According to a recent report by Construction Skills Network (CSN), the construction industry will need over a quarter of a million extra workers by 2026 to meet growing demands in the UK sector (CITB). With many workers ending their careers in the UK due to Brexit and some companies downsizing throughout the pandemic, many construction businesses are facing a lack of skilled workers in the industry. And as demand soars, the most affected sectors are likely to be private housing, infrastructure, and repair and maintenance.

If you’re hoping to expand your company and bridge the skills shortage, then there are a few fundamental things you can do to benefit the industry. Below, PPE and industrial tool supplier Zoro share their top tips on how to attract — and importantly, retain — more talented workers in construction.

Updating recruitment methods

If your company wants to approach recruitment internally, it’s important to stay up to date with the current practices, trends, and resources the industry. For example, the websites or apps your company used to advertise jobs a few years ago may have already been eclipsed by a new, more popular site. These platforms are always competing, and their ranking often shifts. While Monster once dominated the online job market, sites like Indeed and LinkedIn are currently the most popular employment platforms used in the UK (TechRadar). It’s also wise to monitor your performance on job review sites like Glassdoor, to see how you are perceived by prospective employees and to work on feedback provided by ex-team members who have moved on.

However, with all these factors to consider, you may want to outsource your hiring process to a recruitment agency. While this is an added expense, it is their job to be tuned into industry trends and find talented employees for you to train, support, and progress throughout their time at your company. Handing the reigns over to an agency allows you to focus on the day-to-day running of the business, such as maintaining a positive, productive work environment that nurtures and retains your existing employees.

Prioritising employee satisfaction

When focusing on expanding your business, it’s important not to neglect the employees you already have. Once you have attracted talented people to your company it’s vital to retain them, and the best way to start doing so is by prioritising employee satisfaction in your everyday operations. Workers want to feel heard and supported by the company they work for, so creating a strong chain of command means that supervisors and managers are always on hand to provide close training, guidance, and a friendly face for new starters.

Even when things get busy, always take the time to listen to any suggestions or concerns from employees. Recognising achievements through schemes like Employee of the Month, or special mentions in company newsletters, can also be a great way to boost morale and inspire talented workers to aspire towards managerial roles. Even smaller things like organising company social events or celebrating staff birthdays can help create a workplace that people truly enjoy being a part of.

Offering career progression

Another key attraction for prospective employees is whether you can offer them the opportunity for progression. When you have the pleasure of talented, motivated staff in your company, make it clear that they can be promoted into supervisory or managerial roles when the time is right. This can help give their career direction and a goal to work towards, meaning they will be more satisfied staying with your company on a long-term basis. Not only this, but promoting your talented staff reduces your chances of having to hire externally, and instead fills management positions with people who already know your construction company inside out.

Consider your company’s diversity

One reason you’re not finding as many passionate, long-term employees may be that you’re not looking in the right places. The construction industry has historically been a highly male-dominated field, so women and other under-represented groups may feel discouraged from applying to apprenticeships or internship programmes in the first place. In fact, research by the Chartered Institute of Building found that the construction sector is still only 15% women (with only 2% on-site), 6% BAME workers, and 6% disabled workers (People Management). This means that many construction companies are missing out on a whole demographic of skilled young people due to a lack of representation the industry.

You can combat this lack of diversity and widen your recruitment process by speaking at schools and colleges about the placements and programmes you can offer. Some students may not think that a career in construction is even an option for them, so hearing from real people in the industry can be a crucial way to recruit new talent. Sending a diverse representation of your company to career days may also encourage more interest from young people of different backgrounds, races, and genders to apply for internships or college courses to prepare them for jobs in the industry.


“The construction industry is currently facing a challenge recruiting and retaining skilled workers, meaning it may struggle to meet the increasing demands in private housing, infrastructure, and repair sectors. However, if this projected growth is met, there could be up to 2.78 million people employed in skilled construction roles by 2026.

“Keeping up to date with recruitment processes and creating a supportive, positive work environment are just some of the ways businesses can attract and retain more employees. However, larger factors at play are the need to increase diversity in the construction industry, as well as ensuring career progression and advancement for those with internships or placements. Higher recruitment rates and better employee retention in this industry will benefit staff, businesses, and their surrounding communities alike.”


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Hayfield has made a significant investment in Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) across six of its live development sites, as the multi-award-winning developer targets a turnover of £150m during 2022.

A panelised system utilising large aircrete blocks is being used at five Hayfield developments, while a trial of Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) is underway at another scheme. The introduction of MMC is accelerating Hayfield’s build timeframes, delivering greater programme and cost certainty, while alleviating the risks of material and labour shortages.

