To make real progress, use a fully integrated approach

I recently visited a diesel train maintenance facility where it’s clear they don’t recycle water, don’t capture rainwater, don’t manage drainage to reclaim or reduce energy usage and have huge depot doors which were all open on a not very hot day with heat escaping. Hardly a great advert for the rail industry’s sustainability efforts.

The interesting conundrum for the rail industry is that trains are one of the most environmentally friendly forms of mass transport available, releasing 0.046kg of carbon dioxide per kilometre each passenger travels. A diesel car is more than double that at 0.117kg. Yet high media scrutiny means we have to take action, and that’s why it’s key to recognise that it’s not the vehicles so much as the buildings that produce the heat that is contributing to climate change.

Some of the biggest buildings in the UK are part of the railways, and as my example above highlights, just taking a brief look at old facilities shows they are inefficient and we aren’t doing enough to retrofit them to improve energy efficiency. What’s disappointing is that we’re not using the technology we already have, from intelligent building controls to key performance monitoring of where energy is being used and lost to identify efficiency improvement opportunities.

Poor working practices don’t help. The same maintenance facility I mentioned earlier, which can service 20 locomotives simultaneously and where the doors are left open unnecessarily, has a beautiful glass roof. But all the windows were dirty. I asked when was the last time they cleaned the windows; no-one knew. People who had worked there 20 years – have you ever seen the windows up there clean? No.

Yet think of the light that could come through those windows that would mean electric lights could be switched off. Also, not a solar panel to be seen.
This facility should be setting an example, with its owners taking a fresh look at where strategic investment could be made to make it a more operationally environmentally efficient and healthy building.

There are stations, depots, offices and maintenance facilities and other assets all over the country that make up an operating railway, and that’s where we need to take action.


Just as organic food is usually more expensive, integrating sustainably measures into a building can increase costs – in particular if you divide the OPEX from the CAPEX – but critically, lower the whole-life expenditure and increase ROI.

Frustratingly, the approach many rail operators take from the start of a project drives inefficient behaviour, so, clearly if a company only works on the design and construction of a building, it will only focus on CAPEX, forgetting or ignoring the impact of its work on OPEX.

Which is precisely why at TenBroeke, we engage with our clients to encourage a longer-term view and to take a whole-life cost approach.
We use the 1-10-100 Rule – developed by George Labovitz and YuSang Chang in 1992. Put simply, the 1-10-100 rule states that it costs exponentially more money to identify and correct data entry errors the longer it takes to find them. Hence, it costs $1 to verify data as it’s being entered, $10 to clean
the data afterwards and $100 if you do nothing. The same principles apply to infrastructure. Spend more on design and you may lower construction costs but, in particular, you will reduce operating costs over the lifetime of an asset. The net result is slightly higher up-front costs, but lower medium and long-term expenditure and an improved ROI.

When we look at building sustainable efficiencies into an infrastructure asset, it’s amazing how well this rule works. How we do it is simple – instead of operating on a traditional Design & Build basis, which ignores
operational considerations because they’re in the future, we bring the operators into the early discussions.

Collaboration between all parties at the design stage ensures potential future issues can be identified and mitigated and often turned into efficiency improvement opportunities. We write and agree a Concept of Operations and Maintenance at the start of the Design phase.
Then we optimise it rather than compromise it. By keeping the measurements of success that make an optimised operation, we can then measure efficiency when the asset enters service.

This approach calls for a different mindset – spend a bit more now to gain great benefits over the medium and long-term. Clients ask, how long will it take to recoup my investment? That’s where the whole-life model costings
come in because this identifies the cost trend over time. Too often we are asked to work on projects that haven’t taken any of this into consideration, there’s a set budget for a set specification, but no Concept of Maintenance and Operations to drive the right behaviour throughout the design, build and operation of the asset.


We view every project through a sustainability lens, looking at the whole-life of the asset in terms of design, construction time, material choice and supply chain risks, purpose of building, access/ entry points, management of heat and cold – and reducing power consumption through the latest proven technologies.

Over the last few years, we have made sustainability through the Whole-Life Model integral to the way we work and deliver advice and services.
We develop an Environment & Sustainability Strategy as part of the original plan, not simply as an afterthought. The benefit to the client is that we design in operational considerations from the start to control construction expenditure and reduce operating costs.

It’s a formal part of our science-based approach to systems engineering.
Keep in mind that sustainability isn’t only renewable energy, it’s also
about renewing the assets, so here are simple actions to help ensure your next major asset refurb or development contributes to net zero 2050:
■ adopt a collaborative approach from the outset;
■ integrate operational considerations into the design phase;
■ take a whole-life model approach;
■ develop a clear, specific environmental and sustainability strategy; and
■ build a Concept of Operations & Maintenance.