Five ways construction companies can reach their CSR goals
The construction industry has evolved considerably in the past ten years or so, with companies coming under increasing pressure to significantly reduce their carbon footprints.
We all know that the building sector uses a lot of energy. In fact, according to the UK Green Building Council, citing figures from Plain English Guide - Constructing Excellence, fossil fuel-derived energy used in the construction and operation of buildings accounts for around half of the UK’s CO2 emissions.
Thankfully it seems that building specialists are taking their corporate social responsibility (CSR) increasingly seriously. Contractors not only have an obligation to introduce new technology that makes their new structures more eco-friendly in the long run, they must also assess how they can hone their own building processes to ensure they have less impact on the environment.
Here are five methods that they’re currently using.
Cranes are the lifeblood of most construction projects, especially larger ones.
More companies are using electric cranes that do not require hydraulic oil and do not run all the time, thus making them more eco-friendly. The latter is an important consideration.
Not so long ago, you’d see curtain wall contractors using diesel-powered monorails or cranes to lift heavy sheets of glass from the ground, slotting them into pre-set brackets around the building. More often than not, companies would start the monorail in the morning and then leave it running all day, even when it was not being used.
Working practices are changing and more eco-friendly electric cranes and monorails are now being used.
Larger construction firms will have a fleet of vans, allowing their workers to travel between different jobs around the UK. It’s important to ensure these vehicles are as green as possible.
A recent study by the Department for Transport showed that attitudes towards green vans are still very poor, with just five percent of people polled claiming that they’ve thought about purchasing an electric car or van.
There’s still a long way to go before vehicle manufacturers mass produce an electric van that construction companies will snap up in their droves, but in the meantime it’s important that builders swap their gas-guzzling vehicles for greener models.
Construction companies are required by law to provide adequate welfare facilities for their own staff and sub-contractors working on one of their sites.
The Health and Safety Executive has been conducting nationwide campaigns to ensure ongoing projects are up to standard, with some businesses found to be in breach of these regulations. It may be tempting to provide a washroom, shower facilities and rest area that meet the minimum requirements, but this will do nothing to help you achieve your CSR goals.
Manufacturers are now producing green welfare units that are more economical to run. They typically contain LED lighting, more sophisticated heating systems and advanced generator charging technology. If you’re serious about saving money and improving your CSR credentials, these are certainly a shrewd purchase.
Around 10 million tonnes of construction products and materials are wasted every year, costing in the region of £1.5 billion. Clearly, this cannot continue.
As part of your CSR policy, you should set wastage targets and then endeavour to stick to these. Are you throwing away materials that could be used on another of your sites, for example?
The government enforced Site Waste Management Plans (SWMP) in 2008 for projects costing in excess of £300,000 and these are designed to encourage construction companies to identify potential cost savings and energy reduction measures.
It’s important that you constantly review your working processes for a number of reasons. Firstly, and most importantly, you need to ensure the practices you adopt offer maximum protection to your own staff and those who are contracted in to complete jobs.
Secondly, you should assess whether your methods are efficient. Lean manufacturing helped a lot of businesses to survive the recession and the process of streamlining tasks can easily be applied to the construction industry. If a steel erecting company has worked out that by hiring just one or two more staff members, they will be able to use a new lifting process that will enable them to do the job 30 percent quicker and more ethically, it’s certainly worth the extra expenditure on wages.
Phil Foster is the CEO of Love Energy Savings, a business energy comparison specialist that works with a multitude of construction companies across the UK.
Environment Agency clamps down on plastic films and wraps
Businesses in the waste and construction industries must ensure they deal with waste plastic properly to stop illegal exports, the Environment Agency (EA) has warned.
The warning comes as the Agency is increasingly aware of plastic film and wrap from the construction and demolition sector being illegally exported.
Exports are frequently being classified as ‘green list’ waste of low risk to the environment, but are often contaminated with materials such as mud, sand, bricks and wood, posing a risk to the environment and human health overseas, and undermining legitimate businesses in the UK seeking to recover such waste properly.
During the last year, the EA has intercepted shipments to prevent the illegal export of this material on numerous occasions. The Agency inspected 1,889 containers at English ports and stopped 463 being illegally exported. This, combined with regulatory intervention upstream at sites, prevented the illegal export of nearly 23,000 tonnes of waste.
Those convicted of illegally exporting waste face an unlimited fine and a two-year jail sentence. But construction firms could also face enforcement action if contaminated construction and demolition waste plastic is illegally exported.
Malcolm Lythgo, Head of Waste Regulation at the Environment Agency, said it is seeing a marked increase in the number of highly contaminated plastic film and wrap shipments from the construction and demolition industry being stopped by officers.
“I would strongly urge businesses to observe their legal responsibility to ensure waste is processed appropriately, so we can protect human health and the environment now and for future generations. It’s not enough just to give your waste to someone else - even a registered carrier. You need to know where your waste will ultimately end up to know it’s been handled properly. We want to work constructively with those in the construction and waste sectors so they can operate compliantly, but we will not hesitate to clamp down on those who show disregard for the environment and the law.”
There are a number of simple, practical steps that businesses can take to ensure that C&D site waste is handled legally.
Construction businesses should check what’s in their waste
- Different waste types need different treatments and so must be correctly categorised to ensure it goes to a site that is authorised to handle it safely. Businesses can also check if their waste is hazardous as different rules might apply.
- If you are removing the waste yourself, you must be a registered waste carrier- registration can be carried out here. When a waste collector is transporting your site waste, you must check they have a waste carrier’s licence from the EA.
- You must also check that the end destination site any waste is taken to is permitted to accept it and has the right authorisations in place. Keep a record of any waste that leaves your site by completing a waste transfer note or a consignment note for hazardous waste which record what and how much waste you have handed over and where it is going.
Waste management industry must adhere to export controls
- Contaminated C&D waste plastic - including low-density polyethylene (LDPE) wrap and film - must be exported with prior consent from the EA as well as competent authorities in transit and destination countries.
- Those involved in the export of such waste must ensure that it meets the requirements set under the relevant export controls, such as being almost free-from contamination; the destination sites are appropriately licensed to receive and treat the waste; and waste is correctly managed once received.
The EA will continue to actively target those who export contaminated C&D plastic waste illegally, including any accredited packaging exporters who issue Packaging Waste Export Recovery Notes (PERNs) against such material in breach of their Conditions of Accreditation.
Businesses involved in the shipment of waste are required to take all necessary steps to ensure the waste they ship is managed in an environmentally sound manner throughout its shipment and during its recycling.
Anyone with information regarding the illegal export of waste including C&D waste plastics can contact the EA’s Illegal Waste Exports team at: [email protected] or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or via their website