Learning the lessons of reducing carbon emissions
Simon Rule explains how his work with the education sector is increasingly including the delivery of carbon reduction assistance and advisory services
Learning the lessons of reducing carbon emissions
Originally from a creative and consulting background, Place Group co-founder Simon Rule has focused on working in the education sector, with a mission to improve the life chances of young people
Over the past 20 years, he has helped in the delivery of hundreds of millions of pounds worth of construction and FM projects, many of which have involved the rebuilding, improving, operating and maintaining of schools.
“Through our consultancy, procurement and contract management services, we have devised and implemented transformation, efficiency and savings programmes for customers across education as well as central government and local government, healthcare and the emergency services,” he says.
Place Group was established in 2002 with the expectation of “doing good things in education – yes it that was broad,” he states. “It was a time of change for schools, and soon I found myself advising local authorities on how to transform their school estates and access funding through the Building Schools for the Future programme, having been involved in delivering one of the Department for Education’s exemplar designs for urban secondary schools.”
This progressed into Place Group becoming one of the early pioneers in the Academies programme and developing one of the first Free Schools. The business has since helped to establish over 100 new schools in areas of high demand and deprivation.
Mr Rule explains that his role as a business owner has always had an entrepreneurial focus, including the ability to devise strategies and solutions that meet clients’ future requirements.
“It can be hit and miss second-guessing policy change, but in the main we have been at the forefront of delivering central government pilots and implementing new national programmes aimed at improving outcomes and delivering optimal efficiency,” he continues. “Having an insatiable thirst for knowledge, I have learned from experts in their fields who I have had the opportunity and pleasure to work alongside.”
He finds that his role can become overwhelmed with administration over time and as the business grows, but giving equal priority to strategy, sales and operations, along with clients and partners, helps to maintain the appropriate balance.
“But without doubt, working with equally inquisitive and impassioned colleagues, and observing their growth and development provides the greatest sense of collaboration and achievement,” says Mr Rule.
Public sector expansion
His company has been increasingly involved in assisting educational facilities with planning and applications for BEIS decarbonisation funding for a number of years.
This has included the procurement of LED light replacements, solar PV panels and EV charging points.
“We have also recently expanded our services to help organisations across the public sector meet their net zero targets, working with FM businesses who are able to implement, maintain and monitor energy consumption reduction and decarbonisation strategies.
“The pace of change is both exciting and critical if we are collectively going to meet the Government’s deadlines of 2035 and ultimately 2050 to be net zero,” he says.
“In respect to net zero, there are huge implications for the FM and real estate sectors. Buildings are the second largest source of emissions in the UK at 20%, with manufacturing and construction sectors accounting for around 14%, and surface transport accounting for the largest emissions at 23%.
“What’s great to see is how the FM market is rapidly responding to help their customers reduce emissions by introducing new innovations and services. We are working with leaders in the market to help the public sector accelerate its programmes and embrace new approaches and technologies to improve their environments and contribute to the circular economy,” says Mr Rule.
He adds that the reopening of facilities and increasing workplace attendance feels like it has given fresh impetus to the net zero agenda. Last year’s COP26 conference has also resulted in placing net zero as a high priority for organisations, as well as making it a key consideration for the workforce and encouraging more people to work within sustainable environments.
“ESG, B Corps, Carbon Reduction Plans, EV100, EP100 and RE100 initiatives are no longer just buzzwords, campaigns and objectives, they are measurable functions, and the FM sector is central to helping its customers achieve such standards,” he continues. “With the new ESOS phases 3 and 4 requiring more detail and evidence, and SECR reaching more organisations, the net zero agenda will continue to rapidly develop.”
Meeting climate change
He further states his belief that the current issues such as rising prices and high levels of inflation are encouraging more individuals and companies to reduce their energy consumption and carbon emissions. “Green energy costs have become more comparable with fossil fuel (brown) energy costs, and despite the huge pressure on homes and businesses to cover rising prices, there appears to be a growing attraction to alternative energy sources.
“Offshore wind farms are well on the way to generating a significant amount of energy for the country, and with it of course comes the benefits of a reduction in carbon emissions.
“More and more public sector organisations are accelerating their ‘invest to save’ plans to generate their own energy through solar to reduce bills, and encourage changing behaviours amongst their staff, customers and students to reduce energy consumption,” he says.
This is resulting in the FM industry being asked by its customers to help reduce consumption and costs, engage in the circular economy and help them to achieve their Scope 1, 2 and 3 carbon reduction targets. This means the sector has become key to meeting the climate change challenges and is likely to see more work opportunities created for those proving their ability to deliver.
Mr Rule further explains that his company is engaged in expanding into new areas of its core consulting, research, project management, procurement and contract management activities across the public sector.
“Facilities management remains central to our proposition, with some 80% of our procurement contracts focused on FM. It’s a really exciting time for growth potential, entrepreneurialism and advancement despite the human, environmental and economic challenges we all face.”
Plans are currently being refined for the new Place Group net zero service offering, which will launch in the next few months. This is designed to extend its remit further across the FM sector and reflect its position as a key driver to help organisations meet their decarbonisation targets.
“Over the medium to long term, we will be helping our clients devise and implement their end-to-end net zero strategies in partnership with supply chain partners, ensuring through measurement, monitoring and maintenance that their estates, services, and resources are on track to achieve net zero and have a positive impact on climate change. Hand-in-hand with this, we will help drive innovation to make their operations more efficient, more productive and deliver higher value,” Mr Rule concludes.
What’s great to see is how the FM market is rapidly responding to help their customers reduce emissions by introducing new innovations and services