Building industry backs sustainable development

The Construction Industry Research and Information Association (CIRIA) takes a leading role in reviewing the building and civil engineering industry's responsibilities in developing sustainable construction and promoting initiatives and solutions. Christopher Harris, Head of the Environment Group, explains how CIRIA can help local government in the business of building

Local authorities are significant construction clients and stakeholders in the construction industry with influences ranging from planning, building control, housing, highways through to urban regeneration and community services.

Focus on contaminated land
Local authorities are increasingly involved in contaminated land projects in this country. Under Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, local government in England, Scotland and Wales has the duty to assess or remediate many sites as a regulator and landowner. With many local authorities implementing their contaminated land strategies, the need for suitable guidance and training to help them apply the appropriate remedial treatment on site is greater than ever before.

Some 70% of the contaminated land in this country is remediated through excavate and disposal. Factors like rising gate costs and increases in landfill tax means that many local authorities, hampered by limited budgets and the duty to clean up contaminated sites with little commercial value, are searching for more sustainable and cost effective remedial technologies.

CIRIA continues to be a focus for improvement in best practice. CIRIA's contaminated land research is highly regarded by many construction professionals. A consultants' report on research activity in this field commissioned by DETR (now DEFRA), expected to be published shortly, reveals that over 70 organisations consider CIRIA to be the most influential non-government body.

CIRIA is setting up a network to help local authorities share experience and to improve the they way they deal with contaminated sites. The major activities of the network will include:

  • training workshops on remedial treatment specifically designed for local authorities
  • newsletters
  • a local authority contaminated land officer contact list
  • and an annual contaminated land conference.

Guidance & training

The following reports and training packs may be of interest to local authority officers.

  • SP101-112 Remedial treatment for contaminated land
  • SP186 Barriers, liners and cover systems for the containment and control of ground contamination
  • SP124 Hydraulic measures for the control and treatment of ground water pollution.
  • C549 Remedial processes for contaminated land: principles and practice.
  • C547 Contaminated land - financial control of risk
  • C540 Remedial treatment for contaminated land - a training pack
  • C552 Contaminated land risk assessment - a guide to good practice

Two seminars examining Risk Assessment for Contaminated Land are due to be held this summer (20 June in Guildford and 4 July in Cambridge). Government bodies and the Environment Agency will also be key speakers at a conference to be held by CIRIA on contaminated land on 17 September 2002.

The Construction Industry Environmental Forum (CIEF), co-ordinated by CIRIA, is able to help local authorities understand the drivers that the construction industry faces as well as provide an environment within which officers discuss the implications of policy requirements and local government directives. The CIEF (whose 200 members include government agencies and local authorities, contractors, architects, consultants, clients, housing associations and property developers) can provide a level of support and relevant material for many different professions with an authority from housing officers to planners, local agenda 21 officers to contaminated land officers.

The CIEF continues to grow, with 35 events being held every year around the UK. In the past six months it has addressed issues such as biodiversity and buildings, procuring environmentally-responsible buildings, waste minimisation, interaction between construction companies and local communities, and sustainability within social housing provision.

Current local authority members vary in size and location but include the London Boroughs; Metropolitan Boroughs and District Councils. Staff members from these authorities have free access to all events, as well as access to free briefing papers, newsletters, and the notes on all the seminars held. For local authorities, attendees could include representatives from environmental strategy, planning, waste and recycling, housing, Local Agenda 21 and works departments.

CIRIA is also helping local authorities develop Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) with Sustainability at the core of the guidance. CIRIA can then disseminate the SPGs to the construction industry via conferences and events to ensure that the construction industry is brought into the process fully. One such conference is being held to launch the Kent Design Guide on 28 May 2002 in Maidstone.

If further details are required on these activities or you require further information on CIRIA please visit or call 020 72228891.



Waste & resource management

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