Foremost engineer of sustainable infrastructure, Sacyr, has been innovating at the cutting-edge of construction for over 30 years. As Operations Director for Sacyr UK and Ireland, Alejandro Mendoza Monfort details: “Originally, the company was founded in 1986 — our founders came from a large construction company in Spain. They worked in Europe for some time before deciding to set up shop in South America in 1996. Since then, we’ve seen massive growth across a variety of regions. We now work in over 20 different countries and sectors, but our work is always focused on infrastructure and concessions. The company employs 16,000 staff regularly and is valued at €2 billion on the Spanish stock exchange. We are now the third largest public private project developer in the world, and that’s in part down to the hard work we’ve done over the last few years. We recently reached the goals for our 2021-to-2025 strategic plan an entire year early, showing just how robust the business is at this time.
“We are currently one of the largest private infrastructure developers in South America and we are looking to reach that status in other countries too. We aim to grow one third of the company in English-speaking countries, for example, the US, Canada, and the UK and Ireland over the next few years. At the Annual General Meeting in Madrid, our UK projects were highlighted by the leadership team. It’s heartening to see that the work we have been doing is really valued across the whole business.”
From highways to hospitals, Sacyr can do it all. As Alejandro discusses: “We are a global P3 developer with an experienced construction unit, and we work across the whole project lifecycle, from financing, design and build, to operation, and management.
“We are currently working on railway systems across the UK&I. This includes maintenance and renewal for over 40 kilometres of tracks in Ireland.
“Transportation infrastructure is a major focus for us at the moment. We have a huge amount of expertise with different modes of transport. We are hard at work at Belfast Grand Central Station, a large investment coming from the City of Belfast, with recent milestones including the topping out of the structure back in June 2023, and more recently the installation of tracks and the exterior glazing.
“Earlier this year we completed the A-6 Dungiven – Drumahoe dualling scheme, and Edinburgh Trams to Newhaven, the latter being our latest project launch in the UK&I. Trams are a great and green way of re-vamping the public transport offering of a city, and we’ve had a huge amount of interest in them from cities across the UK. We’ve even been invited to speak about newly emerging tram technology at a number of conferences. It’s a really exciting time, and on a more personal note, it’s been really special for me to be able to ride on those trams. There’s one that runs from the airport to our office, which I enjoy. I want to tell everybody on there – I helped make this!”
Becoming a multinational business is no easy accomplishment. Alejandro shares his thoughts on the secrets behind Sacyr’s success: “Our people are absolutely key. We try to attract the best international talent and balance that with skilled workers from the local region in which we are working. The ways we work across the business are quite varied, and that’s because what we do is so diverse. We adapt our working style and processes to the working culture of the country we are in and do our best to bring new ideas while respecting the way things are done.
“We risk assess everything very thoroughly and avoid high risk projects. We want to go into projects that have a good chance of succeeding, so we can build strong collaboration between Sacyr and its partners without putting additional strain on the relationship. As a result, Sacyr has strong risk reduction mechanisms. We are very selective about the types of projects we bid on, because we are an international company, we don’t want to be working on small projects that could go to local companies.
“Additionally, we always take a moment before taking on any project to consider the value that we as a business are adding. There are particular areas, for example sustainability and water management, where we have high levels of expertise. We’ve done it before; we know we can deliver it again to an incredibly high standard. That generates a lot of value for the client.”
One of Sacyr’s flagship projects in the UK is Velindre Cancer Centre, a brand-new eco-friendly hospital. The project is one of Sacyr’s most innovative and exciting yet, as it aims to create an entirely carbon-neutral structure. “First of all, we created a circular economy within the structure design. That means it repurposes waste and produces little to no excess. The building is powered using solar panels, meaning most of the electrical equipment inside runs on clean energy. We are looking at using other materials to increase the energy efficiency of the design even further. There’s the possibility of using bio-pump heating, and other architectural elements that can increase efficiency. Everything is considered in terms of sustainability and environmental neutrality, even down to the way the car park is designed and laid out, so that it’s not obtrusive to wildlife,” Alejandro explains.
“We’ve pulled out all the stops for this project: Another community benefits aspect is an ongoing partnership with Cardiff university involving career fairs, career mentoring, internships and placement opportunities. We’ve applied the same approach at our other projects, from career events with a focus on STEM careers for girls and youths at Belfast Grand Central Station.
“Another great example of our close work with the local community was at the Ulster University project (2022), meant to host 15,000 students in 77,000 sqm. Here, we developed multiple initiatives focused on supporting the long-term unemployed, and student work placements. During the building project, the equivalent of over 100 years’ worth of training, apprenticeships, and placement opportunities. Fostering a positive relationship with the local communities is key for us to engage with and offer opportunities to underrepresented groups in the UK and Ireland.”
Sustainability and community engagement will continue to be the building blocks of success for Sacyr as the company solidifies its presence in the UK and beyond. “We are really excited to continue working on the green hospital concept and see that all the way through. One of our goals for the future is to be present in England, and the sustainable action plan is a key part of that mission. We want to continue to build our reputation as the foremost experts in sustainable infrastructure.
“Last year, our social impact area signed an agreement to create an expert working group on making more humane hospitals, making sure they are designed to support patients’ recovery, which will have direct impact from the expertise we acquire on Velindre.
“Most importantly, the company will continue to prioritise working with local communities to ensure that the infrastructure we create works for the people who will be using it. I am especially proud of our collaborative work with the Lighthouse Club in Cardiff. Working together with charities ensures that our infrastructure projects become part of a living community. It’s the most important part of what we do,” Alejandro concludes.