NG Bailey, probably the biggest UK independent building services provider, is proving sustainability works by using it in its own buildings, first to prove it works and then to showcase it to its clients. Paul Braithwaite reports.
MARK Andrews, chief executive of leading building services provider NG Bailey, is based in a beautiful HQ, a grade 1 listed building, set in the heart of the rolling green Yorkshire countryside.
'I have to get out sometimes so that I remember I live in the real world of the construction business,' he laughs.
Nevertheless his is probably the only building services company which owns a mansion, has 2,600 acres of farmland, a farm manager on the payroll and one tenant farmer.
Maybe working so close to the countryside has made the company realise the importance of sustainability.
'Sustainability makes good business sense,' says Andrews.
The company has produced its first Sustainability Report this year.
The report is the start of an annual process to review the progress achieved in meeting the economic, environmental and social objectives of the company - and its clients.
'Our building services skills and expertise help our customers meet the challenges of this increasingly important issue.'
Andrews adds: in 2006, the company completed the design and build of the m&e services of the Scottish Natural Heritage Building which achieved the then highest BREEAM rating in the UK which is the established method of assessing environmental excellence in UK buildings.
'NG Bailey is also reaping the financial benefits of integrating sustainable building management technologies into its own property portfolio. We have an array of sustainable applications installed across a range of our own properties.'
He says there are solar thermal collectors heating the domestic hot water supply at Denton Hall, while the southern division's head office in Reading benefits from an integrated BMS, phase change materials and waterless urinals.
Further, the company has committed to achieving a BREEAM Excellent rating for its new Scottish office in Strathclyde.
'Given that NG Bailey is a £470M turnover company with 4,000 employees, we have to make sure our own house is in order and we do what is right in terms of the way we use external resources,' he adds. 'Only if we get that right, can we expect to sell solutions to our clients.'
NG Bailey has spent time and money during the last few years reducing its own energy consumption. Even in its HQ, Denton Hall, the company has installed solar thermal panels.
There is monitoring equipment in most of its buildings, which means the company can understand the energy consumption because, only when this is understood, is there a chance of reducing it.
'Most of the buildings owned by NG Bailey are now using solar thermal, ground-source heat pumps and other renewable energy sources. These are being used to showcase what the company is able to do for its clients.'
Take the Strathclyde building where NG Bailey bought a builder's spec building and upgraded it with a ground-source heat pump and photo-voltaics and solar blinds - all the work which has to be done to bring it up to BREEAM Excellent standard.
'It is a great opportunity to put our money where our mouth is to improve our own facilities and show clients what can be done.'
Andrews says NG Bailey learned a lot from its Reading building which was finished 18 months ago.
'Each building we finish is the template for the next. And we are taking this learning into the work we do for customers.
'Increasingly, the bids I see coming through are about buildings which have to be BREEAM Excellent, even if some of the customers don't fully realise what the implications are for the capital cost.' He
adds that often when customers see the capital cost jump by as much as 25%, they pull back - but he assures me that the cost, and more, will be recouped over the lifespan of the building.
Nevertheless, the company is working on a number of large projects which will be BREEAM Excellent.
Andrews believes NG Bailey is ahead of the pack when it comes to the sustainability issue.
'One of the reasons is that, as a private company, it can afford to take a longer term view and invest in the future.
'Being able to develop sustainable solutions using the best available technology is something which requires investment - in research, people, and prototyping. Many listed companies would struggle to make this type of investment, given the operating margins,' he believes.
Growth trend goes on
NG Bailey is the largest independent building services provider in the UK. It was founded in 1921, is still family owned and there are two generations of family members on the board.
Some 80% of the turnover comes from m&e construction contracting - new build - while the rest comes from the maintenance, ICT and more specialist contracting side.
Turnover for the year ended February 2007 was £471M and Andrews confidently expects this to be more than £500M with a corresponding rise in operating profit in February 2008.
So how do you move on a company this big?
'The industry is generally pretty buoyant at the moment. Because of the type of work we do and because we are involved in large projects, what is seen in the revenue each year depends on the cycle of when jobs finish.
'The 2007 turnover was down on the previous year, partly because of this cycle and partly because a business was sold during the financial year. We hope for a reasonable growth trend for the next few years'.
Working together from the start
We are doing more work for fewer clients.' says Mark Andrews, chief executive of NG Bailey.
'It is much more of a partnering/alliance relationship now. It is about being integrated with the main contractor from the start. As you move down the sustainability route. main contractors realise the only way to produce a sustainable design solution is to be integrated with the m&e as it is a huge part of the energy consumption solution.
'Main contractors realise this integrated solution is the only way forward. And main contractors realise that what NG Bailey has to offer - and our competitors cannot - is a more substantive package that encompasses not only the m&e but also partitions, ceilings, telecommunications and the IT infrastructure which takes out a number of further interfaces.
'But unless main contractors have a joined-up relationship at the beginning, particularly with an m&e contractor, then there is no chance of a BREEAM Excellent rating nor indeed of building a energy efficient building. The more people who can be involved from the beginning the better the outcome. You cannot now separate those elements.'
Much of the collaborative working comes from the PFI experience with the architect, PQS, cost consultant, m&e consultant, and the m&e company working as one team.
'And by being in it together a better job can be delivered and delivered cost effectively.'
'The bigger players have seen this and now all are having to realise that collaborative working delivers a better job more cost effectively,' he insists.
Andrews adds that NG Bailey works at most with five main contractors although he accepts that there is initially a tendering process for the business.
Training is a core value for the NG Bailey business. And, as the industry moves faster and faster forwards, training plays an increasingly important part.
NG Bailey takes on around 100 apprentices a year but this is only the beginning of the training process. Andrews adds that NG Bailey had already won a host of training awards including the ECA's Apprentice of the Year, Gold, Silver and Bronze awards. The apprentice training centre is based in Leeds, but accepts students from all over the UK.
'There is a suite of training programmes which started this year which are focused on sustainability, Part L and BREEAM Excellent and how this is built into the jobs,' he adds. 'This helps our people stay ahead of the business.'