It’s often hard to decipher precisely what progress UK construction is making towards sustainability.
EcoHomes, ecotowns, low and zero carbon technologies, carbon footprints, EPCs and DPCs… the list goes on.
Of course, a policy framework – underpinned by regulation and objectives – is the accepted way of translating ideas into action. But arguably the biggest challenge can be found on sites up and down the UK – the two million plus people working in construction, every day.
Bringing lofty ideas down to site level is not easy. There are plenty of examples of clients and contractors that are embracing the theory and delivering the practical – at the design stage right through to the nitty gritty of waste segregation on site. But there are more examples of clients and contractors that are not.
The behaviour, equipment and skills people need to help deliver on sustainability are critical.
Clearly, there is a getting your house in order exercise which any customer-facing business needs to complete. Marks & Spencer stole a march on many of its competitors on the high street with its Plan A campaign last year.
Whether you are a green supporter or a sceptic, it clearly has had a far-reaching impact on dozens of other UK retailers. They have started to recognise that customers will ultimately vote with their feet unless they address an issue which is featuring in their purchasing decisions.
At our 450 plus depots across the UK, we are collecting data on energy and water consumption, as well as the volume of waste we send to landfill, as part of our environmental management system.
Sending a message
Communicating with our managers to make their depots more sustainable is also a major driver, with measures such as waste recycling and energy efficient lighting being introduced.
These are small but significant steps that will enable us to gain a better understanding of our own carbon footprint.
We are also working with our supply chain to identify new products and services that can help our customers reduce their environmental impact.
This includes equipment such as a new range of generators which run on bio fuel; energy efficient lighting systems; and hydrogen fuel cells.
We are putting in place more rigorous equipment maintenance programmes that ensure CO2 reduction and optimum efficiency across our existing fleet. We were also the first to introduce electric vehicles to our delivery fleet in sensitive urban areas.
And we are asking our customers how we – as a supplier – can engage with our them at site level and encourage best practice. A ‘green from the ground up’ approach.
Bringing about cultural change within construction has always been a challenge: health and safety is an obvious example. But that does not mean we should not try.
Steve Corcoran is chief executive of Speedy Hire