‘Ethical leadership key to attain net zero’


Robert Deatker at Coliseum Europe Image: Robert Deatker & AELTC

Robert Deatker joined the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) in February 2014 as Estate Director, overseeing the Wimbledon Master Plan – the vision for the future of the AELTC’s Grounds – and all Estate development, construction and maintenance activities.

Deatker has been involved in property, design and construction for the past 30 years. Prior to the AELTC, he held the position of Director at Turner & Townsend, overseeing major projects including The Shard and London Bridge Quarter.


The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC), also known as the All England Club, based at Church Road, Wimbledon, London, England (UK), is a private members’ club. It is best known as the venue for the Wimbledon Championships, the only Grand Slam tennis event still held on grass.


The Championships, Wimbledon, commonly known simply as Wimbledon or The Championships, is the oldest tennis tournament in the world and is widely regarded as the most prestigious. The venue is the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet in Wimbledon, London (UK).

Climate catastrophe

If the world has to stave off the worst ravages of climate disaster, Governments, businesses and individuals will have to act to reduce carbon footprints and emissions. Otherwise, the writing on the wall is clear – nobody can stop an irrevocable climate breakdown as Mother Nature is already flexing her muscles in the form of floods, droughts, scorching Summers, very severe Winters, landslides, etc. In fact, the world has almost reached a tipping point in this regard.

AELTC net zero goals

Aim: To have and advocate for a positive environmental impact

  • Emissions
  • Net zero

Net zero means that any human-caused emissions are balanced by absorbing an equivalent amount from the atmosphere.

The AELTC has made a net zero commitment for its operations. They are using information from a ‘baseline’ year of 2018-2019 to understand their starting point and plan their journey to net zero in 2030.

In an exclusive colloquy with ‘Coliseum’, Robert Deatker, Estate Director, AELTC, UK, shared how ethical leadership is key for any business to grow and also help achieve their sustainability targets as net zero goals are forming the crux of businesses as rising sea levels and melting glaciers is sending a chill down the world’s spine. He also talks about the challenges Wimbledon face to hit AELTC zero carbon and how this aligns with their business.

Ethical leadership

  • Public – Looking for ethical leadership
  • Sponsors – Looking for ethical leadership
  • Your staff – Looking for ethical leadership

As sustainability is an ethical issue and ethical leaders consider protecting the natural environment as a moral, it is expected that ethical leaders develop and promote the environmental standards to protect the natural environment.

Asserted Robert Deatker, “Our decisions should revolve around our ethics and our values and that includes sustainability and I think that also reflects on our relationship with our sponsors.”

He sent out the message that the pro-environmental agenda of an organization not only promotes policies, procedures and practices regarding environmental sustainability but also signals to employees that ethics and values are central to the organization.

He opined that the AELTC still had a long way to go in this regard.

Ethical management

  • Diversity and inclusion;
  • Modern slavery;
  • Community; and
  • Sustainability.

Added Deatker, “Talking about ethical management, the whole range of diversity, operation and maintenance of the building and I am really concerned where we will get the materials for construction of our building and make sure that there is no modern slavery involved in that. As far as management of the community is concerned, we are doing a lot of work in the management of the local community through the work we are doing during the Championship and, of course, sustainability.”

Key message: Stop faffing and get on with it

Sustainability challenges:

  • Remove gas, not just reduce;
  • Reduce the out of Wimbledon loads;
  • Resilient systems;
  • Cultural change in the event industry; and
  • Reduce the peak Wimbledon loads.

As he put in, “We need resilient systems, we need to reduce our Wimbledon loads and we also need to look at the cultural change of the Championship as well.”

Current issues

  • Large volume of buildings (pre-2000);
  • Poor insulation;
  • Inefficient heating and cooling;
  • Gas-fired boilers;
  • Gas-fired water heaters;
  • Gas cooking;
  • Large general peak loads during The Championships;
  • Even larger peak loads at certain times of day (roof closing); and
  • Inefficient temporary structures.

He lamented, “We have a large number of buildings, poor insulation, gas cooking, inefficient structures and it leaves a lot of carbon footprints.”

Case study


Millennium Building

The current focus of the Wimbledon Master Plan (WMP) is the development of a new qualifying venue on the adjacent golf course and the refurbishment of the existing Millennium Building.

The Millennium Building sits next to the Centre Court. This building houses players during the Championship, the media and the members.

Put in Deatker, “The building comprises inefficient gas boilers and larger handling units. It has been designed around the time when you pumped in maximum heating, ensured everything was delivered, ensured everyone was happy and not really worry about the harm caused to the environment. The building has lovely views around it but actually the kitchens emit a lot of gas. So, we looked at the building from a business point of view and we realized that we needed to modernize it. It’s over 30 years old and the spaces itself wear a very tired look and we need to make urgent improvizations.”


