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ecodesign meets the built environment

Ecodesign met the built environment on Tuesday last week (Nov 29th) in a collaborative event between the Ecodesign Centre (EDC) and Constructing Excellence in Wales (CEW). The morning’s event saw construction stakeholders gathering from across the industry. Architects, engineers, developers, builders, material and product manufacturers, and demolition all came together to discuss the issue of waste in the construction sector. EDC’s objective was to highlight the issues resulting in waste and the role of design in moving Wales ‘Towards Zero Waste’ (TZW). The morning began with introduction to the format and objectives from me, followed by Paul Jennings from CEW. Paul informed us of some of CEW’s work and a brief outline of the Construction & Demolition sector plan.

Our very own Simon O’Rafferty gave a dynamic and insightful introduction to ecodesign. He highlighted some inspiring examples of ecodesign in practice from Wales and around the world.

Nick Evans from Cardiff Metropolitan University spoke of their ongoing research into sustainable building design and offered examples of it’s application in the form of the passive house.

Following a short refreshment break the group was split into two for a facilitated workshop, asking the question: ‘What issues result in waste in construction?’ Some of the comments and opinions raised provided a collective insight into how the industry feels waste is generated. When all the comments were clustered, Bad Design, Poor Operations and Client Pressures featured as general areas of concern. With the comments collected we then asked: ‘What is needed to move TZW?’. The findings from this part of the workshop were far clearer and easily clustered into three defined paths. It was quite prevalent that Design featured high on everyone’s agenda as an approach to solving the problem of waste. Legislation featured heavily with most as a clear way of driving a TZW strategy, sustainable development and protecting the integrity and quality of the industry. Considering that many organisation view legislation as a barrier to development it was unusual, for EDC, to see an industry viewing it as a positive intervention. There was also a call for clear Advice and Collaboration on sustainability best practice. As an industry representative group there are concerns that ‘green wash’ is creating confusion around best practice which is seen as a barrier to sustainable development and clearer definition through appropriate collaboration is welcomed.

To finish the morning’s formalities we were treated to two very different talks highlighting some of the positive activity currently happening in industry. Karl Evans from Dow Corning spoke of product stewardship in the chemical industry. It was encouraging to see responsibility been taken at such a level considering Dow’s involvement in global industry. I feel it could be an example to manufacturers at all stages of the supply chain. Although Karl was happy to speak of the Dow’s positive work he was also keen to emphasize that this is a journey with a long way to travel. He finished his presentation by saying that we should ‘begin with the end in mind’ and don’t be afraid to ‘ask the questions up front’.

Peter Jones, a consultant representing Euro Clad spoke of the issues with legacy or problematic waste in the construction industry. Peter’s research highlights the apparent missed or ignored issues with Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) in foamed plastic insulation material. Material that potentially holds over 90% of the worlds ODS and could have a drastic effect on the planets ozone if not recovered responsibly. Compared to 6% of the worlds ODS contained in heavily regulated and easily managed refrigerated products this should raise concerns. Although he was keen to raise these concerns Peter was also keen to share his belief that there is a major business opportunity for Wales in the recovery of this material.

The groups final task was to write statements of what they felt was needed to move the construction industry in Wales Towards Zero Waste.

“There is a need for a variety of drivers, enforcement, education and guidance for clients to design out waste.”

“There is a need for responsibility to be allocated at every stage of the process. This should be achieved through legislation and education, effective collaboration and integration.”

I would like to thank everyone who took part on the day. It was an interesting and enjoyable morning for the EDC and I look forward continuing our collaboration with all at CEW. I would particularly like to thank Amanda, Paul and Emma at CEW for their hard work in organising the venue and sending out the invitations.

Cheers,

Eoin.

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