Balfour Beatty | Kelvinside Academy
A School of Innovation
A circular business model innovation journey to facilitate the design and build of the Kelvinside School of Innovation – the first of its kind in the UK. The client demand for a circular solution provided an opportunity to procure construction in a different way – with an aim to catalyse circular activity throughout the construction supply chain and act as an exemplar model for repeatability across subsequent construction projects.



The construction sector is the largest: consumer of natural resources; and contributor to waste in most modern economies – accounting for at least 50% of overall waste generated. A key challenge for the industry relates to reducing onsite activity to cut carbon impact, improve productivity and margins, and develop new talent and skills for a future world of work. The current Chicken Vs. Egg situation is that until procurement starts asking for more circular and sustainable solutions, creating the incentive for the industry to innovate, the current circular readiness in the construction industry will remain low. Leading construction business, Balfour Beatty, is continually seeking viable opportunities to improve this situation and expand its mission, “Reducing onsite activity by 25% by 2025.”



An opportunity was created by Kelvinside Academy (KA), who were looking to procure a circular solution for their new Innovation school. The latitude provided by a client with this circular intentionality and principles, made this opportunity attractive to Balfour Beatty. Although the project was small in value, it was potentially huge in significance, beginning with how the industry was procured. This created a demand for circular solutions, from the supply chain. The project also created an environment for pupils from KA to work alongside Balfour Beatty’s design and construction teams – providing opportunity to shape a new national curriculum around digital skills and future learning and attract talent from the potential future workforce – which is a significant, long-term industry challenge.

KA Innovation School



Following the establishment of the first UK exclusive strategic partnership with NuVu and academics from the likes of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – plans were set in motion to create and build the UK’s first Innovation School. Intended to be a unique learning environment built around creativity, innovation and enterprise, the goal is to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators by creating a new synergy between school, industry, technology and enterprise. At the new school, students were to be engaged in hands-on problem solving and would develop creative solutions for real-world problems including climate emergency and build ambition through collaboration on projects with real impact. The Circular design and build of the school, provided a live example as such with the opportunity for a number of pupils to learn from the design and construction teams.


Key players

From the construction side, a collaborative approach was crucial at a system level and across a whole supply chain. This ranged from client and design team, main contractor (Balfour Beatty), and each work package supply chain through to original equipment manufacturer (OEM). Any single organisation or business trying to transition its business model from linear to circular in isolation, independently of the system, will probably fail. Design is key to unlocking not just circular business model opportunities but the whole construction industry.

 There was a high degree of collaboration with a total of 72 businesses engaged in the project, including significant contributions from the likes of: Doig & Smith; Cathy Cooper Architects; Supply Chain Sustainability School; Engineering consultancy; Kooltech; Mitsubishi; Schneider Electric; Nuvu; Zero Waste Scotland; European Commission. A brief introduction to the key players involved:

Balfour Beatty – leading international infrastructure group – finance, develop, build and maintain innovative and efficient infrastructure that underpins daily life, supports communities and enables economic growth. Headquartered in London – they operate 6 UK sites and their brand can be recognised on various, large construction projects across the UK, including the ‘4H’s’: Heathrow; HS2; Hinkley Power Station; Highways England.

 Kelvinside Academy (KA) is a highly regarded and long-established Independent School, based in the West End of Glasgow. Lead by a forward thinking management team that firmly believe the out-dated curricular model is not working to the best advantage of young people, and does not prepare them for life and work in the 21st century – they seek ways to help their pupils develop future skills that will empower them to contribute to a society that is evolving as quickly as they are growing and learning.

Systems Entrepreneur and CEO of Insight Futures, Doug Morwood, sits on the board of Governors at Kelvinside Academy. Twinned with expertise in Systems Thinking and Circular Economy and years of experience in the construction sector, this made Insight Futures the perfect candidate to be able to bring together the right players into the mix and guide them through a circular innovation journey that would facilitate the circular design and build of the School.



A cross-functional team from Balfour Beatty, their supply chain and Kelvinside Academy were brought together by Insight Futures in a series of events, workshops and interviews to gain a deeper understanding of the current business model and context within the UK market as well as to innovate new business and operating models. Based on internal and external strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats identified within their current business model and context, they recognised the opportunities represented by the exemplar project – the requirement of which was to include as many circular economy principles as was feasible on a live build programme.

During this innovation process, facilitated design and systems thinking methods and tools were used to identify opportunities of how Balfour Beatty could apply circular design principles to their design and build process and how to catalyse circular activity within their supply chain, as a result – increasing business value while simultaneously reducing negative impacts on the environment. Throughout the innovation journey, opportunities to circularise the supply chain were identified and explored, seeking to develop action plans that can take these ideas into practical activities and products for all companies involved to become more circular.

As this exemplar project was primarily a build programme, a typical construction project management approach was taken. This involved an on-going programme and construction roadmap and also benefitted from: BIM 360 digital twinning; Manaport 3D image capturing; a bespoke Circular Tracker to identify and assess any circular opportunities. The circular tracker was a key document in order to measure aspirations for the project, going through three phases: Client Desirability, Project Feasibility, Commercial Viability. The project, like all others, was broken into work packages and a bill of quantities so that every material and activity could be analysed and assessed for circular innovation. We also examined the project through a layers perspective: (Eco)System, Site, Skin, Structure, Services, Space and Stuff, to identify opportunities for more integrated solutions.

The outcomes from this project formed the basis of the adoption of circular principles in Balfour Beatty’s core operational infrastructure, the Gated Business Lifecycle. This will contribute to their 25% by 2025 ambitions and inform major projects by introducing circularity to HS2, Heathrow, Hinkley Point Power Station amongst others.


Lessons learned 

The project had an anticipated lead time of 12 months, which was quickly foreshortened, giving less time to re-design. Given these unexpected time constraints, all workshopping had to be done under the pressure of a live programme whilst working within existing design constraints (as is common with all construction projects) as a basis for innovation – focussing not on what we couldn’t achieve but what we could.

Due to these limitations and the lack of circular maturity within the construction industry, many circular options weren’t able to be delivered. Even with a high level of Circular Procurement Intension, the level of readiness within the supply chain was limited and the broader systemic barriers around: funding, commercial viability, and supply chain integration amongst others, is considerable.

 However the project catalysed significant breakthroughs for: architects, cost consultants, engineering consultants, main contractor and the supply chain – increasing awareness, appetite and readiness for future projects.


Project Duration

From project initiation in Summer 2018 – the school was completed ahead of programme, opened in August 2019 and has become a beacon for circular intentionality and inspiration despite certain ideas not being able to be implemented. The biggest achievement was in the overall reach of the project. It’s unusual to facilitate this amount of workshop and collaborative activities alongside a live construction programme – as evidenced in the following numbers: 22 Workshops/Engagements; 72 Businesses engaged; 9 Public Sector Organisations engaged; 7 Films made; 36 People interviewed; 14 Events; 167 People directly involved – catalysing the on-going interest and motivation to develop circular business models as a more integrated value network. The appetite for Balfour Beatty and their wider supply chain to get earlier access to clients/end users and their design teams in order to offer circular solutions has increased significantly. The fundamental switch from selling an HVAC product to hiring it to the school as a service, which involved that end-to-end supply chain was also a significant breakthrough (case study to come).

For the full 60-page case study supported by European Commission, please get in contact.