A festive look back at 2020

17th Dec, 2020

Well 2020 has certainly been a year to remember! As we approach the festive season, we have taken the opportunity to look back on the last twelve months and celebrate! So in true festive style, we challenge you to read on and try not to sing!

On the twelve day of Christmas, my true love gave to me……12 months of charitable giving

SDS has a strong commitment to its corporate social responsibility. In February, we raised £5,500 at our annual ‘Charity Pub Quiz’ in aid of Hugs from Henry, a Plymouth based charity which helps families in the PL postcode who have a child with rare childhood cancers. This year 25 teams, from across the construction industry took part, with Obedair being crowned the 2020 winners!

Despite having to become slightly more creative with our activities when COVID-19 took hold, we were delighted to make a 25% increase on our charitable donations to community groups and organisations across the region. From online grocery orders for Foodbanks, digital support for disadvantages children, stationery equipment for children’s respite care and PPE for homeless shelters at a time when it was scarce, we are delighted to continue our commitment to the community around us.


11 members of our professional qualification training scheme

We are committed to developing staff to the highest possible level and our PQTS is designed to  provide staff with technical and professional training to achieve professional status through membership of one of the following institutions:

This year, we have supported 11 members of staff achieve a professional qualification.


10 months of home working

Lockdown was a worry for our business as well as the rest of the industry when COVID-19 hit us. Overnight, many clients and our peers were working from home, or on furlough, making communication more challenging.

However, through our investment in technology, it allowed for continuity of the delivery of projects, taking us through the initial stage of lockdown.  As we continue through the challenges ahead, we are here to deliver for you. Below details how we are operating and delivering to our clients a service that is trusted, responsive, practical and effective.

Our operations

We are focused on vital projects during this demanding time on our public services including hospitals, healthcare providers, schools and councils – 100% of our workforce is working as usual. Site surveys are continuing, following government and social distancing guidelines, to allow continuity of emergency surveys and inspections for public services including hospitals, schools and councils. Our communications include:

  • A dedicated system enabling video conferencing, calls and instant messaging
  • Phone systems will direct calls with our team regardless of their location
  • IT infrastructure allows our team to fully access work remotely enabling 100% delivery of client work
  • Collaboration software, enabling engineers to mark up and share drawings remotely

Supporting our clients

As ever, our staff are on hand to help with your building services design requirements, drawing on our extensive experience and expertise. We are also regularly updating our website with handy guides and checklists in readiness of businesses and organisations preparing to return to work


9 Mental Health First Aiders

SDS are committed to the wellbeing of our staff, and this year we trained nine mental health first aiders across our network of offices. These specialist roles ensure our teams have access to the appropriate support and can be signposted to the most suitable help in their time of need.



8 sector specialisms

The practice has developed to serve all sectors of building services design and consultancy and our diverse nature of our portfolio can be viewed here.

From education, healthcare, commercial, public and community, defence, industrial, residential to leisure, our expert team are passionate about the way we work, providing a reactive service delivering the highest level of performance.

We have built strong, long-term, collaborative relationships with local clients, project partners and stakeholders and have a reputation of providing sustainable, practical, well-thought-out designs.


7 construction bodies

We are passionate about forging partnerships with other local businesses and organisations to allow us to continue to recruit the best talent, create employment opportunities and bolster the south west economy.

We are proud members of Building Plymouth, Building Greater Exeter, Devon & Plymouth Chamber, Construction Excellence South West, The Building Forum Devon & Cornwall, Women in Property and South West Women in Construction, as well as a number of national bodies including ACE and BSRIA, where Shaun Hoppins is an elected council member.


6 months of work experience

In January, the team welcomed Major Jamie Brooks, who joined SDS on a 6-month secondment to further develop his building services knowledge.

A serving Royal Engineers Officer, Jamie undertook a 2 year training package to gain competency towards Chartered Engineer status. During his time with us, Jamie has worked on various projects across the region including Drakes Island and more recently, the new Nightingale Hospital in Exeter.

We were delighted to hear on Jamie’s success in becoming chartered and he is now continuing his training back with his regiment.

SDS are members of the The Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust and supporters of BuildForce – Veterans and we  are proud to show our commitment to the armed forces and their families.


5.2 tonnes of C02 mitigated

We are proud to be ‘net carbon neutral’ by having trees planted to offset all our calculated carbon emissions across our offices, minimising our impact on the environment we live and work in.

We are also signatories to the CIBSE Climate Change Action Plan and UK Building Services Engineers Declaration – Climate & Biodiversity Emergency.

Our team are experienced in delivering zero carbon construction and passionate about delivering highly sustainable, low and carbon neutral buildings. We are currently supporting several clients with their Salix funding bids, identifying options for them to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions across their estates.


4 Award shortlistings

As well as numerous projects being shortlisted and winning awards at the Constructing Excellence South West and Michelmores awards, we were thrilled to be shortlisted for four awards this year as a business.

In December, we were awarded “Small Business of the Year” by Devon and Plymouth chamber. Further award ceremonies including Business Insider South West Property Awards, Bristol Property Awards and the Plymouth Armed Forces Awards will take place in the New Year, following their postponement, and we cannot wait to join our fellow construction professionals to celebrate the very best in the sector and across the region.


3 Frameworks

Despite the pandemic, the business has continued to secure works through national frameworks including Amey Defence, Procure Partnership and UK Automatic Energy Authority.

Whilst trading conditions have remained difficult through the year, our responsiveness, approach, quality, timeliness and flexibility has encouraged clients to choose SDS over national competitors. Moving forward we are committed to maintaining these values.


2 Apprentices 

In September, we officially welcomed Emma Jarvis to our team, as an electrical installation apprentice.

Emma successfully won a place on our ‘adopt-a-school’ scheme, where students take part in a week’s work experience learning more about building services,  project management, structural engineering and architecture. Emma, subsequently continued her work experience with SDS, and we were delighted when she accepted our offer of an electrical apprenticeship.

In December, we also welcomed Matthew Feeny-Williams to the Exeter office as an electrical apprentice.

This is part of our ongoing commitment to supporting apprenticeships in the workplace and encouraging students into the construction sector.


1 Nightingale hospital

It wouldn’t be 2020 without mentioning COVID-19!

Our expertise in healthcare engineering and the depth of our resources, meant we were approached to work on NHS Nightingale, Exeter. This required a significant amount of resource to develop the design of the building’s mechanical and electrical engineering systems.

The 116-bed hybrid hospital was built to provide care for patients suffering from symptoms of coronavirus. The support and flexibility of Millfields Trust allowed our offices to remain fully operational. We are very proud to have contributed to this critical project, designed and constructed within 57 days, an amazing achievement! You can watch more about our involvement here.


This year has been challenging for us all. May we take this opportunity to thank our clients and colleagues for their support, our team for their tireless efforts and wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas.