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Szilvia Zakar

Award Name: Sustainability Scholarship

Host Company: Sir Robert McAlpine

Educational Institution: MSc in Environmental Technology, (Distinction) Imperial College, London

Research Topic: Valuing Natural Capital in the Construction Industry

Award Year: 2015-16



Szilvia is a Sustainability Manager with Sir Robert McAlpine currently working on the flagship Bloomberg London project, before that, she was General Contracts Environmental Advisor on the Grosvenor Estates projects. Szilvia has 14 years’ experience, advising and monitoring site construction teams with regard to environmental protection and the implementation of ISO 1400 and BREEAM. She also sits on SRM’s Carbon Group and leads the Biodiversity Action Group. Before joining SRM in 2011 she worked as a Senior Consultant at BRE for 5 years and as an Environmental Advisor on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link for Skanska UK Civils. Szilvia has a first degree in psychology and a Masters from Imperial College in Environmental Technology and has recently qualified as an ISO 14001 Lead Auditor.

Abstract of Report

This paper explores the applicability of Natural Capital Accounting to the construction industry by first placing Natural Capital thinking into a theoretical framework in order to show how it differs from other approaches to environmental preservation. It then goes on to elaborate on the key financial and accounting concepts involved and looks at some objections from within the wider environmental movement. Having defined and explained the principals involved, a number of practical examples are examined, by way of case studies and interviews, both within and beyond the construction industry with a view to illustrating the practical benefits of implementation, as well as some of the obstacles and shortcomings emerging from concrete experience. The results of a limited awareness survey of construction industry sustainability professionals are presented before the above strands are pulled together into a set of both practical recommendations and areas for further study.


The Sustainability Scholarship was wonderful opportunity for me to take a deep dive into a subject that has interested me for a long time: how are we to reconcile the apparently conflicting requirements of a thriving construction industry and environmental protection and regeneration? Through the scholarship I was able to explore in detail the Natural Capital Accounting paradigm developed by Dieter Helm and others which seeks to build on the thinking of economists and accountants and apply this to the maintenance of the natural capital on which we all depend. Emerging directly out of my work for the scholarship I have been appointed by Sir Robert McAlpine to lead my company’s Biodiversity Group and to push forward our efforts as a company to become a leading player in environmental protection.