Managing environmental sustainability
Emma Birkett, Environmental Manager, describes the steps taken to ensure the environment and habitats around Transmission Solutions’ sites are protected and enhanced.
Protecting the environment and creating a carbon-free future
Siemens is a name that is well recognised as a reputable organisation that has a keen focus on environmental sustainability. Our company has a duty of care it rigorously adheres to and makes sure any works have a minimal environmental impact across all projects. Our clients are aligned with our sustainability strategy, which is also aligned with the United Nations’ sustainability goals of - amongst others - mitigating climate change and water scarcity. These are areas that are closely monitored, and we find that with energy companies – that are already highly regulated – there is even more scrutiny.
So, how do we maintain our position of responsibility and promote environmental sustainability?
As a global engineering company, Siemens is responsible for huge construction projects around the world that, inevitably, have the potential to impact the environment. But it’s about the steps taken and solutions implemented to minimise damage that protects the locations our teams work in. The Transmission Solutions business is expert in large-scale construction projects that are quite often located in sensitive locations, for example, near to a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) or next to a watercourse. The objective for all projects is to minimise impact and, if possible, enhance it by leaving the site in a better condition than before construction started.
Emma Birkett, Environmental Manager, explains how she and her team of environmental advisors approach this challenge: “It’s difficult to enhance a greenfield site, but in terms of managing impact, one of the key things we develop before we start a project is a construction and environmental management plan. At tender stage we’ll be given documents by the client that includes planning consent, impact assessments, licenses and surveys and from that information we’ll do a risk assessment where we outline the risks and impacts on the environment and the steps we need to take to minimise them.”
An example of the great work the team do is at customer, SSE’s, Melgarve substation site in the north of Scotland. Schedule 1 birds were found on site as was evidence of water voles and bats – also protected species. To prevent harm, exclusion zones have been set up to protect species and their habitats, as depending on the legislation the habitats are often protected too. To monitor the mitigation methods, an ecologist visits Melgarve on a weekly basis to check the species exclusion zones and look for signs that they might be moving.
Using resources efficiently to reduce carbon and minimise waste
The continuous effort to effectively manage site environments led to a review on Siemens projects of site cabins to improve their energy efficiency. When the cabins were identified as the source of the highest energy consumption on site, research went into sourcing eco-cabins that have effective insulation, LED lighting, waterless urinals and installed meters to accurately capture energy use for future monitoring and improvement All site cabins are now a minimum B rated EPC rating.
After scrutinising waste streams on National Grid’s Whitegate substation project, a community wood recycling scheme was introduced where wooden packaging was diverted from landfill to a charitable reuse scheme. The wooden packaging was collected by the community wood recycling scheme who reused it to make planters, birdboxes and furniture. The scheme had a powerful social aspect to it through the provision of employment for vulnerable people who made the items to sell, with the profits going to local charity food banks.
Meeting environmental targets
Siemens has a challenging sustainability strategy with the target of all its products and buildings being carbon neutral by 2030. This goal is more achievable when we examine ways to decarbonise fixed buildings, but a little more difficult when looking at ways to make construction sites carbon neutral.
Emma Birkett, says: “There are certainly a lot of initiatives we can implement. Diesel-free plant, solar PV panels for site cabins, optimising plant movements, and targeting waste streams to see where we can reuse materials. Using Blue GIS/AIS equipment (SF6 free insulated switchgear) would perhaps create the biggest carbon saving.
Our long-term view is that by developing technologies such as (BIM) building information modelling, we can present customers with 4D model of their project and the carbon associated with it, then better choices will be made in terms of environmental impact and sustainability.”
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