Life savings

Sustainable procurement is an opportunity for a higher-quality product which is cheaper yet improves profitability for the supply chain, writes Jonathan Rogers

Sustainability is the ability “to meet the needs and aspirations of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own”, according to the Brundtland Commission report. A powerful statement if considered correctly.

In 1999, the CO2 output from energy consumption in the UK was around 556 million tonnes, of which 50% came from the energy used in buildings. Of the 12.5 billion litres of potable water that is delivered each day, 70% is consumed in non-industrial use.

Of the total waste produced in the UK, 17% comes from construction activities. Thirteen million tonnes of construction material is delivered to site and thrown away unused every year. Twelve to 15 million tonnes of materials (less than 20%) is recycled per year. These are frightening statistics, which must be addressed.

It is considered that development provides maximum profits for few, and costs too much for the remainder. So the Government is beginning to put pressure on developers and the construction industry to achieve more sustainable solutions. Complex questions include:

· How will the Government up the ante?

· How will town planning address the problem?

· At what level should you buy in?

· What are well conceived design solutions?

· How do you specify and procure sustainably?

The costs associated with sustainability should be viewed as cost-saving measures.

With up to five times the build cost paid in maintenance over the lifetime of a building, and around 200 times the original build cost in business value to the occupant, it is clear the original solution has a dramatic influence. It is essential that the whole-life-cost approach is adopted if sustainability is to be correctly addressed. As an industry, we are becoming more used to thinking about energy management, Part L of the building regulations, and so on. But we seldom consider the holistic picture of a sustainable development.

Traditional procurement routes have well known problems, and it is time to rethink how we procure construction. Latham and Egan have pointed the construction industry in a new direction. But without client buy-in, it is unlikely supply chains will achieve their full potential.

Future procurement methods need to address the problems with the more traditional approaches. These include how to avoid the constant escalation of costs and programme slippage, lack of ownership by the team, and constantly compromising on the end product.

Meanwhile, an integrated supply chain allows the right technical resources to be available at the start. This enables the demand-and-supply chain to meet at the start of the process; asking the right questions.

Wasted efforts

Unfortunately, all efforts prior to the two chains meeting are almost always wasted. Obviously, there are some examples where the demand and supply chains do not meet until the end of a project, and then we have the problem of an end product not being near the expectations of the client. As illustrated (below left), it is essential that the lightning strikes as early on in the process as possible.

By ensuring that the early concept meets and delivers the client’s expectations, the detailed design and production stages of the project can be much more efficient and do not have the problem of reinventing the solution every

couple of weeks.

Direct benefits include real collaborative working; adding real value to your business; genuine access to best practice; achieving value for money based on real values; better accountability; greater confidence in delivery; increased project understanding; and, an open-minded approach to uncertainty.

To achieve a sustainable procurement, you should involve the right supply chain from the earliest stages; get real prices and programmes for work; get specialist advice from the earliest point; ensure fully integrated solutions and ownership by the specialist of the solution; and properly identify and manage the risk.

Sustainable procurement is an opportunity for a better-quality product, which is quicker and cheaper, and still improves profitability for the supply chain.

Jonathan Rogers is Director of White Young Green

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