Ahead of Willmott Dixon’s involvement in the Healthcare Property & Development Conference we’ve been speaking exclusively with their National Account Manager for Health – Anastasia Chrysafi…

Q. Willmott Dixon is the UK’s leading independent construction and property services company – could you tell us a little about the business and the work you’re doing across the UK?

Headquartered in Letchworth Garden City, Willmott Dixon is a privately-owned contracting and interior fit-out group. Founded in 1852, we have a clear purpose; to deliver brilliant buildings, transform lives, strengthen communities and enhance the environment so our world is fit for future generations.

In 2018, we were one of only six companies to receive a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the promoting opportunity through social mobility category.

Through our network of local construction offices, our construction and interior fitout reach spreads across all four corners of England and Wales, from Newcastle to Exeter, and everywhere in-between. 

We are at the forefront of building innovation; outside of our extensive healthcare portfolio, key highlights over the past year include delivering the UK’s first Passivhaus ‘Plus’ net carbon positive school Hackbridge, using only 75% of the 100% renewable energy that it generates.  We have also completed a refurbishment of the world-famous grade II listed Old Admiralty Building into modern office space for 2,400 people that can be used by Government.  We are at the forefront of many blue light, leisure, residential, heritage and education projects.

Q. Your role is primarily working within the Health sector – is it right you’ve completed over 100 healthcare construction projects, because that sounds like an incredible feat?

We are proud to have delivered over a century of healthcare projects. We were on the ProCure 21+ framework and we are currently on the Building for Wales framework. The projects delivered through those and healthcare projects from other frameworks and traditional procurement add up. We have delivered 25 community healthcare hubs alone and have five in pre-construction now.

You can read more about these and other projects in our guide to delivering better buildings, called Revitalising Healthcare.

Q. What are some of the stand-out projects Willmott Dixon have been involved in within the sector?

There are a few!

I would have to say the £48m Pears Building at the Royal Free Hospital site stands out. We are due to complete in November this year. The new seven storey building will be one of the five leading research centres for immunity in the world. It will combine NHS patient care with the latest developments in research to provide better treatments for diseases such as cancer, diabetes, HIV, and tuberculosis, and for traditional and tissue-developed transplants. If already completed, this facility would be at the forefront of Covid-19 vaccination research.

We also delivered the first BREEAM Outstanding healthcare facility in 2012 at Houghton le Spring and the largest commercial passivhaus building built in the UK – the £42m George Davies Centre for Medicine at the University of Leicester which will completely transform medical teaching and improve the lives of many patients in the region and beyond.

Last year we completed the refurbishment and extension to the paediatric intensive care unit at St Mary’s Hospital for Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. The transformation of the space available and some of the improved outcomes immediately realised were pretty special. The unit went from being the 25th CQC rated ICU in the country to the first and they were able to almost double the number of children that they could treat per year – literally saving lives.

Finally, I have to mention some of the Covid-19 response works that we have done and are doing. This has involved Covid wards in Wales, an emergency mortuary in Exeter and we are about to deliver a programme of Covid-19 centres in the north.

Q. You’ve recently created and launched ‘cura’ – a pre-designed healthcare product. What are the key benefits for this, and why was there a need for cura?

The reason we created cura – first and foremost, it was in response to the NHS Long Term Plan and Transformation Agenda of moving services into the community, alleviating pressure on acute sites and bringing community services closer to home. Secondly as a business we see the benefits of platform-based designs and pre-designed products and have solutions across most sectors. Cura is a community integrated health and care hub and can be personalised; the height and shape of the building is flexible and the internal layout and clinical adjacencies can be bespoke to individual service requirements. The benefits to our customers lie in the repeatability, flexible spaces that can be used for multiple services, future adaptability and of course a pre-designed product offers fast delivery and certainty of cost and programme.

Q. There’s been a real push for more services delivered in a community setting, but Covid-19 has further exacerbated the pressure on hospitals and waiting times. Do you see a lot of changes coming in community healthcare facilities over the coming years?