Andy Morris, Managing Director of Hayfield said: “Making a significant investment in MMC is a fundamental strand of our ESG strategy. We are creating programme efficiencies and reducing CO2 emissions, while continuing to deliver beautiful, handcrafted homes to our customers. Some developers opt for modern exteriors when using MMC, but our architecture is far more traditional in style, as that’s what our customers prefer.

“The panelised system we are using at five Hayfield developments is the closest MMC alternative to traditional brick and block masonry construction. It is enabling us to improve build pace by seven weeks. This is not only increasing our production rate and assisting with our growth plans, it is also opening up more land opportunities. To demonstrate our commitment to MMC and offsite construction, I am thrilled to report we have established an internal MMC committee to explore and review further opportunities.”

The panelised ‘I-House’ MMC system is being utilised at Hayfield Park in Bromham and Hayfield Lakes in Clophill, which are both in Bedfordshire. It is also being installed at Hayfield’s two live Buckinghamshire schemes; Hayfield Walk in Hanslope, and Hayfield Oaks in Woburn Sands. The fifth live scheme selected for this MMC approach is Hayfield Grove in the Worcestershire village of Hallow, which is the housebuilder’s first EPC-A rated development.

An alternative MMC trial utilising SIPs is underway at the final phase of Hayfield Place in the Bedfordshire village of Silsoe.

Hayfield is proactively installing air source heat pumps, underfloor heating, EV fast-charging points, 100% renewable energy, and fibre optic broadband into all new and upcoming developments, in line with its zero-carbon-ready specification. The new investment in MMC is in line with Hayfield seeking to deliver 350 homes during 2022. The company is gearing up to construct 500 homes annually, supported by a portfolio of sites to enable visible production into the future.

A new construction technology centre has received funding of €5 million to accelerate research and innovation within the construction sector.

The State funding was announced by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar on Wednesday and the funding will be spread over five years.

The centre will be hosted by NUI Galway and the consortium includes Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, and University College Cork working with the Irish Green Building Council.

In line with the Government’s Housing for All strategy, the new centre will have a particular focus on advancing innovation and productivity in residential construction.

A team of researchers from across the Construction Technology Centre consortium, with expertise in the main areas of digital adoption, modern methods of construction and sustainability will be organised under five pillars to address the urgent areas of Productivity, Affordability & Cost; Quality and Safety; Sustainability; Skills and Training; and Collaboration

Enterprise Ireland worked with Ernst & Young to develop the specification for the new centre.

Mr Varadkar said: “The Government is investing billions – substantially above the EU average – in the future, building new homes, roads, public transport, schools, hospitals and other vital infrastructure.

“This new construction technology centre will make sure we are at the cutting edge of new developments in the sector, making sure Irish companies and the taxpayer are getting the best value for money, while building this important infrastructure in the most modern and efficient way possible.”


Source: Breaking

Bespoke-designed, prefabricated heating equipment provides low disruption solution for high-performance heat at social housing estate

Wakefield and District Housing (WDH) has improved the reliability and efficiency of the heating and hot water service at its Smirthwaite housing estate with the installation of eight new Remeha Gas 220 Ace boilers using a Remeha prefabricated cascade arrangement.

One the UK’s largest social housing providers, WDH is committed to excellence and performance. Heating and hot water are critical services for residents, so ensuring that the system operates reliably is a top priority for the WDH technical services team. In line with its wider sustainability commitments, WDH also works to mitigate rising energy costs wherever possible for its tenants.

The Smirthwaite Estate in Normanton consists of 192 two-bedroom maisonettes, 70 three-bedroom houses and 14 one-bedroom bungalows. Previously, three 25-year-old boilers had served two district heating circuits which in turn feed heat interface units (HIUs) within the individual dwellings to provide heating and hot water services.

When the old boilers came to the end of their serviceable life, the WDH technical services team installed temporary plant to maintain the service while they evaluated the feasible options.

A major concern was to avoid disruption wherever possible for the residents. This included keeping downtime to a minimum and avoiding the need to enter properties.

“We were keen to explore the use of renewable technologies, either to replace or assist new gas-fired boilers,” said Stephen Dumbrell, WDH’s Assistant Mechanical Services Manager. “Given the nature of the existing heating system at Smirthwaite and therefore the possible limitations, we asked Rob Wilson at Building Services Solutions to carry out an appraisal of the low carbon options.”

The findings of the report ruled out air source heat pumps, ground source heat pumps and biomass as practical alternatives at the estate, as consultant Rob Wilson explained.

