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MoD Sanctuary Awards celebrate sustainability and conservation

The 33rd annual Ministry of Defence (MoD) Sanctuary Awards held earlier this week, have recognised the outstanding sustainability and conservation efforts across the MoD in the past year.

Celebrated for over 30 years, the MoD Sanctuary Awards recognise projects that benefit sustainable development and help to conserve the environment, natural resources and heritage across Defence’s UK and overseas estate.

Among this year’s winners are groundbreaking and innovative projects across Defence that support the MoD’s future sustainability. The prestigious Sustainable Business award was won by the Army Energy Efficiency Incentivisation Award Scheme - a competition that encourages army personnel to reduce their energy consumption. The initiative has saved 11,000 tonnes of carbon emissions, which is equivalent to taking 4,000 cars off the road.

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In the face of increasing energy costs on the army estate, the project encouraged army personnel to focus on what they can do to conserve energy, reduce carbon emissions and save money. Around 100 entries were received from large stations, small units, regulars and reserves, achieving energy savings worth a total of £3.7 million.

This year’s Sanctuary Awards ceremony was held in Portsmouth, where the winners and runners-up were presented with their awards by Rear Admiral Paul Beattie, Director Naval Staff. Senior representatives from across the MoD were in attendance to help celebrate these successes.

Above: The Silver Otter trophy, presented this year to Maj (Ret’d) Nigel Lewis. Guy Salkeld.
Courtesy DIO / Crown Copyright

This year’s coveted Silver Otter trophy was awarded to Maj (Ret’d) Nigel Lewis, celebrating his outstanding dedication to leading the MoD Owl and Raptor project on Salisbury Plain Training Area (SPTA), a conservation initiative which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2023. The award recognises the best conservation group-led project or individual conservation effort on the MoD estate.

Supported by a small team of enthusiastic volunteers, Nigel’s efforts have helped the conservation of tawny owls, barn owls, little owls and kestrels across SPTA since the 1980s. Over the years, Nigel and his team have erected a total of 336 owl and kestrel nest boxes on SPTA. As well as providing important shelters for the birds, the nest boxes are used to monitor and collect valuable data on Salisbury Plain’s owl and kestrel population.

Richard Brooks, Principal Environmental Manager for the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), which runs the awards, said: "DIO is committed to being as sustainable and environmentally forward-thinking as possible, supporting efforts to protect and enhance habitats across our diverse estate, reduce emissions and drive down our carbon footprint.

"The Sanctuary Awards and Sanctuary Magazine recognise the incredible work being undertaken by MoD personnel, Defence industry suppliers and partnerships with external environmental organisations in stewardship, climate change and sustainability.

"Well done to all of the winners and thank you for your contribution to making Defence greener."

This year’s Innovation Award was presented to the Scampton Community and RAF War Graves Heritage Centre project. The project has seen the creation of a sustainable and accessible heritage centre, to commemorate the century-long relationship between the small Lincolnshire village of Scampton and the neighbouring RAF Scampton air base.

As part of the project, adaptions were made to the village’s 14th century church to meet the needs of today’s visitors. New features including an accessible path, accessible toilet, ground-sourced heat pump and kitchen were discreetly installed, in a way that complements the church’s existing architecture.

Dr Alexandra Howe, the MoD’s Deputy Director of Levelling Up, The Union (Climate Change and Sustainability), said:

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"The standard of this year’s remarkable nominees and award winners shows that Defence has both the ambition and talent needed to drive fundamental change.

"I was excited to be part of this year’s award ceremony, and would encourage people from across the force to use these impressive examples as inspiration to build in sustainability."

Defence continues to prioritise sustainability and conservation and is committed to maintaining the capability of our world-leading Armed Forces whilst working to meet the government’s Net Zero policies.

Sustainable Procurement and Construction Award
At the ceremony on Tuesday 19th March, the Sustainable Procurement and Construction Award was won by the Joint Bands School Project – a joint Army and Navy project delivered under the Defence Estate Optimisation (DEO) Portfolio, which has seen the substantial restoration of a former military prison block.

This award is presented to those who improve the sustainability of equipment or services, management of supply chains or product life cycles or new build construction and refurbishment projects that innovate in fields such as new materials or design.

Sherin Aminossehe, Director of Infrastructure for the MoD said: "The Joint Bands School project epitomises what Defence Estate Optimisation is all about. Collaboration with our services and contractors using sustainable building practices, innovative design and construction methods to preserve the history of our estate whilst providing first class modern facilities for our people who live, work and train in them.

"I am therefore delighted that this project has won the Sustainable Procurement and Construction award, and I offer my sincere congratulations to the hard working project team on such a well deserved win."

The project involved developing and re-furbishing a former military prison block at HMS Nelson within HMNB Portsmouth. Gibraltar block was constructed in 1834, underwent an extension in c1890 and suffered bomb damage in c1940 which was repaired around a decade later. Unfortunately, the repairs undertaken after the bomb damage in the forties did not stand the test of time: during the project, both the internal and external walls were discovered to be bowing. Extensive and complex repair work included replacing damaged bricks and embedding them with historic lime/sand mortar, to match the original historic design intent for the building.

The project’s aim was to create shared practice space for musicians of the Royal Marines and the Royal Corps of Army Music. A minor refurbishment had been carried out in the 1990s when the Royal Marines School of Music started using the building, but it was the DEO Army Programme that started an extensive renovation when Army musicians also moved to the site in 2021.

The former prison cells make ideal individual or small group practice rooms thanks to their thick walls, though handles had to be added to the inside of the doors – a feature the cells’ previous occupants could only dream of. While creating an impressive modern, fit-for-purpose and noise-compliant facility, care was taken to retain historical features, including the preservation of cell wall graffiti made by a sailor from HMS Warrior in 1864 and contraband hidden in the brickwork – both discovered during the renovations. Importantly, the historical value of Gibraltar Block has been retained through sympathetically incorporating heritage considerations into the design and refurbishment.

The Joint Bands School project was delivered collaboratively between the Army and the Royal Navy. It was driven by a project management team from Army HQ, DEO and Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), with support from Navy Infrastructure and contracted partners KBS, who in turn contracted Concept building services for construction.

Significant input from Historic England and the Local Authority ensured that the potential of the Grade 2 listed building was realised throughout design and construction, with aspects of its heritage preserved for future generations of military musicians, many of whom will go on to perform Royal ceremonial duties in the UK and at events across the world.

To browse the full list of Sanctuary Award winners and learn more about the MoD’s sustainable development and conservation activities, you can read the latest issue of Sanctuary Magazine, published by DIO every year following the Sanctuary Awards.
 

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