Although in operation for just eight years, materials specialist Scott Parnell has been attracting attention from international firms and decision-makers for its sustainable and ambitious approach to greenifying the civils sector. Quadrant Transport sits down with Sharon Meek, head of national rail at Scott Parnell, to find out what the firm has done well so far, and what their promising future holds
In working through lockdown, the team at Scott Parnell has played a pivotal role. The opportunity to continue to provide materials as builders’ merchants to Tier 1s and construction firms to keep major infrastructure works ongoing was a welcome one for the company.
Although in a relatively fledgling state in operation for just eight years, in early March the firm opened two new offices in Alton in Hampshire and Oldham in Greater Manchester, as well as a national sales office in Leeds primed to nurture current business relationships and build new ones in rail.
We don’t want to be a materials supplier, we want to be a solutions-first firm
“There’s a lot of merchants out there. We wanted to offer something different, and we do,” explained Sharon Meek, head of national rail at Scott Parnell. “We looked to the global market to see what innovations are out there, and we wanted to bring them across to the UK – particularly in rail with the key focus on sustainable products. Those that we’ve brought across already have been really well received.
“We don’t want to be a materials supplier, we want to be a solutions-first firm. Being that we work closely with companies across the globe, and a lot of product manufacturers who don’t necessarily have a lot of contacts within the industry to bring new products to market, we’re their voice and their route to the rail sector.”
The company’s latest technology offering, Flex MSE, provides a sustainable – and visually attractive – alternative to concrete materials used for retaining walls– and signifies what the rest of the industry thinks of Scott Parnell in its ability to provide a sustainable approach to civil projects around the world.
“That was a product where Gravitas International actually approached us to bring into the rail sector,” explained Sharon. “They contacted us and said they could see that we had experience in decarbonisation and a product knowledge, so can we bring it to market. It’s very new and it’s in the very early stages bringing it into rail.”
The vegetated wall system from Flex MSE was highlighted by Sharon as one of Scott Parnell’s best product offerings alongside its innovative Techno-Crete concrete postmix, and exemplified the respect and interest international firms have in working with Scott Parnell in developing sustainable material solutions and taking them to the rail market.
Cheaper to build by around 60%, as well as quicker to compose, with minimal damaging materials that are capable of being used in a variety of formats such as flood prevention, landslide prevention, and erosion control, Sharon noted that the all-round product is exactly the low-carbon answer for future infrastructure projects, not just in the UK, but worldwide.
“We stand ourselves apart a little bit differently. I think that’s what we intend to do going forward. Sustainability is a huge factor, not just in rail, but in every industry.”
Cross-sector collaboration for net-zero goals
Sharon told Quadrant Transport Gravitas International collaborating with Scott Parnell was just one example of the company putting its money where its mouth is in truly working to decarbonise the rail and wider civils sector. On the Core Valley Line project, Tier 1 firm Siemens approached Scott Parnell after identifying the requirement for sustainable materials: “so it’s not just us knocking on the door,” argued Sharon.
“We are seeing people want to engage with us on the sustainability side of things,” Sharon explained. “There’s 100% a want and a need from the key players in the industry. That will only flow through to the smaller people, because that’s how people are winning bids now. It’s not just on cost. We give them that advantage.
It’s one thing quoting it on literature and in the public eye, but at some point they have to follow through with it.
“It’s like we say putting the money where the mouth is: it’s one thing quoting it on literature and in the public eye, but at some point they have to follow through with it.”
Expansion – at home and abroad
Like many firms, eyes at Scott Parnell are locked on upcoming contracts with mammoth infrastructure projects such as HS2, and Sharon was pleased to see that decarbonisation of HS2 as a strategy is “not an afterthought,” but at the very early stages of development. In promoting its products and services to policy and budget-holders, then, does Sharon believe Scott Parnell’s voice – and the voice of other low-carbon materials firms – is being heard?
“Yes, I think we’re being very active in making sure our voice is heard. I make sure it’s my job to go round and wax lyrical about Techno-Crete and our products,” Sharon laughed. “We have a major team tracking HS2 and making sure that we’re in at those stages. Along with the Tier 1s, they’re certainly saying the right things and promising the right things, but the proof is in the pudding.”
While the proof may indeed be in the pudding, Sharon praised transport planners for taking the environmentally-conscious approach, and noted that planners are prepared to explore different avenues of work with firms like Scott Parnell.
Internationally, the firm is presenting Perth Metro in Australia of its Techno-Crete product as a water-free solution in a country which has been devastated by wildfires and is currently in a Stage 2 drought: “Technically it doesn’t need any water to mix, which, when they’re in their harsh conditions that they are, it was a real struggle to try and factor in a way of not using water, because obviously they didn’t have a high volume of water they could recycle and use,” Sharon continued.
“They’re in the process of using Techno-Crete as a replacement to post-mix foundations. The investment the Australian rail market is going through is huge; it’s a great opportunity for us, and a great opportunity for them.”
The collaboration across industry in the UK, its demand from European firms to bring products to market in the UK rail sector, and developments in emerging rail industries such as Australia shows that it goes without saying the respect and esteem Scott Parnell is held in by construction firms across sectors.
Though just eight years from formation, with its continuous offering and pursuit of greener products and expansion of jobs and businesses to regions around the UK, Scott Parnell’s 2021 and beyond looks bright.
Sharon Meek will be a keynote speaker at Peloton’s Off-Track Carbon Reduction webinar, on 11 September at 9.30am. Click here to register for free!