  • Improve thermal performance;
  • Maximize shading and natural ventilation;
  • Reduce electrical loads through controls and energy-efficient solutions;
  • Electric cooking;
  • Ground Source Hold Pumps or Air Source Heat Pumps for the large heating and hot water loads;
  • Photovoltaics and batteries to reduce peak electrical loads;
  • Zero carbon generators – batteries, hydrogen, ammonia;
  • Need to reduce electrical loads to balance the increase;
    • Mothball spaces when not in use;
    • Understand occupancy patterns and control spaces accordingly; and
    • Turn off equipment when not needed.


Embodied carbon

  • Reuse existing substructure and superstructure;
  • Everything else recycle;
  • What about mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP)?


No feet-dragging

He opined that the plan is to strip off the façade and design it using lot more natural ventilation, more shading and then reducing the electrical loads through efficiency, through BMX and “We have arrived at the decision that we have to stop faffing and get on with it. If you don’t want gas cooking, you could go electrical if you want zero carbon. In terms of our major exhaust, we are getting air source heat pumps on this building and photovoltaics as a way of capping our electrical loads. A lot of our spaces get used intensively for those three to four weeks (during Wimbledon) but outside those four weeks they get more scope. We really need to think of switching buildings in terms of those loads or make spaces flexible so that they can be used for the event efficiently.”

Added Deatker, “We realize that by stripping off these façades we are actually creating value for space. So, these front rooms which get stripped out and they will be turned into a play-gym and that actually makes real business sense because we are not making new spaces of design but we are reusing the existing spaces. In fact, we looked at the structure and we realized that we could actually put another floor on the building within the capacity of the planning, within the capacity of the substructure and again that makes good business sense.”

Deatker and his team are now planning to reuse the façade – a mixture of glass and wood which will be recycled.

What ails the industry?

Deatker averred that the industry has not yet woken up to the fact that “We need to recycle the stuff, reuse it and find a way to pump it back into the supply channel. I strongly feel that the construction industry and the design industry need to wake up on this, particularly on the mechanical and the electrical side.”

Permanent vs. temporary structures

Deatker informed that during Wimbledon, there is a huge build-up during the fortnight and a lot of temporary structures are used which had become very “run-of-the-mill” kind. The AELTC decided to take a relook at how the temporary structure benchmarks against a built home structure.”

Lessons learned



  • Air conditioned, tented structures powered by diesel generators are not good;
  • Insulated temporary structures, naturally ventilated, good design, mains powered; and
  • Durability and lifespan of materials.



  • Ultra efficient all electric buildings;
  • Multipurpose buildings; and
  • Flexible space.



  • If you build a temporary structure that is uninsulated and you pump it through an airconditioning and you have whole of these generators supporting it, it is not good. It’s carbon footprint.



  • If you build an insulated temporary structure, and you use your source of power for the airconditioning from the grid, and you buy renewable energy from the grid, it is a lot better.



  • And then if you think about the lifespan of buildings, lifespan of materials, and I am going to reuse it again and again for the next 20 years, then that’s good.

He stated, “If we are coming into some of our physical spaces, actually, it will be better if it is a permanent structure, highly efficient, well insulated, then we need to think back on flexible use – what are the spaces to be used so that its carbon footprint is actually saving something else to be built elsewhere and looking for those synergies.”

Expanding Estate


Wimbledon Master Plan

  • Refurbish existing areas;
  • Expand and upgrade infrastructure; and
  • Expand with permanent/temporary structures.



Talking about emissions, Deatker maintained that it is a problem with any operating venue like theirs – “We have to be careful about our carbon footprints as we still have a significant carbon footprint and we have to do something about it.”

Net zero pathways

  • Getting rid of gas and diesel engines as it contributes to carbon footprint;
  • To reduce Scope I emission, electrical usage will have to be reduced;
  • Player travel, fan travel leads to carbon footprint – “Therefore, we will have to do some carbon offsetting around that playground.”



  • Zero carbon will require investment;
  • Good ethical management is good for business; and
  • Good ethical management is good for the companies.



Deatker summed up by stating, “Attaining net zero will be an expensive affair and one has to plan for that investment. It’s good for business to have that ethical leadership, that ethical management and there are tangible benefits from these.”

Sustainability is at the heart of AELTC’s modus operandi and Robert Deatker along with his team is ready to go above and beyond to ensure that the Championship will one day be a net zero sporting spectacle.

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