The redevelopment and extension of Oxford’s Westgate Centre, due to open in the autumn, is proving its sustainability credentials. Our dedicated sustainability team has been working hard to minimise the environmental impact of the 800,000 sq ft retail and leisure scheme, and ensure it brings value to local people and the economy.
Led by Laing O’Rourke Sustainability Manager, Paul DiMambro, the three-strong team manages delivery of 45 key targets relating to materials, waste, energy and carbon, water, ecology, transport and community.
The team liaises regularly with the local community to minimise any negative impacts associated with construction, while maximising potential benefits such as education and employment opportunities, local procurement and charitable activities.
A key measure of success is the amount of embodied carbon saved during the construction phase. This forms part of the overall 25,777 tonne saving expected over the 30-year life of the development. However, the project is on course to eliminate an estimated 30,000-plus tonnes of carbon, significantly exceeding that target.
“Retaining much of the original core structure reduces the use of energy for manufacturing new materials and transporting them. Plus the design changes made by Laing O’Rourke to the underground car park, for example, have saved carbon by using less concrete. All this helps to make Westgate one of the lowest carbon retail schemes in the UK,” explains Paul.
“We aim to ensure 25% of the materials for the shell-and-core construction packages are recycled content. So far, we’ve reused or recycled 99% of the construction, demolition and excavation waste, while ensuring certified sustainable timber is sourced through our specially developed tracking system.”
Creating local opportunities
In the community, Laing O’Rourke has been liaising with residents, local businesses, schools, colleges, universities and local voluntary organisations about what the project means for them.
“We’ve been visiting schools and colleges, talking to students about construction and engineering, encouraging the next generation into the industry and highlighting the opportunities on offer,” says Paul.
“Activities are varied. They include teaching students at the City of Oxford College to produce a theoretical design for the project’s residential block and running an in-depth module on digital engineering with the local university technology college.
“Recently we took part in a scheme supported by the Royal Academy of Engineering, with students at Matthew Arnold School. This involved setting the students an assignment centring on the principles of crane design and construction,” says Paul. “A team of five female students took up the challenge and will shortly deliver their final presentation.”
“We’ve also opened up 15 apprenticeship places, with the support of our key mechanical and electrical suppliers, Darke and Taylor. In addition, 60 local unemployed people (some of whom were homeless) have been given the opportunity to enter the construction industry through the project’s sector-based work academy programme. 13 of those individuals have secured work on site with Laing O’Rourke or its suppliers and many others have gone on to work with other contractors in the city.”
“Achieving sustainability is a team effort and we have been working closely across functions within our own business, with our client Land Securities and community stakeholders such as local authorities, education and training providers and voluntary organisations,” says Paul. “Importantly, we seek to ensure our suppliers also adopt sustainable practices through the project’s supply chain charter and sustainable procurement tender documents.”
Paul also co-chairs the company’s newly established network for LGBT+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) staff as well as straight colleagues, all keen to help create a more inclusive working environment.
“So far, we’ve recruited 22 LGBT and straight employees to the group with almost 50 other supporters across the Europe and Australia hubs. There is a lot of talk about the skills shortage in our industry and we won’t be able to tackle that shortage without reaching out to all sections of society.
“This is an important year for LGBT visibility within Laing O’Rourke with awareness-raising activities such as our participation in LGBT Pride events in London, Birmingham and Manchester. In addition, we have recently started working with leading LGBT charity Stonewall - and plan to participate for the first time in its annual Workplace Equality Index.”