I think Covid-19 has accelerated the need and programme for integrated health and care hubs in the community. Relieving pressure on hospitals is even more important and we have seen the recent plans for 150 community diagnostic hubs for example. We also want to create healthy communities with a focus on prevention rather than cure. We are seeing more hubs being delivered by Councils and also the integration with leisure, libraries, cafes and social prescribing spaces, promoting health and wellbeing in the community.

Q. Technology is obviously a big game-changer. How is technology and data changing the way you approach and deliver healthcare projects?

We continue to invest in technology and to digitalise our business providing tangible improvements to our customers. This includes deeper integration of design, procurement and delivery platforms along with a greater emphasis on our buildings’ performance in use, both in terms of operational energy and whole life value. As an example, our entire range of platform-based designs centre around achieving net zero carbon in use, with a route up to full Passivhaus certification.

Our new Collida business is focused on delivering brilliant buildings in several of our core sectors, including healthcare. As part of our DfMA approach to design and procurement to drive customer benefit through AI-generative design and aggregate procurement, Collida’s approach encompasses digital building configurators using rule / logic based design linked to pre-procured elements with a focus on pre-manufactured value / precision manufactured off-site solutions.

In terms of data, we continue to link our inputs to our outputs to better inform decision making – a great example of this is our continued journey to deliver perfect products where we are using data visualisation to aggregate learning from delivery teams, customer satisfaction and quality inspections to increase the rate of improvement in our delivery.

We have also committed to increase our award winning EnergySynergyTM approach on projects where the procuring customer has a strong focus on the running costs and carbon reductions to tackling the gap between predicted and actual energy performance. Our longer-term aim is to offer energy performance optimisation as standard on all projects. EnergySynergyTM follows a project from inception to completion – and beyond. It involves calculating a project’s energy usage at design stage, and then monitoring and managing energy performance once the building has been built, identifying areas for improvement, and feeding lessons learned into our future projects.

We believe that we are the only UK contractor to be taking such a structured approach to energy efficiency at this scale, and early indications are that EnergySynergyTM has the potential to help our customers make energy and cost savings of between 5-15%.

Q. You’re also taking sustainability incredibly seriously – and you’ve just launched your 2030 Sustainability Strategy. Willmott Dixon have always been pushing the boundaries in terms of doing their bit to tackle climate change haven’t they…?

Sustainability is at the heart of what we do; it is led right from the top by our group chief executive Rick Willmott.  We’ve had a sustainability strategy since 2013 and have been net-zero carbon or carbon neutral in our own operations since 2012.

We’ve more than doubled our energy efficiency, slashing our carbon emissions. We now only buy natural renewable electricity for our sites and offices, using Gold Standard offsets for our unavoidable emissions.  We are proud to have been recognised with three Queen’s Awards for Enterprise: for sustainable development in 2014 and 2019, and for social mobility in 2018.

But with accelerating climate change, the future is more unpredictable than ever.  It is quite clear that times have changed: our own footprint is only a tiny part of the picture; the built environment sector contributes around 40% of CO2 emissions and so we need to address the legacy of the buildings that we construct;  and we want to set ourselves a new social value target building on the 10,000 young lives we have enhanced since 2012.

Our new strategy, Now or Never. Our decisive decade, is our roadmap to 2030 for how we tackle these changes, provide our customers with the solutions that they need and secure our ability to operate and grow.  Given that we are already net-zero in our own operations, we are aiming to go further and eliminate fossil fuel use by 2030 and generate some of our own renewable energy to allow us to become zero-carbon without offsetting. We are also aiming to eliminate construction waste and increase environmental gain over and above the 10% anticipated in the forthcoming Environment Bill.  But more importantly, and more challenging as a contractor, is that we want all our projects to be net zero carbon in operation by 2030.  Furthermore, by the end of 2040 we will deliver all our buildings and major refurbishments with net zero embodied carbon and our supply chain will achieve net zero operational carbon.  We will also support 1,000 people who face significant barriers to new long-term jobs including 100 with Willmott Dixon. 

You can find out more Now or Never here

You can register for the Healthcare Property & Development Conference here: https://www.built-environment-networking.com/event/healthcare-property-conference-on/