“For a number of reasons – including space constraints, insufficient power supply, noise, the existing distribution system and operating temperatures – these technologies had to be disregarded as viable options,” he said.

His recommendation was to install modular, energy-efficient replacement boilers with a Plate Heat Exchanger to deliver long-term improved heating reliability while reducing energy consumption and carbon and NOx emissions.

“This was the most practical, cost-effective and reliable approach to improve outcomes for residents on the Smirthwaite estate,” Rob continued. “It met all of WDH’s requirements, providing a more energy-efficient heating and hot water service, minimising disruption to residents, and enabling easy future maintenance by their inhouse technical team.”

Rob specified installing eight Remeha Gas 220 Ace 300 in a back-to-back arrangement using a Remeha off-site fabricated cascade system with a Plate Heat Exchanger (PHEX). Remeha is part of Baxi Commercial Solutions.

“I’ve used the Remeha pre-assembled rig systems before,” Rob commented. “The products, design and customer service from the Baxi Commercial Solutions team are all excellent. WDH’s technical services team are also familiar with Remeha products and have a great relationship with the sales and technical support teams, so it was a logical selection.”

Working with Rob and WDH, the Baxi Commercial Solutions team prepared CAD and 3D drawings of the boiler cascade arrangement bespoke to the design parameters and integrated specially sized pump sets and a PHEX into the design. The PHEX was recommended to separate the new boilers from the existing district heating distribution system and protect them from any debris, corrosion or poor water quality.

In addition to the boilers, pumps and PHEX, the packaged solution included a pressurisation unit, a dosing pot and an expansion vessel.

The detailed CAD and 3D drawings provided early visualisation of the layout. Through subsequent collaborative discussions with the group, revisions were considered and implemented to reach a final design that met all the site constraints and requirements. Production then took place in a factory environment, with comprehensive end-of-line testing.

The equipment was delivered to site in clearly numbered pallets with a reference drawing for guidance. The WDH technical services team then bolted the boilers together and connected them to the existing system.

“It is very unusual for an inhouse team to be able to carry out a project of this scale,” said Stephen. “One of the many benefits of using the rig was that it provided a good structure for our engineers,” he explained. “It avoided the need to size all the individual components and, as no welding was required, saved a significant amount of installation time.”

The switch to the new boilers took around four hours, allowing WDH to achieve their key goal for minimal downtime and disruption to residents.

“The whole process was seamless,” Stephen added. “It says a lot that the residents weren’t even aware that we were refurbishing the heating system!”

Jason Male was one of the WDH engineers on the project. So how did he find working on the installation?

“This was a great project to be involved with and everything ran very smoothly,” Jason said. “The rig is outstanding and looks really impressive,” he continued. “The support we received from the Baxi team throughout was top notch. They were brilliant to work with and really helpful – we couldn’t have asked for better!”

On both an operational and aesthetic level, the outcome is ticking all the boxes.

“The plant room has been completely transformed,” Stephen continued. “We now have a very well organised plant room that makes the best use of space and provides good accessibility to all the boilers for future maintenance to optimise efficiency and reliability.”

Commissioning was carried out by Baxi Commercial Services engineers who safety tested the installation in conjunction with the WDH site team and control specialist.

Baxi Commercial Services will also provide WDH’s technical services team with onsite training on the new boilers to ensure ongoing high performance.

WDH are anticipating a considerable reduction in energy consumption moving forward from the more energy-efficient equipment and design. There is also the expectation of welcome operational cost savings from the more efficient system with the removal of expensive breakdown callouts.

“It’s a great system and a fantastic achievement. We’re delighted with the service we have received throughout from Baxi Commercial Solutions – and the results,” Stephen concluded.

Martyn Shaw, Executive Director of Technical Services at WDH, said: “I am extremely proud of what we have achieved. Our teams have gone over and above to overcome a complex issue, showing dedication, innovation and due diligence to get the job done well for our customers.

“The simple fact that the residents at Smirthwaite saw little or no disruption during the transition to the new system, is a testament to the in-house talent we have at WDH. The system will help us to achieve our aim of creating better, more sustainable places to live.”

The fully-modulating Remeha Gas 220 Ace series is available in 160 kW, 200 kW, 250 kW and 300 kW outputs with cascade options. The Gas 220 Ace delivers higher-than-average gross efficiencies of up to 98% with low NOx emissions. It is supplied with onboard time and temperature controls, with direct connection to a Building Management System provided as standard to maximise heating efficiency.



