Construction industry urged to adopt environmental management systems

On the day the UK Government published its vision for a sustainable construction industry, the industry got together to hear about the increasing relevance of environmental management systems.

While not specifically endorsing certification schemes such as the ISO 14000 series, speakers at a Construction Industry Research and Information Association (CIRIA)gathering told their audience that environmental management systems (EMS) of some sort are useful and that clients increasingly expect the construction industry and its suppliers to have such systems in place.

“It’s not simply a bureaucratic exercise or a way of collecting certificates to hang on the wall,” Sir Neville Simms, chair of Carillion, told his audience. Simms argued that introducing an EMS has improved Carillion’s environmental performance at the same time as it has reduced risks in projects, improved relations with communities affected by Carillion schemes, improved relations with customers, increased the company’s brand value and led to greater employee motivation.

Carillion has chosen to pursue ISO 14001 accreditation for all its business areas by 2002. In 1999, 60% of the company’s £1.8 billion turnover was accredited. The company is seen as being ahead on environmental issues compared to other large UK construction companies and Simms urged his counterparts to catch up. “Your can only lead the front of the queue by so far,” he said, adding that he eagerly awaits the day when the City wakes up to the environment and realises that companies with environmental policies are leaders.

The CIRIA event was organised to launch the publication of a guide to EMS for the construction sector, entitled Environmental Management in Construction.

“Implementation of ISO 14001 is difficult in the construction industry because of the number of temporary sites,” acknowledges Dr Sally Uren, director of environmental management for Stanger Science & Environment. As a result CIRIA’s guide does not prescribe such accreditation in all cases, but reviews companies’ options and emphasises that customers are increasingly demanding proof that construction companies are seeking to reduce environmental impacts.

British Airports Authority (BAA) was on hand to represent the construction industry’s customers. “Dealing with environmental impacts is becoming a ‘core skill’ for our managers and they need the same level of skill from contractors,” Mike Roberts, group technical director at BAA said. Referring to his company’s projected growth, Roberts stressed thatBAA’s growth depends on the goodwill of the communities affected and BAA’s ability to demonstrate that growth is environmentally sustainable. “Integral to our mission is to grow with the trust of our neighbours,” he said.

“We have an existing infrastructure, some of which is terribly inefficient,” Roberts told edie.”For new facilities we need to set ourselves extremely tough targets, and Terminal 5 – assuming we’re granted permission – is going to have to be at the cutting edge of environmental performance. If any of the [contracting] team is feeling complacent they won’t be staying that way.”

When asked by edie whether they would move beyond their ‘model’ status in terms of environmental reporting and target setting, and commit to company-wide reductions in greenhouse gas emissions (such as BP Amoco has done), Carillion, BAA and the Environment Agency said no.

Carillion’s Simms said that his company’s environmental targets will get tougher with each year, but that the next challenge won’t be to set greenhouse gas emission reduction goals but to integrate Carillion’s work on its social impacts with its economic and environmental impacts.

The Environment Agency is developing a specific programme to reduce business mileage, which accounts for a significant portion of its emissions, but the Agency has no plans to adopt Kyoto-style emission reduction targets.

Like CIRIA, the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) does not prescribe formal EMS certification, but it does point to the construction industry’s environmental impacts as being serious and says the need for change is pressing. Publishing DETR’s views on a sustainable future for construction, Building a better quality of life – a strategy for more sustainable construction, Beverley Hughes, Construction Minister stated: “I want the industry itself to understand that sustainable construction is about competitiveness, survival, corporate responsibility and enlightened self-interest. Above all, it makes good business sense.”

A conference on sustainable construction will be held in London on 10 July. Details from

Ceri Healey.

BAA announces ‘green’ construction awards

BAA, in association with CIRIA, has announced the creation of an annual, internal award for sustainable construction. The BAA Environmental Construction Award will be open to all BAA suppliers involved in construction-related activity.

The first winner will be announced at the end of the year, or beginning of 2001. Submissions are requested by October.

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