The green team

Civil-engineering supplier Burdens has streamlined its water and environmental products and services into a new division, Burdens Environmental. WWT's acting editor, Natasha Wiseman, reports

The UK's largest supplier and distributor of civil engineering materials, Burdens, launched its environmental division at the EcoBuild sustainable design and construction event in London on February 27. With Burdens Environmental, the company now has dedicated channels for both industrial and domestic customers to access advice, products and services for sustainable construction and infrastructure.

Group marketing director, Kevin Hancock, says: "Environmental considerations must now have a huge influence on all our activities. Our ambition is to be recognised as a one-stop shop for environmentally friendly products and services."

A new website has also been launched. Visitors to www.burdensenvironmental.com can find information about environmental building and drainage systems, water reuse and rainwater harvesting, industrial wastewater treatment and green roofs, as well as heating and energy systems. Burdens is a mainstream brand but it is in a strong position "to build on the demand for sustainable technology and underpin it with facts", Hancock says.

The company believes it has a responsibility to raise environmental awareness of
water and energy efficiency standards and promote and deliver the use of sustainable technologies. No doubt this is in its economic interest too.

Hancock explains how the company can help manage the sustainability of the whole life cycle of the built environment, everything from planning to construction to maintenance and, eventually, decommissioning. For the water sector, alongside the usual pipes and construction materials, he says that Burdens can assist with the wider considerations for water management, such as Suds.

According to Hancock, the company supplies more stormwater attenuation tanks than any other distributor, including ranges from HRD Technologies and Polypipe. The company can also advise on permeable paving systems, such as Aquaflow from the Gloucestershire company Formpave. To complete the cycle, stormwater runoff can be reused and Burdens Environmental carries a range of rainwater harvesting systems in a various sizes.

Burdens Environmental is actively seeking partnerships with smaller firms in the sector. A partnership with water and wastewater specialist Pulsonic Technologies was started in August 2006, and the company will be launching its range of bacterial solutions for wastewater in partnership with Burdens at EcoBuild.

The Halifax-based firm has a range of bacterial cleaning products, which remove the need for chemical products in applications involving fats oils and greases (FOG). This includes drain cleaning, especially useful in the restaurant and food-processing industry, and septic-tank treatment.

Managing director John Duffy explains how the bacterial solution is preferable to a chemical one. "Chemicals still reside in the system," he says. "The problem is simply transported to the drain network."

Unlike chemicals, bacteria actually consume the FOG waste. This reduces COD and improves the quality of wastewater, so reducing the trade effluent bill for companies.

Duffy hopes to bring its mini-treatment plants for industrial wastewater to the market through Burdens in the near future. Off-site treatment is a growth area, especially in rural areas which are far from the sewage network.

To meet the requirements of its customers, Burdens depends upon an efficient transport fleet. Its vehicles are equipped with the latest safety technology and mechanical handling systems to deal with the diverse range of materials dispatched. Vehicles are also fitted with satellite tracking equipment to ensure rapid deployment of critical stock.

Hancock says: "In recent years, the construction industry has been putting more and more stress on what it terms just-in-time delivery - namely delivering materials to site precisely when they are needed, and often assembling straight into the structure rather than stacking them in a compound - as the technique saves time and money."

Logistics director Paul Johnson says all Burdens's new Volvo crane vehicles have Euro 4 compliant engines, the most fuel-efficient engines available in the UK. By the end of 2007, it plans to purchase only vehicles with Euro 5 compliancy.

These engines, which are already commonplace in Sweden and other parts of Europe, are the most energy efficient available.

Johnson also speaks of the company's investigation of alternative fuel sources. "We are responsibly looking at the use of biofuel and biodiesel along with additives to control emissions," he says. "More advanced engines can take a wider range of fuels but older vehicles are difficult to convert."

Burdens's position as key supplier to the UK water industry has given the company the positioning it needed to capitalise on the growth in sustainable technology. The company has just been awarded a seven-year contract to provide logistics and warehousing services to Thames Water, the UK's largest water company.

Burdens is keen to maximise efficiency at every stage in the supply chain and recognises the importance of robust stock control and warehouse management. The company's extensive experience of stores management, branch networking and logistic partnering will again be applied to this contract. The aim is to develop and maintain an agile and responsive organisation to meet current and future needs.

"We need to be looking at everything from manufacture to installation," Hancock says. "This should include future maintenance needs as well, in terms both of materials and of logistics. Water companies can benefit from the same system," he adds, "though the economies may be less obvious. At the same time, I would like to see Burdens being involved to a greater extent in specifying materials for water companies.

"I am already looking forward to the time when we may well be managing the total logistics chain, in partnership with the utility, the supplier and the contractor. I can also see a time when this multi-utility activity could include a further resource in the form of heat as we embrace renewables and district heating."

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