Do thicker insulated walls, triple glazed windows, & MVHR ventilation systems tip the scales unfavourably for Passivhaus when it comes to embodied carbon?

The UK Passivhaus Trust (PHT) has published resources exploring the role of Passivhaus design in reducing whole life carbon emissions from buildings. The resources include a freely available position paper & primer, alongside an on-demand webinar, and draw on recent research that counters the argument that designing to decrease operational carbon emissions increases embodied carbon emissions due to additional materials.

Access the Passivhaus & embodied carbon resources here:


Reduced overall whole life carbon

A certified Passivhaus building can have less embodied carbon, and will have a significantly smaller whole life carbon footprint, when compared like-for-like with one built to building regulations.

  • The Passivhaus Trust undertook modelling of the whole life carbon footprint (measured over 60 years) for a house built to comply with building regulations and the same house upgraded to meet the Passivhaus standard.
  • The modelling shows that, even with additional building elements (an MVHR ventilation system, high performance triple glazed windows, more insulation), the Passivhaus house had a lower initial embodied carbon and less operational carbon over its lifetime, leading to a smaller whole life carbon footprint.
  • This was found to be as a result of the initial carbon footprint being smaller due to the reduced heating system required for a Passivhaus, as well as the carbon emissions accumulating more slowly over time because of the lower space heating demand.
  • The research also found that triple glazing does not necessarily result in higher embodied carbon.  Over the lifespan of a window the frame material choice makes as much, if not more, difference to the overall emissions, than the glazing choice.

Embodied carbon benefits of Passivhaus
The research identified some ways that Passivhaus design helps reduce embodied carbon of buildings:

  • Passivhaus design optimisation results in less material use, through better form factor and simplified details.
  • Passivhaus buildings tended to include products with longer lifespans , through the use of certified components and  quality assurance certification.
  • Passivhaus certification means a better quality build and so offering a longer fabric lifespan
  • Building to the Passivhaus standard means no need for future retrofit to meet more demanding standards later on.

Retrofit first
There are substantial savings made in retrofitting existing buildings, compared with the high embodied energy costs of demolition and rebuilding. As an example, St. Sophia’s Primary School in East Ayrshire revealed that 40% embodied carbon savings were made just by undertaking an EnerPHit retrofit rather than rebuilding the school.Passivhaus-compatible carbon counting tools

Carbon counting tools such as the PHribbon plug-in for PHPP are making it easier for Passivhaus designers to look at the embodied carbon impact of design and material choices,  Building on the RICS Professional Statement on Whole Life Carbon, and incorporating a library of over 400 EPDs, PHribbon makes whole life carbon calculations quick to perform using the material quantities already embedded in a PHPP assessment.



The research concludes that the relationship between embodied and operational carbon is rapidly changing, as energy supplies decarbonise worldwide. The embodied carbon of construction materials is locked into a building, based on the energy supply conditions now, whereas operational carbon changes as energy supplies change which, at the moment, are steadily decarbonising. However, continuing to reduce energy demand is still important as it reduces peak loads which will reduce the level of future zero carbon energy infrastructure and storage needed.

Sarah Lewis, Research & Policy Director at the Passivhaus Trust concluded:


“Emerging research shows that designing to the Passivhaus standard, be that for new or existing buildings, does not need to result in increased embodied carbon and that choice of materials, rationalisation of build form and reduction of building services play a significant part in reducing whole-life carbon.Passivhaus buildings are optimised for net zero, providing the best route to minimise whole life carbon. Outstanding levels of building performance minimise operational carbon, while the Passivhaus design methodology encourages optimisation of embodied carbon through efficient use of materials and radically reducing the heat and cooling plant.

Reducing operational and embodied carbon is not an either/ or choice. We must aim to tackle both simultaneously.”

The free to download PHT primer & position paper, along with a host of additional resources are available on the Passivhaus Trust website. Access the Passivhaus & embodied carbon resources here:

by Nicolle PortillA of RTS (Recyle Track Systems based in the US)

With environmental, health, and economic benefits – what exactly is LEED certification? Why is it important in modern construction?


Many factors endanger the environment. Unsustainable infrastructure systems, plastic waste, and increased carbon emissions all contribute to this. But, recently, people have acknowledged the need to protect the environment from harm. As part of that effort, there is a drive to lower the carbon emissions of the construction industry. The reduction in emissions can be achieved by sourcing sustainable products and implementing sustainable construction methods.

With a greater demand for sustainable buildings, LEED certification allows the construction industry to come closer to achieving sustainability.

What Is LEED Certification?

