Driving sustainability through collaboration

Dr Martyn Kenny, director of sustainability at Lafarge Tarmac, explains how closer collaboration across the whole construction supply chain has become key to embedding sustainability and driving innovative ways to meet UK infrastructure and carbon reduction targets.

Realising sustainability ambitions and translating the theory of collaborative working into practice requires a fundamental change in traditional ways of working. Whilst there is a lot of talk in the construction industry about collaboration, sustainability and the use of data to boost efficiency and lower the carbon footprint of projects, drawing these elements together in an optimal way on a single project is a challenging enterprise.

This is where the Heysham to M6 link road, one of Lancashire’s highest priority transport projects, differs. Here, both Lafarge Tarmac and Costain set out to realise the full potential of genuine, long term collaboration and early engagement to deliver greater transparency and make more informed specification decisions based on whole-life performance.

The close collaboration on this project has not only had a marked impact on its social, economic and environmental sustainability, but has also set the precedent for future working relationships.

From the outset…

Costain’s plan for collaboration was clear from the outset. Rather than use multiple materials producers to spread risk, as per standard industry practice, the company sought a single partner to create efficiencies in the supply of readymix concrete, aggregates and asphalt as well as road contracting services.

For Costain, a commitment to collaboration and an understanding of sustainable construction were critical characteristics in a project delivery partner. Early engagement is central to Lafarge Tarmac’s sustainable construction solutions offering. During the competitive tender process, we were able to demonstrate our record and performance on both these fronts, and set about working with Costain to make this is an innovative and industry-leading partnership.

With a focus on genuine and early collaborative working from both businesses at the outset we took time to understand each other’s operations as well as Lancashire County Council’s KPIs and timescales.

It was a process of education for both companies, which gave us the opportunity to design and build a scheme in a way that increased efficiency and improved sustainability.

By having visibility of the project design and material requirements from the outset, the project team was able to identify opportunities for considerable savings in the quantity of materials required and the project’s embodied carbon footprint.

For instance, Lafarge Tarmac led the review and redesign of the original fully flexible pavement to a flexible composite that utilises innovative solutions such as cement bound granular mixes in the lower layers of the road.

Working together from as far as two years ahead of the project being spade-ready also provided a unique opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of each other’s operations, which in turn helped us to identify potential logistical, cost and sustainability benefits, for example in the management of quarries.

By taking Costain through how we manage each quarry, understanding grew about the impact of site decisions on quarrying, deliveries and routes to site.

As a result, the team could aim for zero wastage at the quarry supplying the project, ensuring all materials produced would be used on the scheme or planning in advance where excess could go to avoid landfill. In addition, a logistics plan was put in place that provided an optimal route to site and minimised the impact on local traffic.

Driving sustainability benefits via relationships

This is only a small glimpse of the wider sustainability and efficiency benefits delivered by our close collaboration on the project. Both Lafarge Tarmac and Costain are working with all partners across the supply chain in order to achieve the sustainability vision, including the client, Lancashire County Council. Indeed, having a client who is open to genuine innovation and new ways of working is key to delivering collaborative projects.

To drive this collaborative model, we created three-tier relationship management teams to focus on strategic oversight, project management, delivery and KPIs, including sustainability.

At the top sits the executive team, which oversees progress against KPIs. Below sits the project management team, which focuses on onsite delivery and ensures the required efficiencies are being realised. The third tier consists of the site teams who meet weekly to review what went well and identify areas for improvement.

This working relationship model is having a marked impact on the project. The overall new design produced at ECI stage has reduced the aggregate tonnage by nearly 25%, saving over 200,000 tonnes of raw materials, and enabled a reduction of nearly 9,000 m3 of readymix concrete, just over 26%. This translates into a 21% saving of CO2e from the original design, which exceeds the KPI of 20 per cent.

Innovation aiding sustainability vision

One of the most impactful innovations of the scheme is a bespoke Sustainable Construction Solutions offer, which has enabled carbon measurement. Lafarge Tarmac designed a monthly ‘carbon tracking service’ that captures carbon data showing waste usage and reduction, materials recycling and carbon footprint.

This data is fed into a dashboard that tracks the environment benefits and provides transparent and detailed analysis on each material used, including ordering, performance (actual and forecast), average cycle time, cancellations, deliveries and safety.

Coupled with early engagement on the project design and materials, the ‘carbon tracking service’ has enabled the teams to identify considerable savings in the quantity and types of materials required and the carbon footprint, as well as help align value and savings with carbon and cost.

Some of the other headline achievements include:

Zero mineral wastage against a KPI of 200,000 tonnes of aggregates saved – reduction of almost 25%
40% reduction in orders being placed late against a KPI that aimed to improve the ordering process
88% reduction in part loads and standing time translating into a minimal £15k cost incurred
Forecasting drastically improved – where previously the difference between forecast and actual tonnes was up to 30%, this has been reduced to Use of walking floor articulated trucks against the use of eight-wheel truck, helping reduced carbon
For every £1 invested, the regional economy will get £4.40 back

Lessons for the industry

With completion of the project set for summer 2016, this is a project that will have an impact on the way Lafarge Tarmac, Costain and the wider industry will work in the years to come.

The companies are building on the success of the Heysham project and investing in a BS 11000 collaborative working relationship. This will see them create increased value beyond this scheme.

One of the major achievements on this project has been the extent of carbon measurement and footprint reduction. The success here highlights the scope to introduce similar sustainability commitments into future contracts with our supply chain partners and work towards developing it into best practice across the industry. We’re currently discussing using our agreement with Costain as the basis for future contractual relationships in order to help increase sustainable thinking and cut carbon.

Furthermore, the work on carbon reduction has helped improve awareness about the industry’s carbon reduction challenge and change mindsets Throughout the project, an overwhelming focus has been placed on sustainability and carbon tracking, close monitoring and using transparent data to make informed decisions about the whole-life performance of materials. This has helped to strengthen the carbon consciousness in both companies.

Ultimately, the success of the project highlights the importance and benefit of mutually trusting supply chain relationships, and what can be achieved with a clear commitment to engage early on.

Both Lafarge Tarmac and Costain approached this project and task with an openness and willingness to innovate and learn. This allowed us to challenge the status quo and devise new initiatives and practices which will be built on by both companies and the wider industry as we respond to the challenges ahead.

Dr Martyn Kenny is director of sustainability at green building materials group Lafarge Tarmac.

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