation in the new building. In the walls they have gone from having no cavity insulation, to 80mm of thermal insulation. And the building has an air leakage rate of less than 0.75 which reflects in the ‘A’ rating* on the EPC certification.” The building also has a solar array on the roof which is estimated to deliver more than 25,000kWh of electricity per year. Amanda Wright, Sustainability Advisor at BAM, says: “The profile of our work in the Western region includes a high percentage of education buildings. Pupils that use our buildings are becoming more aware of environmental impacts, and it is excellent that BAM can demonstrate our positive impact to reduce the operational impacts of buildings”.

It’s great to see that talks like these are starting to happen more and more, and we look forward to continuing the climate conversation.


*An EPC, or Energy Performance Certificate, is an asset rating based on model predictions for the energy use of proposed building designs. Having an EPC rating of ‘A’ means the building should generate 70% less regulated CO2 emissions compared to a typical existing building of this type.


Paula Morgenstern is Building Performance Manager at BAM.

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