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) developed the LEED Certification. It created LEED to help with the creation of green buildings that are more efficient. Thus, LEED ensures environmentally friendly construction. This certification evaluates a building’s design and construction based on various factors.

These include water usage, energy efficiency, and air quality. LEED also factors in building materials used, access to public transportation, and responsible land use. This certification is a benchmark for a green building’s design, construction, operation, and maintenance.

The USGBC awards buildings that enroll in the program with the four levels of LEED certification. The number of points that a building earns determines the level they are in. These levels are:

  • LEED-certified buildings (40-49 points)
  • LEED silver buildings (50-59 points)
  • LEED gold buildings (60-79 points)
  • LEED platinum buildings (80 and above points)

As per the U.S. Green Building Council, the LEED certification is a globally accepted mark of achievement in sustainability.

The Value of LEED Certification in Modern Construction

So, what is a LEED certification good for? A large part of the population lives, works, and learns in LEED-certified buildings all over the globe. Some reasons why LEED certification is vital in modern construction include:

Environmental Benefits

In America, buildings make up a large percentage of the country’s total energy, water, and electricity use. It also accounts for a huge part of carbon dioxide emissions. But, the LEED program helps new and existing buildings use more sustainable practices. A benefit of green building through LEED is water conservation.

LEED encourages the use of less water and the management of rainwater. It also encourages the use of alternative water sources. In doing so, water savings from LEED buildings will rise. Buildings produce close to half of the global CO2 emissions. A source of carbon in buildings includes energy used to pump and treat water. Other sources are waste disposal and fossil fuel used for heating and cooling. 

LEED helps reduce CO2 emissions by giving rewards to projects with net-zero emissions. It also awards projects that produce positive energy returns. LEED-certified buildings also produce less greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions usually come from water use, solid waste, and transportation. Another environmental benefit of LEED Certification is that it encourages less energy consumption.

The construction industry produces millions of tons of waste each year. LEED encourages waste diversion from landfills. It also awards sustainable construction waste management and encourages general circular economy. When projects recover, reuse, and recycle materials, they earn points. They also get points when they use sustainable materials.

Health Benefits

Wellness is a prime concern for many people. Building green using the LEED rating system helps people live and work in healthy environments. LEED buildings focus on human health both indoors and outdoors.

Americans spend about 90% of their time indoors. But, the concentration of pollutants indoors can be 2 to 5 times more than outdoors. A health effect of pollutants found in indoor air is headaches. Other effects are fatigue, heart disease, and respiratory illnesses.

LEED promotes indoor air quality through its rating system. LEED-certified homes aim to provide cleaner and better indoor air. LEED also encourages the development of spaces that have access to daylight. These spaces are also free from harsh chemicals usually present in paints.

In-office buildings, a healthy indoor environment improves the engagement of employees. Such an environment has clean air and great access to daylight. Some benefits of LEED-certified buildings include higher employment and retention rates. Employees are also more productive in such healthy spaces.

A LEED-certified building improves outdoor air quality, especially in highly industrialized locations. Thus, LEED is essential in limiting smog. It is also critical in making air healthier for the general population.

Economic Benefits

LEED can help save on cost. Using LED lighting leads to a significant reduction in energy costs. So does the use of more energy-efficient heating and cooling methods. LEED encourages the use of these energy and cost-saving methods.

The maintenance cost of LEED buildings is also lower. That is, in comparison to normal commercial buildings. Green buildings also have lower operating costs.

Buildings with LEED certification also enjoy tax benefits and incentives. Local governments provide these benefits. These benefits include tax credits, reductions in fees, and grants. The building may also enjoy expedited building permits and fee waivers.

Some locations carry out energy audits. A LEED certification may spare a building from an audit, saving the project money. LEED buildings also have increased property values. Plus, the buildings attract tenants. Green buildings have fewer vacancy rates than properties that are non-green.

A LEED certification also provides a competitive edge. Customers are more environmentally conscious in recent times. Most are willing to pay extra for goods and services from companies also conscious of the environment. More customers mean more revenue.

The Bottom Line

LEED is one of the top international programs for sustainability in the design and construction of buildings. A LEED certification shows the use of building methods that promote circular economy and are friendly to the environment. Having the certification can enhance the contractor’s and building owner’s credibility.

With the increasing need for sustainability, LEED certification has become increasingly important. It benefits the construction industry and shines the way for an ethical system of sustainable buildings. Generally, LEED works to ensure the world is more sustainable and healthier.


