Management trainee Alexandra Storr

As part of our series celebrating Green Careers Week, we spoke to Alexandra Storr, a Management Trainee with Willmott Dixon. Alexandra is also a Go Construct STEM Ambassador who, despite only being in the first few years of her construction career, has already worked on some pioneering sustainable building projects.

Can you share your favourite green construction project that you’ve worked on, and explain what was involved?

Alexandra: “Tarleton Academy in Lancashire was the first state secondary school in the UK to be constructed as Net Zero Carbon in Operation (NZCiO). It was my first ever project as a management trainee with Willmott Dixon. I saw it from the first spade in the ground in October 2021 until practical completion earlier in 2023.  

It was a great scheme to be a part of, replacing outdated school facilities with a brand new, net zero building meaning the school could apply funding elsewhere rather than towards the rising cost of energy bills, and helping towards the government’s net zero targets. The building was designed with a ‘fabric first’ approach which means the floors and wall materials were chosen for their thermal values to ensure optimum efficiency. Orientation and building form/mass were the key design factors during the initial design. Mechanical and Electrical systems were then designed to enhance the efficiency whilst keeping the building simple to use.

The roof was loaded with PV panels, with quantities derived from a TM54 calculation to understand how the building is used and meets its energy demands. Heating was provided using Ground Source Heat Pumps, a technology that takes heat from the earth’s core around 150m deep to heat the building with specialist pumps and equipment.

We are now designing a new NZCiO college building in Wigan, which has recently been submitted for planning. We have followed similar principles, applying lessons learnt from Tarleton Academy. We are focusing on ensuring the calculations and modelling are used during design, to enable us to predict the energy requirements of the college. The biggest challenge is that a college operates in a completely different way to a school, so energy requirements are very different and a lot of extra specialist equipment is required for the curriculum. We are also incorporating the new building into an existing campus, so we need to keep the college operational throughout the construction process.

It’s been great to see both sides of construction – the on site physical build and the design and development process. The two intertwine and the more we can engage with the supply chain earlier in the process, the more we can influence a change of mindset when it comes to sustainability.”


How has the approach to sustainability in construction evolved?

Alexandra: “Sustainability has almost been forced upon us, quite rightly, by governing bodies and national targets. In a way, construction was very behind the times when it came to sustainability. However, companies like Willmott Dixon are at the forefront of sustainability and have a conscious desire to achieve our own targets not only with the buildings we design and construct but also with our own individual behaviours.

With the constant reminder that our planet is heating up and we should expect more extreme weather conditions, construction should be one of the main industries trying to change the way we treat our planet. I feel the majority of people in construction are now able to understand the knock-on effects certain materials and processes have on the planet, and modern methods of construction are constantly being developed to ensure a sustainable future.”


Which green construction trends do you predict will gain traction in the coming years?

Alexandra: “Modern methods of construction such as modular buildings are definitely going to continue gaining traction. We can already see many high-rise buildings constructed in a matter of months rather than the previous 2-3 year programmes. By constructing off-site, contractors are able to save time and labour, whilst ensuring a high-quality construction. We will calculate embodied carbon before the units even arrive on site, meaning sustainability values can be calculated early to ensure a building achieves its targets set by governing bodies and frameworks.

I also think modelling and data collection will form a huge part of construction. BIM will continue to develop and be used in earlier stages of construction by the full design team, to ensure efficiency in buildings and produce accurate predictions based on temperature trends of the planet. We will use models as a tool rather than retrospectively to record construction. We can already see data collection being used from one project to predict the next, and digital construction will be a major requirement and tool throughout the lifetime of projects.”

Feeling inspired? Discover more about sustainability in construction and green construction careers today…

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