The world may not be ending today, but does the construction industry continue to waste as though there is no tomorrow?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOK, not all construction and indeed we have many exemplar, near-zero-waste construction projects , yet the industry continues to be wasteful, locked into a Take, Make, Waste attitude that contributes 40% of all waste.

The last few weeks of Green Vision activity have highlighted the emerging circular economy, cradle to cradle, living building, healthy product philosophies that will move us away from our cornucopian approach.

The push for 2013 must be to ‘rethink the way we make things’ and aim for more near-zero- waste projects. (near-zero-waste as meaning waste generated on a project, not the percentage of waste diverted from landfill)

Related posts:

Cradle to Cradle Tweetchat Storify

3 R’s for rethinking built environment sustainability

Is Our Green Build Compass Broken?

Built to Last – Designing Out Landfill

There has been an increase in circular economy thinking and the built environment recently, and no doubt we will see much more in the coming weeks and months.  It forms a core element behind the Green Vision half day conference in Leeds on the 12th Dec.

Whilst researching back ground information on “Designing Out Landfill” for a client I was struck by these useful paragraphs from Sophie Thomas  co-director of design at the RSA and published in a Guardian Sustainable Business article in September 2012

Built to last

Design sits at the heart of the challenge to create a circular economy. Approximately 80% of a product’s environmental impact is “locked in” at the design stage, so understanding production cycles and reconfiguring them for maximum effectiveness is key. We cannot simply substitute one material for another without understanding the consequences.

Designing in this way is complex. Gone are the days of “sustainable” or “eco” design, when a simple change of material to a recycled alternative would give a project environmental credibility. This system calls for investigation into materials at a molecular scale. It demands true co-creation, with all stakeholders involved in the lifecycle of a particular product. Finally, it requires a new logistical approach to capturing and recirculating materials.

This effort needs to be led by businesses. At the moment, it is rare to see a company setting a design brief that includes requirements to recover material. Now, however, the business model is changing and the economic imperative for recovery is growing stronger.

So…

How well is design, construction and facilities management prepared for such ‘deep green’ thinking to waste elimination?

Sustainability in Built Environment dominates Guardian Sustainable Business Awards

Sustainability in the Built Environment dominates Guardian Sustainable Business Award winners:

At British Land – winner of the Guardian Sustainable Business built environment award:

As the relationship with Camden council shows, British Land takes its corporate responsibility seriously and this is reflected in the goals for Regent’s Place. From design to construction, the project team has been expected to apply the highest standards of ISO 14001 certified sustainability brief for developments. As a consequence, all the new office buildings have Breeam “excellent” sustainability ratings.

From fit-out to property maintenance the developer has worked with occupiers and on-site teams to use natural resources efficiently, with a waste guide and sustainability brief for management – leading to 8% less like-for-like energy use since April 2010.

When the masterplan is complete, the Regent’s Place estate will double in size, providing 2m sq ft of office, retail and residential space for 14,000 workers and residents. What an opportunity, then, for a showcase site with sustainability at its core.

At Sainsbury’s – winner of the Guardian Sustainable Business energy award:

Crayford Sainsbury’s biggest UK store … is a breakthrough project – the first time a UK supermarket has used the so-called geo-exchange system to tap natural geo-thermal energy trapped deep under the ground.

At the heart of the system is an advanced ground-source heat pump that is linked to boreholes that capture and store waste heat from the store. This is released, when needed, to provide heat and hot water for the store and on-demand cooling for refrigeration.

Most importantly, it has allowed the supermarket group to increase the size of the store with no increase in either energy use or carbon emissions. The expanded store has exactly the same footprint as the smaller store it replaces.

As such, Crayford provides a blueprint for the UK’s second biggest grocer as it plots its future store development. The system will be used on several new and redeveloped stores now being planned.

At Tescos: winner of the Guardian Sustainable Business carbon award:

An all-timber new look store in Ramsey, Cambridgeshire, is meanwhile creating a zero-carbon template for future store development at home and abroad.

A range of new technologies is being tested, including sun-pipe lighting, renewable combined heat and power (CHP), harvested rainwater to flush toilets and run carwashes, the first ever LED car park lighting system and on-site renewable energy production. Similar stores in the Czech Republic and Thailand will be built in the coming months.

Some 614 UK stores have also been fitted with electronic energy boards showing staff at all levels, and in real time, if their store is operating in an energy efficient way and suggesting ways to improve the results.

The Livingston distribution centre in Scotland will soon be equipped with a six megawatt CHP plant, while the California distribution centre has one of the largest roof-mounted solar installations in North America.

And

at InterfaceFLOR – winner of the Guardian Sustainable Business waste and recycling award:

In 1995 InterfaceFLOR, a carpet tile and commercial flooring company, launched mission zero, a promise to eliminate all of its negative environmental impacts by 2020.

