Everyone within and across the construction industry will be aware of the drive to reach net zero. Members across Scotland have raised concerns about how this can be achieved and whether clients (be they private, commercial or public sector) will be truly willing and able to play their part in cutting out carbon from the construction process.

It was with this in mind that the FMB’s Gordon Nelson and Grahame Barn from Scotland’s Civil Engineering and Contractors Association set up a meeting in the Scottish Parliament for both MSPs and construction industry delegates. Here Gordon Reid, the General Manager for Zero Emissions at Scottish Water shared real-life examples of how Scottish Water has reduced or removed carbon from the construction process. Scottish Water are a major client for the construction industry. In 2022/23, they invested £886 million in the infrastructure needed to ensure the services customers receive are protected for future years.

Contractors are essential partners

Gordon Reid pointed out how important the close co-operation and involvement of contractors has been and will continue to be, in achieving carbon reductions for Scottish Water’s construction programmes.

He also explained what the three critical factors are for Scottish Water and the contractors they work with, when it comes to delivering carbon reductions. These are:

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He stressed the importance of measuring and knowing what was driving Scottish Water’s operational carbon emissions. Looking into materials in 2022, steel, concrete and plastics represented 74% of their CO2 equivalent emissions share. With Diesel alone accounting for 19% of Scottish Water’s total emissions.

Using alternatives

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The use of alternative concrete, low carbon plant, modular steel, and Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil, (HVO) replacing diesel, are now all contributing to carbon reductions. One project at Braidholm, Glasgow had achieved 226 tonnes of embodied carbon emissions through the use of alternative materials.

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With over 4,000 people in Scottish Water’s wider supply chain, Gordon acknowledged that they still have a long way to go to make more carbon reductions across some of their smaller maintenance works. Some FMB members deliver construction services for Scottish Water and with our FMB Scotland President at the meeting, there is an opportunity for further collaboration between our federation and one of the biggest spending clients for the construction industry in Scotland.


Gordon Nelson

Gordon Nelson

FMB Scotland Hub Director, Federation of Master Builders

Director, Federation of Master Builders Scotland

Gordon has nearly twenty years’ experience of working in membership organisations in Scotland and joined the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) in 2014. Prior to this, he worked at the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) and for Unilever in business development, membership management and business-to-business marketing roles. Amongst his responsibilities in his role as the Director for FMB Scotland are public affairs, media relations, governance and representing member’s interests to Scottish policy makers and stakeholders within the Scottish construction industry. Gordon is the Secretary of the Cross-Party Group on Construction in the Scottish Parliament, and he is a member of the Scottish Building Standards Futures Board. Gordon represents the FMB on Scotland’s Construction Industry Collective Voice: which is comprised of the leading construction trade and professional bodies. In spring 2023 Gordon was appointed as an industry co-chair of the Construction Leaderships Forum’s (CLF) Transformation Board.

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