Source: For Construction

NovoCarbo launched first large-scale carbon removal parks in Germany including renewable heat generation 
Hamburg, July 15, 2022. Novocarbo is implementing new large-scale and permanent carbon dioxide removal parks in Germany. This will increase the company’s carbon removal and storage capacity to 16,000 metric tons of CO2 per year over the next two years.  With an investment volume of 25 million euros, the company is thus heralding industrial scaling in Europe.
The basis for the scaling is a new, ultra-modern pyrolysis system from PYREG, type PX1500. Novocarbo will put two of these systems into operation in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in the third quarter of 2022, which will, in turn, produce ca. 2,700 additional tons of carbon removal credits annually. As early as this summer, another system goes into operation at a well-known German industrial group, generating around 1,350 carbon removal credits annually. Two more carbon removal parks will follow, in 2023 and 2024, with an additional removal capacity of 10,800 t CO2 p.a. In addition, further sites are under development: according to current plans, capacity will be expanded to over 30,000 t CO2 per year by 2025.

As a pioneer of carbon removal certificates, Novocarbo already has a range of major clients, including SwissRe and the Finnish trading platform Compensate. The company’s certificates, also known as carbon credits, are traded on well-known international platforms such as Carbonfuture and too. Each credit corresponds to one metric ton of permanently removed atmospheric CO2.

“With our carbon removal parks, we have developed a blueprint – a holistic solution that works at any location in the world. It combines CO2 sequestration with regenerative heat and the production of sustainable materials for industry. Our solution is not only easily scalable, but also economical and sustainable over the long term. Above all, it’s not just a concept, it’s already a reality today,” explains CEO Caspar von Ziegner.
The new parks represent a novel combination of active climate protection with multiple economically viable business models. Novocarbo manages a variety of organic residues, transforms it into biochar, and sells it to industries like construction and agriculture that can use it sustainably. It sells the resulting carbon removal certificates, and provides regenerative heat created by the pyrolysis process.
Furthermore, Novocarbo offers long-term contracts through which future quotas for carbon removal credits can be secured today. An investment in the machine park is also possible with these models. Through these multi-year contracts, Novocarbo is the first provider to launch high-quality, large-scale carbon removal projects.
The basis for the PyCCS technology (Pyrogenic Carbon Capture & Storage) is the carbon contained in plant residues. In the natural carbon cycle, this would be released back into the atmosphere as CO2 through the decomposition of the biomass or forest fires. PyCCS transforms the carbon into a stable form, securely binding it for thousands of years.
“To reach the 1.5-degree target, we need a rapid expansion of PyCCS technology. In contrast to other available CDR technologies, we can already economically remove CO2 from the atmosphere at substantial levels, and then offer carbon removal credits at competitive prices.  And that’s without any secondary, undeterminable effects or new problems, because we have already been able to prove where the CO2 goes. We turn atmospheric carbon dioxide into marketable products,” says CSO Paul Doertenbach.
To actively support Novocarbo’s scaling and the expansion of the plant park, the company’s management was expanded at the start of 2022. The circular economy expert Paul Doertenbach took over the role of CSO for the strategic alignment of all sales activities of the company, while Sven Wissebach, as CFO/COO, is responsible for financing and team building and Venna von Lepel, as CCO, directs the certification and marketing of the carbon credits.

ZSW’s new process uses ecofriendly solvent to advance industrial cell manufacturing

Perovskite solar cells are brightening the prospects of photovoltaics. Easy and inexpensively made with ink, these cells recently set records in the lab with efficiency ratings as high as 25.7 percent. On the downside, nearly all manufacturing processes for these cells involve hazardous solvents such as dimethylformamide that adversely impact health and the environment. To coat large-area perovskite solar cells on an industrial scale, manufacturers urgently need a process that uses more benign solvents. The Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg (ZSW) has made a major stride towards that objective. Its researchers developed a coating process for perovskites that uses a single ecofriendly solvent, dimethyl sulfoxide. The ZSW applied this method to produce a solar cell nearly as efficient as cells made with the toxic solvent. The journal ACS Applied Energy Materials has published a paper on this scientific advance.

For several years now, researchers and manufacturers have been focusing on solar cells that use layers of perovskite as the light-absorbing material. Perovskites are materials that have the same crystal structure as the eponymous natural mineral. “Some compounds in this class of materials exhibit excellent optical and electronic properties – a basic requirement for achieving higher solar cell yields,” says Dr. Jan-Philipp Becker, the head of the ZSW’s Photovoltaics: Materials Research department. “What’s more, these materials are abundant on Earth and cheap. They could enable manufacturers to soon offer highly efficient modules at even lower costs than silicon-based modules have today.”

