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Less for the skip

Tiffany Holland finds out if tougher economic times are focusing minds more on the amount of waste construction projects produce.

Site Waste Management Plans are now a legal requirement for any project worth more than £300,000. Companies must declare what type of waste will be produced, how much they will produce and how they will recycle or reuse it. The escalating landfill tax is also affecting how much firms and local authorities throw away, while new laws concerning the collection and disposal of plasterboard are further forcing construction firms to think about waste efficiency.

Construction materials collector Tiger Enterprises co−founder Daniel Hill says he has collected more materials this year than last year, despite the downturn in the construction sector.

“Firms are definitely looking more at how to deal with their waste and this seems to be driven by the pressure that legislation has had on them,” he says. “Although legislation on its own can’t solve the waste problems, it’s made it much easier.”

Brighton−based Tiger collects waste materials from construction sites for free and then sells them to other builders or people doing DIY. This means the construction sites it collects from do not need to use expensive skips to hold their waste or pay to dispose of it at landfill.

In contrast, construction materials exchange website Earth Exchange has noticed a quieter than expected uptake of its services because of the downturn in housebuilding projects.

Although manager Alex Albon believes businesses are seeing waste management as a key way to save money, he thinks the real problem is that too much waste is produced in the first place. “There is a huge deficiency in designing−out waste. Contractors are left with the waste issue while the architects do not worry about it,” he says.

“We have come a long way with eco-building, but there is more uptake from contractors than designers and I think everyone needs to be pulling the same way.”

Consulting giant Atkins has integrated the importance of reducing, reusing and recycling its waste where possible.

On each project, waste is discussed and looked at on all specifications.

“Sometimes the simplest way of building something is not the most material−efficient.”

Julian Sutherland, Atkins

“Sometimes the simplest way of building something is not the most material−efficient. Things like suspended ceilings, which hide wiring and other components, are big producers of waste,” says Atkins sustainable development design director Julian Sutherland.

“We found the best solution was not to have them, which is a much more significant change from a design point of view than construction.”

Sutherland adds that preassembly construction is becoming more popular because it tends to avoid over−ordering materials. There is more control over the supply of materials and the ability to change them.

Milton Keynes−based offsite construction specialist Terrapin’s sales and marketing director Richard Macdonald believes the firm’s offsite manufactured buildings are “the ultimate in recycling”.

“Most of the elements in the buildings we hire out on a short to medium−term basis are good for many years’ service beyond the first hire,” he says.

“So, at the end of a hire, we carefully dismantle the building, refurbish the elements to an ‘as new’ condition and reuse it on similar projects, reducing waste and costs,” he says.

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