Construction firms can cut waste by 90%, report claims

The construction industry can reduce its waste production by up to 90% by using more up-to-date working practices and off-site manufacturing, according to a new report from WRAP.

The study looked at off-site manufacturing – where building components are made away from the construction site and delivered in – and modern methods of construction including modular building, such as the use of pre-fabricated kitchens that can be craned into place.

The construction industry should use off-site manufacture to reduce waste

It also looked at the use of timber frame systems; light steel systems; pre-cast concrete structures and tunnel form constructions – a cellular structure which can be used to create office blocks.

The report, carried out by AMA Research, found that packaging creates up to 35% of the construction industry's waste; rubble including broken bricks and tiles makes up to 40%; and timber counts for up to 25%.

The study found that waste such as wood pallets, plasterboard, timber and bricks, can be reduced by 90% through new construction methods and off-site manufacture.

Researchers analysed published data and interviewed 138 key players – 56 MMC product suppliers and manufacturers, 15 trade associations and MMC research organisations and 67 house builders and contractors.

It also looked at the different sectors of construction, for example retail, the NHS, schools and private housing.

The savings arise because the products are standardised and because factory controlled conditions cover the construction process. Also, the units are self contained and are assembled together onsite, so there is no materials storage or movements damage.

“Serious steps”
Mervyn Jones, WRAP's construction programme manager for waste minimisation and management, said: “Increased use of off-site manufacture and modern methods of construction could help the industry take serious steps towards achieving the target of reducing waste to landfill by 50% by 2012.”

Mr Jones said the results of the AMA research “clearly demonstrate the opportunity to reduce waste” within projects including the Olympics and the development of the Thames Gateway area.

WRAP has suggested that these modern methods of reducing waste could form part of Site Waste Management Plans (SWMPs), which the government is expected to make compulsory in 2008.

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Construction waste

SWMPs which were introduced on a voluntary basis in 2004, allow a company to demonstrate to their clients and regulators, how they manage their waste and to prove it is being disposed of at an accredited facility.

Defra is to begin a round of draft consultation on SWMP regulations in the next few months.

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