Specialists play key role in brownfield development

Craig Sillars, Managing Director of Churngold Remediation Ltd, identifies short-term concerns over brownfield development and puts the case for identifying specialist remediation contractors capable of addressing the most complex remediation issues.

The Government has introduced a number of pieces of new legislation to act as drivers for brownfield redevelopment in order to promote urban regeneration and achieve construction of 60% of new houses on sites that have had a former use. In the long term, the market for the services of specialist remediation contractors is almost certain to expand. However, at the time of writing (December 2001) the rapid implementation of the Landfill Directive, before the effect on brownfield regeneration has been properly addressed, and, in particular, the associated definition of what is "waste", may have a short detrimental effect on the remediation market.

The bans on certain wastes is such that pre-treatment of soils prior to deposit in a hazardous waste landfill may be required. However, due to the prohibitive cost of disposal to these landfills (costs of around £100/t have been mentioned) pre-treatment in order to allow disposal to a non-hazardous landfill is also likely to increase. Those sites with planning constraints that require removal of material off site could find remediation costs escalate. However, clearly on site forms of remediation should come more to the fore in order to reduce disposal of materials to landfill. Either way, the need for specialist contractors will become a necessity. However, the latest hurdle is the Environment Agency position on the definition of waste as defined in its document Guidance on the Application of Waste Management Licensing to Remediation.

This classifies contaminated soil arisings as "controlled waste" that is based on its designation as "directive Waste". The contaminants themselves can be considered waste as they have been "abandoned or control of them has been lost" and since "the soil is not discrete from the contaminants, that too will be Waste." Of great concern is that the EA has also indicated that even uncontaminated arisings from service runs will be classified as waste.

The reasoning behind this is that the excavations were carried out to install services and not to obtain materials for use elsewhere on the site. As such they would normally be discarded, ie they are waste.

Developers raised these concerns at the recent annual CIRIA conference on contaminated land, however their fears regarding this definition were only exacerbated. The upshot is that, no matter what type of development site you have, the handling and re-use of materials from site will be deemed to be a waste activity and will require a Waste Management Licence unless an exemption can be obtained.

Partnering
What is becoming clearer, however, is that the issue of redevelopment of brownfield land is becoming an ever more complex one, requiring skills to be pulled together from a number of organisations forming the development team.

This team generally comprises the architect, planners and the environmental consultants and, generally at a later stage, a main contractor. The team in general does not include the specialist remediation contractor. However, it is more frequently being left to the specialist contractor during the tender process to come up with the remediation design. The time available frequently prevents the best design being provided, and gaining approval for the best design, should it stray from the perceived design that was proposed to the Environment Agency, may even prevent its implementation due to other constraints, usually time.

Andrew Smith, Chief Secretary, pointed out at the recent Achieving Better Value in Construction Conference, that "specialist contractors are the crucial factor in driving forward the agenda for construction. As such, specialist contractors should be involved in the supply chain at the earliest possible opportunity and, preferably, prior to design stage."

Hopefully, one solution on the horizon is the new PPC2000 Partnering Contract that Sir John Egan stated was "A blow for freedom." The stated objectives are of reduced costs, reduced defects and accidents, and increased predictability, productivity and profit, which offer rewards that we all want to share.

Given that the majority of any development costs overrun due to unforeseen ground conditions it would appear obvious that great benefits should be gained by including the specialist remediation contractor, who will be dealing with these problems as part of the partnership. Contrary to what some developers may think, we believe that this method of procurement will provide the best value solution every time.

'One Stop Shop'
What a lot of people do not realise is that specialists, such as Churngold Remediation Ltd, can offer clients a full package of enabling works so that, rather than tacking in four or five specialists, all the design work and implementation of that design can be carried out by one contractor.

For example, a recent project bid incorporated initial demolition and asbestos removal, followed by bulk excavation, bioremediation, stabilisation, construction of bentonite cut-off walls and groundwater treatment. The groundwater treatment itself involved a combination of pump and treat, chemical oxidation and in situ bioremediation, as well as looking into other more complex techniques.

The package even allowed for the piling and ground improvement works on site. Thus the specialist contractor provides an important part of the construction team, but only adds one layer to the supply chain.


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