Willmott Dixon hosts seminal built environment sustainability conference in West Midlands

More than 300 industry professionals attended the seminal built environment sustainability conference “Net Zero Carbon: What’s Stopping Us?” in Birmingham.

The event, held at The Grand Hotel, was hosted by national construction company Willmott Dixon in partnership with Building Brum, the region’s largest built environment network. It saw industry leaders from across the UK gather in the ‘second city’ to discuss how the sector can achieve its net zero carbon ambitions.

A select panel – from both the public and private sector – shared their insights into the challenges, solutions, and realities of achieving carbon net zero in construction as well as discussing the outcomes of COP26 and how the built environment should respond.

Peter Owen, managing director at Willmott Dixon in the Midlands, said: “We’re delighted with the success of the packed-out event last night, which demonstrated the passion and dedication of both the public and private sector in its efforts to reach net-zero.

“It was important to us to bring together key players within the built environment industry to have meaningful discussions on net zero but also highlight the importance of collaboration in order to achieve our shared sustainability goals. The panel discussion, and subsequent questions from the audience, showcased the significance everyone is placing on this matter and how we can join forces to make it happen.”

“One year after its launch, our ‘Now or Never’ 2030 Sustainability Strategy is well underway and we are on track to achieve multiple ambitious targets by 2030. By sharing our three key themes – brilliant buildings, building lives, and better planet – we hope to inspire other businesses to join us in aiming for zero-carbon in our own operations instead of settling for net-zero.

Providing unique insight and valuable experience, the guest panelists included Deborah Cadman OBE, chief executive of Birmingham City Council, Belinda Morgan, partner at multi-disciplinary consultancy Cundall, Tim Carey, chief product director at integrated construction platform provider Collida, and Chris Clarke, director of performance and improvement at public sector framework provider Scape, and James Douglas, head of sustainability at fellow contractor Lendlease.

The panel was led by Willmott Dixon’s chief sustainability officer, Julia Barrett, who is also director of the Aldersgate Group, a business, politics and civil society leadership alliance that drives action for a sustainable economy.

Julia said: “Sustainability is at the centre of discussions in both the public and private sector, which was evident at the event. Collectively we are responsible for moving forward with carbon net zero, and the panel’s insights into solutions to achieve this really sparked conversation, and hopefully action, among attendees.”

During the conference, guests learned more about how the sector can accelerate the journey to net zero. Topics included the widespread adoption of sustainable materials; prioritising sustainability against cost in contract selections, the importance of building for the future today as opposed to retrofitting, and the importance of working with and upskilling the supply chain.

The event was held in partnership with Building Brum, a leading built environment networking platform that brings together passionate professionals across the sector, to discuss key topics.

Conor Nolan, programme director at Building Brum, added: “The “Net Zero Carbon: What’s Stopping Us?” event exemplified the ambitions of Building Brum; to provide educational events and unique networking opportunities that spark meaningful conversations. We were delighted to collaborate with our construction partners Willmott Dixon to create such a successful event and hope to see exciting changes in the industry moving forward towards its sustainable goals.”