Born from an “epiphany” that founder and chairman Ray Anderson had on reading Paul Hawken’s The Ecology of Commerce, the mission moved the company away from the “take, make, waste” cycle of manufacturing towards a more sustainable business model.

The path to mission zero is made up of seven clear and ambitious goals, ranging from eliminating waste and using wholly renewable energy to maximising recycling and using resource-efficient transport.

For InterfaceFLOR, eliminating waste meant eliminating the concept of waste, not just incrementally reducing it. Recycling is seen as a last resort and only considered in cases where waste cannot be prevented or reused in any way. It’s an approach the judges thought eminently replicable.

At Capgemini – short-listed for the Guardian Sustainable Business built environment award.

Capgemini has established a new approach for building energy efficient data centres. Rather than build from scratch, it has used an existing building ‘shell’ and populated it with prefabricated modules, similar to those used as mobile hospitals by the British army in Afghanistan.

This in itself minimises the environmental impact that would come with a new-build project and cuts development time from 18 months to just 22 weeks.

Merlin aims to achieve a step-change in every aspect – from the smart engineering of the building to the use of many innovative features, such as fresh-air cooling, battery-free uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and use of recyclable or reusable materials.

The key feature is the cooling system, which combines fresh air and pre-evaporative cooling. It is set up to ensure the tightest possible real-time control of temperature, humidity and air-flow at minimum energy cost.

Merlin includes new “flywheel technology” in its UPS system, with kinetic energy replacing high-carbon batteries.

another decade of waste or something different?

One of the potentially more powerful influences that could shape future thinking on waste and waste management that emerged during the ‘noughties’ is Cradle to Cradle, Remaking the Way We Make Things by William McDonough & Michael Braungart

This is a subject I have blogged, twittered, presented and included in workshops on many occasions, but recent musings led me to think just what the coming decade in construction could look like if C2C thinking was adopted.

In particular projecting the ‘waste is stupid’ concept forward how will our approach to waste change?

So lets stand in the future, lets say 2019, where we have passed a good number of the known milestones on zero carbon and sustainable construction, and look back at how our attitude to waste matured.

2010 There is a general awakening and awareness in general business, government and society to the disproportionate contribution that construction makes in terms to waste and associated carbon emissions.

2011 Now seen as the rubicon year in which construction waste started to be seen as socially, economically and environmentally unacceptable, (as asbestos, tobacco and smoking)

2012 50% reduction to landfill target only just achieved and disputed by many. Realisation that the real cost of waste is not in landfill but in creation of waste in the first instance even if waste is recycled or reused

2012 Reusable Protection Solutions (RPS) introduced that start to eliminate waste from packaging. Some RPS items seen as desirable design objects and used as furniture.

2013 Resources, including waste managers and waste ‘budgets’ diverted into avoiding waste and managing waste out, with no costs budgeted for waste management. Waste starts to become a real design issue

2013 Achievement of Zero Waste becomes a reality and a key industry KPI and target.

2014 Recycling now seen as a performance indicator of the design sector and  limited to materials arising from demolition and buildings taken out of commission.

2014 Site Waste Management Plans replaced by Material Re-Use Plans (Materials incorporated into designs and construction must have a reuse identified should wastage occur and at end of building life)

2015 Contract procurement of design teams, contractors and subcontractors majors on the ability and past evidence of eliminating waste and producing

2016 Savings from zero waste costs offset initial investment in sustainable construction and energy conservation measures

2017 Recycling now seen as a key element of the design sector as recycled materials are created with planned future use.

2017 Reduction in material supply sector output as the efficiency of construction improves.

2017 Construction profits increase

2018 Construction costs reduce in line with improved quality and waste reduction

2019 The traditional landfill and waste sector shrinks to a negligible level.

2019 Waste transportation, particularly skips, seen as quaint and laughable method from the past decade, “very noughties”

Time to rethink (not re-tinker with) sustainability #BAD09

Oh what a web we have weaved on our route to sustainability. And while we seek sustainable construction and head towards zero carbon homes, are we not in real danger of creating an industry that is in itself not sustainable or resilient?

We have spent a huge amount on sustainability technology, on green marketing, of time and energy in defining zero this or that, sustainable ‘everything’, and yet carbon emissions from buildings have increased, we do not have a workable definition or solution to existing bldgs, and despite site waste management plans DEFRA recently claimed that one third of solid materials arriving at the site gate are not used for the ordered purpose.

Given the opportunity  to blog for Blogging Action Day (BAD09) on climate change, we need raise the call to rethink construction, rethink facilities management and rethink design. Not in the now overused and redundant ‘rethinking’ as in tinkering with, hiding behind a thin veneer, but as in the Einstein “we can not solve todays problems with the thinking that got us here in the first place.”

25 years ago the Brundtland Commision definition of sustainable development called for actions that would not compromise future generations. Here we are a generation or so on, and I would bet that nearly every sustainable policy or statement echos or repeats the Brundtland definition. And yet we have compromised todays generation and continue in our actions that will compromise future generations.