The benefits of perovskite layers do not end there. As a type of thin-film technology, these layers can also be deposited on plastic. This results in light, flexible modules that can be used in ways conventional solar modules cannot. For example, they seamlessly integrate into vehicles and light industrial sheds that cannot handle heavy loads.

Harmful solvents hamper large-scale production

Perovskite precursors have to first be dissolved so they can be applied in uniform layers to the substrate. This requires solvents that usually contain dimethylformamide (DMF), which is hazardous to health and the environment. This toxicity hampers efforts to scale this process up to industrial production. Manufacturers would have to produce and dispose of larger quantities of the solvent and take even more stringent occupational safety measures. Costs would rise.

This dilemma has sent researchers and manufacturers out in search of environmentally compatible solvents that are suitable for industrial applications. This use case requires chemical properties that very few substances exhibit. Jan-Philipp Becker’s team thoroughly investigated pure dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) to see if it could serve this purpose. DMSO actually looks to be unsuitable for this coating process. It is a solvent with high surface tension and viscosity, which leaves an uneven layer deposited on the solar cell. DMSO also makes it difficult to control the crystallization process, which often results in small perovskite crystals and a cell that generates less solar energy.

Adapting the production process to green solvents

ZSW researchers found two workarounds for these issues. They modified the film formation process and improved the drying method to increase the efficiency of perovskite solar cells produced with DMSO. “We used a surfactant made of silicon oxide nanoparticles to coat the perovskite solar cell and adapted the drying process,” says Becker. With these two improvements, the process now produces uniform layers with large crystallites.

The 0.24-square-centimeter perovskite solar cells produced at the ZSW achieve 16.7 percent efficiency, just 0.2 percent less than the perovskite solar cells of the same size that the institute makes with DMF. The researchers use the blade coating method to this end. It is scalable to larger production numbers and therefore suitable for industrial applications.

Producing perovskite solar cells with larger surface areas

This scalability is what distinguishes blade-coated cells from spin-coated cells that have achieved record efficiencies of 25.7 percent. Although spin coating produces more efficient cells, this method does not lend itself to industrial-scale production of large modules.

“These new research findings are an important milestone on the path to industrial production,” says Becker, clearly delighted. “Now we will further optimize the manufacturing process and produce larger modules.” ZSW researchers now aim to demonstrate perovskite solar modules as large as 30 by 30 square centimeters made with industrial-grade coating methods. With this size, all basic challenges of a further upscaling to commercial module formats would already be overcome.

This effort was funded by the European Union and the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) as part of the PERCISTAND and CAPITANO research projects. A paper giving an account of this work entitled “One-Step Blade Coating of Inverted Double-Cation Perovskite Solar Cells from a Green Precursor Solvent” was published at

Royal Borough of Greenwich’s planning board has approved plans to build 14 new zero carbon council homes and a community/commercial unit on the Barnfield Estate.

Part of the council’s Greenwich Builds programme to build over 750 homes for local people on housing waiting lists, the newly approved development consists of six one-bedroom flats, two of which are wheelchair accessible, six two-bedroom and two three-bedroom flats.

Seven parking spaces, two accessible, are included in the scheme, as are 26 cycle storage spaces. The community/commercial unit included in the design comprises 191.9m² of floor space with an open-plan layout to allow for flexibility. At the centre of the development is a large communal outdoor space for use by existing and future residents, which will include high quality landscaping and provision for child play spaces.

The homes will be net-zero carbon, achieved by high levels of air tightness, the use of solar panels and heat pumps and a mechanical ventilation system with heat recovery to minimise energy waste and improve internal air quality. These technologies will make the homes both extremely energy efficient and cheap to run for  tenants. 

The scheme will be built using insulated panels (SIPs), one of the most environmentally responsible building systems available, to ensure a quick and efficient building process, minimising both disruption and pollution.


This planning decision brings the total number of Greenwich Builds council homes approved, under construction or completed to 724.


Leader of the Royal Borough of Greenwich, Cllr Anthony Okereke, said: “This zero carbon development exemplifies the work we’re doing to tackle the housing crisis, building hundreds of homes for people on housing waiting lists across the borough. The addition of a dedicated unit for community or commercial use shows how we are maximising value and listening to what local people want through extensive engagement with neighbouring residents.”


Member for Housing, Cllr Aidan Smith said “We are delighted that more zero carbon Greenwich Builds homes have been given planning approval, bringing the total number of homes approved, under construction or completed to over 720. We are putting every effort into building truly affordable homes with our Greenwich Builds programme, whilst also partnering with housing associations, developers and Meridian Home Start to create as many homes as possible for local people on our waiting lists.”

