HBD’s commitment to sustainability and social responsibility: creating places with purpose

Environmental consciousness and social responsibility are increasingly paramount and, as we head into a new year, it’s our intention to continue to create places with purpose.

Through innovation and responsibility, HBD is setting new sustainability standards at places like Island in Manchester and Momentum in Rainham – both of which will come to fruition in 2024. In this article, our managing director Ed Hutchinson talks about pioneering new ideas that will help future proof our built environment.

Companies across the world are striving to do better, aiming to meet, if not exceed, their environmental, social and governance (ESG) targets.

That can include things like monitoring and minimising our impact on the environment – right through to supporting local communities and nurturing a happy and healthy workforce. It’s something that HBD has a strong track record of, and in this article, I want to explore what’s been done – and the challenges still ahead, both for our sector and for our business.

Investing in people

At the heart of any business, there should be a cohort of happy, healthy and empowered people. HBD is committed to investing in colleagues, ensuring that they are the best versions of themselves, with policies which protect wellbeing – and cover everything from mental health to shared parental leave.

We invest in employees’ growth through training and mental health support, including a team of mental health first-aid trained colleagues. And we recognise the power of diversity and inclusion, empowering all our colleagues and breaking industry norms – including the role of women, who for far too long have been underrepresented in our sector. We’re challenging that and right now women account for 30% of our HBD team – that’s double the industry average of 14.7%. We’re looking to grow that proportion further over the next 12 months and beyond.

A part of the community

Beyond our own HBD people, we are also committed to people living in and around our HBD places, and our commitment to social value is exemplified through projects which positively impact the local economy and enhance the social fabric of a place.

That means actively supporting charities; great causes like LandAid – of which I am proud to be Chair for the Yorkshire and Humber region, helping to tackle homelessness in the region.

We have also supported Zarach which donates much needed beds and mattresses across Leeds, as well as The Booth Centre in Manchester; I’m proud to have seen colleagues rally round for many causes, giving more than 800 hours volunteering time.

Colleagues have also spent time this year supporting work experience programmes this year – including pledging eight placements, giving opportunities to future talent, and fostering long-lasting relationships with charities and education partners like The Manchester Metropolitan University.

Reducing construction’s carbon footprint

But the biggest impact perhaps comes in our efforts in protecting the natural world. HBD is impassioned in its commitment to reducing our sector’s carbon footprint – especially when you look at its ongoing impact on the natural world, with companies in the built environment responsible for 25% of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions last year.

Climate change is the defining challenge of our times, and in our work, we are committed to being a part of the solution with a goal of achieving NZC for all direct emissions by 2030.

We will achieve this through a range of micro and macro initiatives; from the seemingly small steps that can be taken in our office and on our sites – things like reducing water use, reducing waste sent to landfill, decreasing our reliance on plastics, and discouraging non-sustainable business travel by offering colleagues viable alternatives – through to bigger initiatives in relation to the places we create.

Places like Island in Manchester; our first net zero workspace, offers 100,000 sq ft to businesses increasingly putting ESG high on their agenda. The whole building is being developed to raise the bar for sustainability and will be rated EPC A and BREEAM Excellent. The building will align with UK Green Buildings Council Net Zero carbon buildings framework, and we project that energy consumption will be 46% lower than the 2020 Real Estate Environmental Benchmark.

We’ve designed Island to embrace the change that’s come in the workplace in recent years, creating something that will encourage a new hybrid model of working too.

And it’s not just Island. This year, we submitted a planning application for Colloco, just a few minutes’ walk away in Manchester. Though we’re in the early stages here, we’re still aiming big, with a 200,000 sq ft design for a future-facing workspace that will aim to achieve all the same targets as Island and then some. That includes flexible workspace, a roof pavilion that provides areas for events, and a garden terrace. To encourage active travel, Colloco would also have e-bike charge points, cycle storage, and showers for occupiers to use.

We’re also pioneering a new sustainable blueprint for the industrial and logistics sector with developments like our award-winning Power Park in Nottingham which was this year recognised for its sustainability credentials. Here, we have recycled 90% of materials from the original site; concrete was crushed and used as a capping layer, while remnants of the old cigarette production halls – notably 300,000 sq ft of maple flooring – were recycled and used in homes across Nottingham.

Momentum in London is another pioneering example – a place where we are targeting Net Zero carbon enabled in operation, an A+ EPC rating, a BREEAM Excellent rating and net zero carbon in construction. We have also invested in the latest technologies and practice here. Take for example the Photovoltaic (PV) panels; while most buildings tend to only feature PV panels across about 10% of their roof space, Momentum’s entire roof will be covered in them, self-generating as much electricity as possible for occupiers.

That pioneering approach is in part enabled by collaboration – something I believe is key in combatting climate change. So many of our HBD places are being created in partnership; at Momentum and Island we’re working with Barings and Greater Manchester Pension fund respectively to bring these ideas to life.

That’s probably an important note to finish on as we close this article out – recognising that sharing best practice and working together across our sector is the right way forward as we strive to meet the needs of people, place and planet.

We want to ensure that our HBD places are sustainable and protect the health and happiness of all living and working in them. These are the steps we’re taking to ensure that continues to become a reality.