Wayne Metcalfe – Sisk Plots A Route To A Low Carbon Construction Future

Sisk 2030 Sustainability Vision


Robbie Cousins talks to Wayne Metcalfe, Director, Health, Safety, Sustainability & Quality, John Sisk & Son, about the company’s sustainability ambitions set out in its soon to be published ‘Sisk 2030 Sustainability Vision’.

John Sisk & Son has three core values that underpin how it operates; ‘Care’, ‘Integrity’ and ‘Excellence’.

Practical examples of these values in operation include acknowledging the contribution of its suppliers to its success with its annual supply chain awards, and the company’s diversity and inclusion forum, established to foster an inclusive environment across its operations so everybody can be themselves at work.

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Wayne Metcalfe, Director, Health, Safety, Sustainability & Quality, Sisk, says this robust set of values is at the heart of how the company does business. It is the basis on which it has been developing a proactive and ambitious sustainability agenda since 2017, which will be encapsulated in its soon to be published ‘Sisk 2030 Sustainability Vision’ strategy document.

“In developing the Sisk 2030 Sustainability Vision, we have been looking at what has worked in other agendas, such as health and safety, or diversity, to see how we can get the same momentum and traction in the sustainability space.

“We took the lessons learned from progressing these agendas, both of which have been active for several years, and used these as a guideline for setting out our sustainability agenda.

“In the health and safety, and diversity spaces, everyone talks about ‘moral’, ‘legal’ and ‘economic’ reasons for doing things. The sustainability agenda is no different. The Sisk approach is to consider sustainability in the context of our values, namely Care, Integrity and Excellence. While our 2030 Sustainability Vision will work in all of these spaces to try and make a real difference, Care is the one value I place the most emphasis on when discussing sustainability. Care encompasses how we look after our people, our stakeholders and suppliers, the planet, and how we try to bring enduring benefits to the local communities in which we work.

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“How we care for these elements today will impact on what happens in the future”, Wayne Metcalfe adds. “This is the essence of any sustainability strategy.

“The Sisk 2030 Sustainability Vision will bring together all the threads of what we have learned in the past few years into an exciting and deliverable set of goals aimed at having a positive impact in all areas in which Sisk operates today and will be operating in the next 10 years and beyond.”

Carbon Emissions Reductions

He explains that in terms of energy, the goal is to reduce consumption to achieve a significant reduction in the carbon footprint of Sisk sites. This is currently being achieved by measuring energy consumption, where and how energy is used, analysing its efficiency, and then looking at ways to reduce consumption and maximise procurement from sustainable sources.

“Reducing diesel or electricity consumption on site may save money in the short term, but from a sustainability perspective, the resulting reduction in carbon emissions will ultimately have an even more positive impact in the years ahead.

“From an energy consumption point of view, it is easy to get caught up on the inputs; ie, use less diesel or electricity. The sustainable focus should be on the output or what are you achieving in terms of reducing carbon emissions. Sisk is looking to reduce the carbon outputs linked to our energy consumption. In environmental terms, this won’t necessarily make a huge difference tomorrow, but it will contribute to the overall wellbeing of the planet in many years to come.

“Our immediate goal is to reduce our carbon emissions by 5% per annum. How Sisk approaches this varies from country to country. In Ireland, 100% of our electricity is already from renewable sources. We are not quite there yet in the UK yet, but we should achieve this by 2021. Conversely, the UK is currently ahead in terms of the network of electric vehicle charging points. So, we would find it easier to promote our electric vehicle strategy there. It is a case of adapting to what opportunities or challenges local conditions present.”

In Ireland, the Sisk board has already committed to providing anyone entitled to a company car with an electric vehicle (EV) if they want one instead of a standard vehicle. It currently has a fleet of 15 EVs in Ireland and is installing chargers on all sites.

As already pointed out, energy consumption is measured at sites’ points of use rather than points of supply, whenever possible. Telematics are used on plant as much as possible to establish how much fuel is used per hour and to help develop more efficient ways of utilising the equipment.

“We apply the science of energy management to the data we collect,” Wayne Metcalfe explains. “We have also put in sub-meters on sites to show where energy is being used during the day.”

One area that delivered immediate results was the electricity usage of drying rooms, where he says they have historically used energy inefficiently.

“Heaters were being left on when they were not needed, even when clothes were dry,” he explains. “On one site, we installed two-panel electric heaters and dehumidifiers. It now takes around four hours to dry the clothes, and the heaters switch off automatically.”

Another area where the company is focusing efforts is tower cranes, which are a huge draw on power. Meters were installed to analyse how they operate on a day-to-day basis, looking in detail at power demands at each stage of the day. These registered regular bursts in use, but also significant periods of lower demand. With this detailed understanding of the power use, the Sisk team is now working with a team at University College Dublin to develop a specific battery solution to trial on tower cranes in Dublin city. The batteries, of course, can be recharged by solar PV panels.

Supply Chain Buy-In

Wayne Metcalfe explains that the energy strategies that Sisk has introduced to date are being adopted in some form by its supply chain.

“Our supply chain has been learning from our existing energy strategies and seeing the benefits of these for their operations,” he says. “Our approach is to educate, share knowledge and to help like-minded supply chain partners on the journey with us, and we generally try to identify suppliers who share our vision, and want to work with partners who share our values.”

In terms of how this works on site, he gives an example of the company’s diesel strategy, in which he says suppliers are fully engaged.

“At the moment, we are looking to reduce diesel use and have a strategy in place to achieve this with our suppliers. First up, there are binary items such as not leaving vehicles idling, and servicing and maintaining vehicles, so they remain efficient. On the next level, we meet with suppliers, who are specialists in their field, to get their input on how we can reduce consumption through planning and sequencing work to make sure it is carried out efficiently.”

Other successful energy management interventions include having fully insulated cabins and using heat and light only when they are needed.

In the area of waste management, he says that Sisk has identified the six most significant sources of waste from its project sites and it has become very good at analysing what leaves a site, and ensuring it is dealt with responsibly, with a transparent reporting system focused on the ultimate goal of minimising what ends up in landfill. The focus is really turning to eliminating the production of the waste and starting to look at it much earlier in the project life-cycle.

“This all ultimately works together and feeds into our overall sustainability goals.”


Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) will be an integral part of the Sisk Sustainable Vision 2030 strategy document, and the company has a formal system in place to measure the impact of various initiatives it undertakes in the communities in which it works.

Wayne Metcalfe explains, “We use a system called AVA Airsweb to register, measure, analyse and report upon the social value activity of each of the projects we have on site.

“For instance, overall, in 2019, we recorded a total number of 170 CSR events, which involved 4,318 hours of input and delivered a return on investment of over €6m.”

With the AVA Airseb system, the activities are grouped by standard categories, known as ‘outcomes’, in the assessment model used in the system.

“We can see from this model that local employment is where we currently deliver the biggest benefit. This is about giving people transferable skills that they can use to sustain a working life, with all the benefits that follow through from that. Our activity in this area ranges from our formal apprenticeship programme at the Sisk Joinery Centre in Dublin to individual employment opportunities for the unemployed in the areas where we work. For example our One Wilton project in Dublin alone offered three such opportunities in 2019.

“The big step forward for us in 2019 was starting to formally record and measure what we have been doing in this area for a long time, and doing this against a formal assessment model has let us see where we are really adding value. This in turn helps us to focus our energy and efforts on where it will make the greatest difference.

“It all comes back around to our values and particularly in this instance, ‘Care’,” Wayne Metcalfe concludes.

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