EXCLUSIVE: Design out construction waste with a ‘joined up’ building process

Waste produced from the construction process could be completely designed out if there was more integrated thinking and communication within the industry, says Institute of Sustainability's Terry McGivern.

As the largest contributor of waste in the UK, the construction sector is responsible for generating  around one third of all UK waste per year.

Despite the Government’s efforts to reduce this, waste is still a major issue for the sector as resource efficiency rises up the agenda for construction companies.

However, head of resource efficient buildings at the Institute of Sustainability, Terry McGivern, told edie that the industry is progressing.

“There is more focus on material waste with regard to the whole building process and the whole life cycle of the building,” he said.

“Once you start to join up the whole design, construction, use, management and maintenance process, you start to design out a lot of material waste,” says McGivern.

However, McGivern said it is far from achieving this and because the construction sector is “disparate and fragmented” there are limits to what can be done in terms of reducing waste and increasing resource efficiency. The work tends to be carried out in silos, he adds.

“I’m not a car industry expert but I imagine they designed out an enormous amount of wastage in their manufacturing flow processes and I think the construction sector has still got a great deal to learn from the whole manufacturing flow process that applies to car manufacturing. We’re not remotely near what’s possible yet but it’s encouragingly moving in that direction,” says McGivern.

“This is going on in the background and it’s partly being driven by the sustainability agenda but it’s an agenda that the Government has been trying to drive for 10 or more years,” he says.

Echoing McGivern’s comments, the UK-GBC has said that as a major resource generator, consumer and producer of waste, it is crucial that the construction industry finds a means of designing, building and managing waste that will allow it to meet Government targets and contribute to the sustainability agenda.

It added that the most “significant, long-term opportunity” to improve waste management processes and reduce carbon emissions comes from the recovery of energy from waste.

This has been driven by the Government’s pledge to ensure that energy is recovered from 25% of the waste produced by 2020.

Leigh Stringer

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