Many sources have stated that our built environment sector consumes 40% of materials and contributes 40% of carbon emissions and waste. Not a record to be proud of.

Worst: we think we are addressing sustainability because we have greenwashed our products, our services and our actions.

We are on the cusp of needing radical actions to met forecast climate changes, being neutral may no longer be acceptable,. We may look back and regret the investments and industry we set up to manage and recycle waste, rather than investing in eliminating waste. We will regret our inactions on really moving the sustainability agenda forward since Brundtland.

Positive development, not neutral or zero, needs to surface as the new mantra on our sustainability agenda.

And stealing the words from construction excellence blog yesterday.

“If current leaders are not up to the task, they should as a minimum support the next generation who appear to understand the issues”

Links:

Be2camp Manifesto: Towards an open resilient sustainable and collaborative built environment

Positive Development

Understand and Preventing Greenwash

government to focus on 50% construction waste reduction

Waste and recycling minister Jane Kennedy has revealed that tackling business waste is to be a “top priority”

as reported on www.letsrecycle.com

Ms Kennedy explained that the Government would now develop proposals aimed at supporting businesses to look at ways they could reduce, reuse and recycle their waste, with a particular focus falling on small businesses. She added that the government hoped to offer support in light of Envirowise research which claimed businesses spend 4% of their annual turnover on waste disposal.

One area that the minister said that she hoped to make some real headway with regards to waste reduction and recycling was the construction and demolition sectors, with Ms Kennedy keen to build on targets to halve the amount of waste generated in these sectors by 2012.

Identifying work already done in this area, the minister said she believed the 2007 Waste Strategy for England had “rightly identified” construction and demolition waste as in need of action, leading to the Sustainable Construction Strategy launched in June and the legal requirement for each business to have a Site Waste Management Plans, which the minister believed would play a part in keeping focus on waste at this time of economic instability.

——

All good news, but reliance on Site Waste Management Plans to acheive 50% reduction in waste is not the way forward and more empahsis should be on eliminating waste, not simply finding better ways to mange waste after it has been created.

In addition one of the biggest moans from site contractors I hear at the moment, across the country, is the lack of real engagement from clients in driving Site Waste Management Plans

And as to spending 4% of their annual turnover on waste disposal this seems very low for the built environment sector when the real cost of skips is estimated at £1500, not the £100 costed for, and the estimated waste in the sector is at 30%, and DEFRA suggesting that one third of solid materials delivered to a project is wasted.

Previous isite related posts:

resource efficiency could save construction industry millions

beyond waste management

carbon management and waste management event

UKGBC task group too important to be so narrow?

sustainable construction commitments launched

sustainable construction commitments launched

The UK Government today launches its Sustainable Construction Strategy, with a whole raft of targets, measures and reporting mechanisms. It seems like it has been a long time coming, the consultation period being most of last year. Construction minister Shriti Vadera comments “Our aim is to become a world leader in sustainable construction” (Building). Time will tell.

Looking back to the response from to consultation we submitted from the Collaboartive Working Champions, it seems the emphasis on integrated and collaboartive working, as a means to sustainability is recognised .

To achieve improved whole life value through the promotion of best practice construction procurement and supply side integration, by encouraging the adoption of the Construction Commitments in both the public and private sectors and throughout the supply chain.

Parts of the industry – clients, consultants, main contractors, specialist contractors*, and product manufacturers and suppliers – to be engaged in supply chains on 30% of construction projects and for 40% of their work to be conducted through integrated project teams. (By 2012)

It is also included with the construction commitments:

A successful procurement policy requires ethical sourcing, enables best value to be achieved and encourages the early involvement of the supply chain. An integrated project team works together to achieve the best possible solution in terms of design, buildability, environmental performance and sustainable development.

And note the reference to ethical sourcing, this is also picked up in the report as responsible sourcing, moving towards a cradel to cradle approach one would hope, maybe along the lines of BS6000, which will wake up a few people and organisations.

And as fellow CWC and blogger Paul over at ExtranetEvolution comments it is good to see ICT within the Innovation section.

I am not sure about the inclusion of the eco-town approach as a target though – has the strategy been hijacked, Trojan horse style, to embed political ambitions?

however, and here is my main observation, admittedly after only a single read but….

I am disappointed to see a lack of facilities management in the document. The strategy is as much about the use, the consumption of buildings as it is about their design and provision. (something about focusing on the 1, out of the 1:5:200 concept). I am now aware that the facilities management sector in the UK is just too weak as a voice to get involved and influence the built environment sustainability agenda. Something that must change.

Yes we may have here a viable construction strategy , but without the link to the end users and management of the facilities (note I avoid the word buildings) we may not have a strategy for a sustainable built environment.

Oh, and why a sustainable document that has a solid black cover. The additional quantity of ink that will be used every time this document is printed or copied will be huge. The answer of course is not to print – but we are not all in the mindset of reading from the screen yet.

Score …