Fusion has the potential to provide a near-limitless source of secure, low carbon energy. Pic credit: UKAEA

Fusion energy plant could generate thousands of jobs and bring huge economic boost to the region, according to report

A prototype fusion energy plant could bring huge economic benefits to the region – potentially generating more than £1b in gross value added (GVA), an economic report has concluded.

If the proposed site to host the plant near Goole in East Yorkshire is given the go-ahead by the Government, it could also create more than 8,000 jobs during the manufacture and construction of the prototype power plant.

The site is one of five shortlisted by the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) as potential locations to host  the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) programme.


The winning location will be announced later this year.

The East Riding of Yorkshire Council bid was supported by key industry bodies, a range of different stakeholders and a partnership of northern universities, led by the University of York.

Those behind the bid say the project could be truly transformative and bring opportunity to generations.

Fusion is an intrinsically safe technology, and has the potential to provide a near-limitless source of secure, low carbon energy by copying the processes that power the sun and stars where atoms are fused to release energy, creating nearly four million times more energy for every kilogram of fuel than burning coal, oil or gas.

The headline objective of STEP is to demonstrate delivery of net electricity to the grid at the 100MW (megawatts) level.


The economic report, carried out by Dr Mark Graham, Senior Economist at the Data Driven Innovation Programme, University of Edinburgh, quantified the huge economic benefits the plant could bring in construction costs, investment, training and jobs.

The massive project has been broken down into distinct phases, culminating in the completion of the STEP prototype reactor by around 2040. Phase I is currently underway with £222m of government funding and involves land acquisition and concept design by 2024. Phase II would see site development and engineering design through to 2032, while Phase III would see the manufacture and construction of the STEP prototype reactor which could generate investment totalling £10b.

Phase III could generate 8,651 jobs, the report concludes.

The initial phase of construction and development would see growth from hundreds of workers in 2024 needed to build the initial infrastructure, towards the Phase III level by the 2030s.

There are already around 18,000 manufacturing jobs within the East Riding of Yorkshire and the report’s author concludes the region could serve many of the needs of the third and final phase of the project.


With over 160,000 science, research, engineering and technology professionals based within a 50 mile radius of Goole, the local area, the report’s author says the region is particularly well served to meet R&D opportunities.

STEP will drive early investment in regional skills at all stages, from primary and secondary schools to further education colleges, apprenticeships and universities. The exciting career opportunities that STEP offers will be available to all – the girls and boys at primary school now, could be the operators of STEP in the future.

The report recommends consideration of a new University Technical College in the region focused on Net Zero and Fusion requirements, with the University of York well-placed to lead along with key industrial partners associated with the project.

Other regional strengths highlighted in the report include:

  • In the City of York and North Yorkshire, the University of York has expertise in simulations, instrumentation and experimental research in fusion plasmas, nuclear physics, social science aspects of fusion energy, robotics and the Institute for Safe Autonomy
  • In South Yorkshire, the University of Sheffield has expertise including concrete, electrical energy storage, robotics, advanced materials, radioactive waste management, fluid dynamics and control
  • The Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) in Rotherham brings together an enormous range of expertise from casting, machining and joining, through materials and composites to digital and additive manufacturing
  • The Nuclear AMRC, also in Rotherham, brings nuclear-specific expertise across machining, welding and simulation
  • UKAEA has recently established a new fusion technology research centre in Rotherham
  • In West Yorkshire, University of Leeds has strengths in advanced engineering materials, corrosion, robotics & autonomous systems, fluid mechanics and nuclear engineering
  • Huddersfield hosts the North of England branch of the National Physical Laboratory, as well as key accelerator facilities of the National Ion Beam Centre
  • In Hull and East Yorkshire the University of Hull hosts the Energy and Environment Institute, along with expertise in advanced materials and virtual & augmented reality.


Cllr Jane Evison, portfolio holder for economic investment, growth and tourism at East Riding of Yorkshire Council, said: “The STEP fusion energy project would be truly transformative for the East Riding and bring opportunities for generations to come.

“This economic report has further quantified the huge economic benefits the plant could bring in construction costs, investment, training and jobs.

“The impact on jobs for local people in several roles cannot be understated, nor can STEP’s ambition to drive skills and investment in our local schools and colleges.

“The council will continue to work hard with our stakeholder partners to ensure the East Riding has done everything possible by the time the preferred location is named later this year.”

Source: Universite of York