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Wales tests schemes for better building

Waste is one of the most important challenges facing the construction industry. Generating less waste, reusing materials and using more recycled content will be crucial to long term economic viability.

In Wales, targets set by the Welsh Government have challenged the industry to make sure that 90% or more of the waste generated by the construction and demolition (C&D) sectors in Wales will be reused or recycled by 2019/2020.

The latest figures suggest a move in the right direction, with 87% of waste produced being recycled in aggregate material terms; however there is much work to do as targets require 90% recycling to be achieved across every material waste stream.  The Environment Agency Wales ‘Building the Future’ waste survey published by in 2007 identified that in 2005/06, only 13.5% of plastic waste generated by the C&D sector in Wales was recycled.  

Constructing Excellence in Wales (CEW) manages the C&D Waste Programme for the Welsh Government and sets out to help the construction industry to achieve the ambitious targets for landfill diversion outlined in Towards Zero Waste, the overarching strategy for waste in Wales.

CEW was closely involved in the preparation of the Towards Zero Waste strategy and the accompanying construction sector plan which identified a whole range of recommendations and actions for each sector of the industry.  To help the industry understand their responsibilities, we were keen to demonstrate the viability of some of these recommendations on real building schemes.

We needed to find a way to work with contractors to explore in some detail the viability of actually achieving zero waste to landfill on real, current projects.

The result is a new Constructing Excellence in Wales project, ‘Enabling Zero Waste ’ developed to find a small number of construction and demolition projects, including new build and refurbishment sites,  to establish if, and how, zero waste to landfill can be achieved. 

An industry wide recruitment process revealed four volunteer schemes:

  • Care Home, Newport (Castleoak Care Partnerships Ltd)
  • Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea (John Weaver Contractors Ltd)
  • Ice Arena Wales, Cardiff Bay (Kier Construction)
  • Millbank Primary School, Ely, Cardiff (WRW Construction Ltd)

My colleague Emma Thomas, director of sustainability at CEW, says it is a comprehensive approach: “We set out to support the chosen schemes with practical assistance on all aspects of the waste management hierarchy through concept to completion. This will provide the basis for identifying, managing and documenting each type of waste, the possible options and available solutions, together with finding the root cause.

“This will enable tangible lessons to be learned from issues encountered during live projects.  At the end of the Enabling Zero Waste project, full reports will be produced and the achievements, solutions and lessons learnt presented at an industry conference.”

The project will publish the learning outcomes throughout the duration of the C&D phases, predominantly through online communications and social media (@EZWaste_Wales)

Support on site will be provided with the help of an external waste consultant from BQMC, who will be on hand to identify and solve waste management issues. This dedicated extra pair of hands (with a zero waste mission) will be able to intervene and help the client to overcome obstacles and provide hard evidence to change perceptions about waste management possibilities and impact on culture and behaviour.

CEW is using latest technology on the project – innovative photography from a Cardiff-based company called Heli-Eye who use a drone to easily and quickly capture aerial images - and two companies who use state-of-the-art techniques to apply BIM modelling.  Arup and Alan Gillard Associates will be using the system to enable CEW to look at how design changes might affect reductions in waste.  As all four schemes are already designed most of the changes will be hypothetical and intended to inform the learning process for future schemes. However, if there is enough time in the programme, these changes could become a reality.

Enabling Zero Waste was officially launched on 24 June 2014 by the Welsh Government Minister for Food and Natural Resources, Alun Davies, AM.

Paul Jennings is programme director, Constructing Excellence in Wales

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