Q What is City Building doing to promote sustainability?

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges faced by us all and working together with our stakeholders and suppliers we are determined to play our part by managing our business in a sustainable way that reduces carbon emissions and improves resource efficiency. 

The young people of our workforce are a core part of our ambitions in this area too, and we are really excited at some of the ideas they are raising that will help reduce our carbon footprint both in the long and short term.

Across the business we are working hard to increase the adoption of renewable technologies, growing job opportunities within the industry as we play our part in the response to the climate emergency and securing a ‘just transition’ towards a better environment

We’re also committed to training and developing our workforce to ensure they have the skills required to take advantage of emerging new markets in the green economy, and we will be introducing end-to-end carbon generation measurement to ensure we can benchmark our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint. In addition, as the current UK Gas Contractor of the Year we are now setting our ambitions around being the UK Renewable Heat Solutions Contractor of the Year.

We’ll also be continuing our focus on the circular economy, recycling on behalf of our clients as part of our day-to-day operations, and implementing responsible business practices that support fair work, and inclusive sustainable growth. 

It is a core part of our plans to make even better use of our waste too and this could include innovative solutions to heat our own buildings and make better use of natural renewable sources.

We’ve always aimed to have a positive impact on the communities in which we live and work, but by putting sustainability at the heart of our business we believe we have a chance to become a national leader in the just transition towards a cleaner, greener society that boosts economic opportunity for some of those furthest from the jobs market including young people and those with disabilities. 

It is critical that opportunities that will stem from the Green Recovery, and the journey towards net zero, are open and accessible to all.

Q How is the drive to become net zero affecting the construction industry in general?

There is amazing innovation going on across the construction industry to tackle climate change and I am proud to say that City Building is among the firms at the forefront of adopting some of the new renewable technologies that will drive greater sustainability. 

Working in collaboration with our stakeholders and suppliers, we have delivered a range of carbon reduction installations. These include the completion of new energy efficient sustainable housing for Dumfries and Galloway Partnership, part of Wheatley Group, incorporating air source heat pumps and solar panels that will both reduce fuel bills and carbon emissions. 

At Garrowhill Primary School, which we built for Glasgow City Council, a combination of ground source heat pumps, a ventilation system that incorporates fresh air to cut down on traffic noise, and rainwater harvesting, ensured the building was as environmentally sustainable as possible. In addition, the school was designed to face a nearby park so that the children felt more connected to the outdoors. 

Meadowburn Care Home and Day Centre, in Pollok, is another great example, with a combined heat and power system reducing costs for heat and electricity while also reducing the building’s carbon footprint. Solar panels were also included to generate electricity from the sun. 

Each of these were new builds but retrofitting older buildings with more energy efficient technologies will also be important to making the built environment greener. Better windows, LED lighting and energy efficient boilers are helping to make a difference across many homes, businesses and commercial properties. 

As part of a Glasgow libraries refurbishment project, we fitted LED lighting that consumes less electricity and have a longer lifespan than traditional lighting systems. Importantly they also create a more comfortable and inspiring environment for local users to enjoy.

Q What does COP26 mean to City Building?

COP26 is hugely important to us. City Building is a big employer, one of the largest in Glasgow and having COP26 on our doorstep will help to encourage our staff to consider their role in tackling climate change both at work and in their personal lives. It will also showcase the importance of our sustainability strategy and underline the benefits of pursuing our plans – and the risks, for both the business and the wider world if we don’t step up. COP26 has prompted so much positive discussion within our organisation, and has prompted strategic thinking around our ambitions around our electric vehicle fleet and many other themes that will take City Building closer to becoming carbon neutral.

Q What do you think it means for Glasgow?

COP26 is a chance for Glasgow to become a global leader in climate change by securing an agreement that reduces emissions around the globe. 

As a former industrial powerhouse, we have shown we have the track record, skills and vision to achieve success on the world stage. 

The city is known as the Dear Green Place for its parks. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if it was also the Dear Green Place because of our legacy on climate change and playing our part in the ‘Green Recovery’ after such a difficult time for the world?  

I also hope it acts as a catalyst for people across the city and wider Scotland to consider the positive changes they can introduce to make the world a better and more sustainable place. 

Personally, as a father, I want to make sure my daughter and generations to come have a safe and secure future, and the natural beauty that surrounds us here in Scotland, and around the globe, continues to exist.

Alan Burns began his career as an apprentice blacksmith and worked his way up. He was Depute Director at City Building for several years before succeeding Dr Graham Paterson, when he retired, to become Executive Director. He is passionate about 
achieving a just transition to a green economy. He has one daughter. 


As one of Scotland’s largest construction companies, City Building provides a range of repairs and maintenance, manufacturing, construction and refurbishment activities across the public, private and third sectors. As well as offering the largest construction craft apprenticeship programme in Scotland, we also operate Royal Strathclyde Blindcraft Industries (RSBi), one of the largest supported manufacturing businesses in Europe. RSBi employs over 250 people, more than 50% of whom have a disability. 

City Building has sustainability at the heart of our business, ensuring we boost productivity, diversify into new markets and whilst doing so benefit the local communities in which we live and work. By working in collaboration with our stakeholders and supply chain we have embraced a wide range of new and emerging carbon reducing technologies in recent years, as part of both new build construction, and the retrofit of current properties.

One new build project we are especially proud of is Meadowburn Care Home and Daycare Centre. Located in Glasgow’s Pollok area, and beautifully designed to provide a high-quality living environment for its residents it included both the installation of carbon reduction technologies and special design features to minimise its impact on the surrounding environment. 

Key to making the project sustainable was the installation of a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) system, which captures and utilises the heat that is a by-product of the electricity generation process. As well as reducing energy costs, this technology also improves environmental performance by reducing CO2 emissions. Photovoltaic panels, which convert solar energy from sunlight to electricity, also helped to reduce the building’s carbon footprint.

To mitigate the risk of flooding from naturally occurring underground water a bespoke sustainable urban drainage system (SUDS) incorporating an attractive man-made pond and swales was designed. These features also ensured the filtration of the water prior to being led into a culvert which in turn connected into the White Cart Water in the southside of Glasgow, protecting both the land and river from pollutants that could harm wildlife as well as a wildlife meadow.