Healthcare construction contributes huge amounts of waste to landfills every year, but some organisations are working hard to change this. Here, we take a closer look at what they have achieved

The construction industry produces 120 million tonnes of construction, demolition and excavation waste a year, 20 million tonnes of which is sent directly to landfills with no further recovery or use.

Growing awareness of these statistics, combined with government proposals to halve the amount of construction waste sent to landfills by 2012, plans to make site waste management mandatory in April 2008, and annual increases in landfill tax, is forcing the construction industry to use its resources more efficiently.

The Royal Liverpool

Thirty years after the Royal Liverpool University Hospital opened, its physical condition is in decline and its heating, ventilation and electrical systems need ever-increasing maintenance.

To improve care for local people and renew the focus on emergency and specialist care, plans are being drawn up to develop a new£350m hospital on the existing site. This will radically transform how healthcare is provided to the people of Liverpool, Merseyside and beyond.

The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals trust has decided to incorporate sustainability targets into the project brief to minimise the environmental impact of the development. Specifically, the trust has been working with the Waste and Resources Action Programme to introduce requirements for the use of recycled materials and to call for good practice in the use of a site waste management plan.

Trust development director Stuart Moore explains: "Our vision is for sustainable, world class hospitals which support world class services. We were already focused on securing a low-carbon design, the maximum use of public transport, and support for the local economy as part of the Liverpool knowledge quarter and through use of local labour. We are now also targeting resource efficiency.

"WRAP's support will enable us to set clear standards for recycled content in our specifications for bidders and to expect best practice in waste management on site."

Reduce, reuse, recycle

WRAP has helped by providing template wording for the tender documentation, as well as a recycled content product guide setting out the recycled content of more than 300 commonly used construction products. It also has a recycled content toolkit that enables design teams and contractors to quantify the recycled content of their project with minimum effort and to identify product substitutions that could increase the recycled content.

WRAP procurement project manager Jim Wiltshire says: "In many ways, the healthcare sector is setting a best practice example for the wider industry in sustainability terms. By prioritising the efficient use of materials at high-profile, large-scale developments such as Southmead, Hillingdon and now Royal Liverpool University, clients are demonstrating the ease with which sustainability can be prioritised from the very outset of a project.

"The benefits of setting standards for procurement and waste management are impressive, enabling a reduction in the quantities of waste going to landfill and overall environmental impact, and increasing the market demand for materials that contractors want to recycle.

"Just as importantly - as these healthcare exemplars are demonstrating - sustainability does not carry a price tag; in fact, taking action on waste and recovered materials should be cost-saving or at least cost-neutral."

Regeneration

WRAP has also recently released a step-by-step guide to delivering materials resource efficiency in regeneration projects. It helps clients set requirements in tender documentation for this type of project and ensures that these are met by providing guidance for contractors on setting performance indicators. The guide also details how such indicators can be implemented at each stage of the construction process.

These resources, combined with the practical support available from organisations such as Envirowise, create major opportunities for the construction industry to reduce waste.

With capital expenditure on healthcare buildings likely to increase significantly over the next 10 years, healthcare construction will remain a priority arena. Clients and delivery teams should prioritise energy, materials and water efficiency and follow the best practice examples that have already been set.

For more information, visit www.wrap.org.uk

www.envirowise.gov.uk