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  Planning For Sustainability
The construction sector is reckoned to account for over one third of the waste that arises in the UK. In an effort to reduce the level of waste, the industry has put forward a number of initiatives over the years. The latest of these, a series of five action plans, was launched at the recent Building Environment Solutions Technology (BEST) show at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham

Planning for a Sustainable Future...

Two of these plans, the Plasterboard Sustainability Action Plan and the Windows Sustainability Action Plan, originate from 2007 when Defra set up ten pilot product roadmaps as part of its Sustainable Consumption and Production programme. They resulted from collaboration with the construction industry to look at the sustainability impacts of construction materials throughout their lifecycle, identifying actions being taken and what more can be done. Three further plans cover resource efficiency and were produced as part of the Strategy for Sustainable Construction. These were prepared with support from the Construction Products Association, the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and the BRE Trust in conjunction with the relevant trade associations. The Plasterboard Sustainability Action Plan was prepared by BRE on behalf of Defra and the Plasterboard Sustainability Partnership (PSP). The latter organisation comprises companies involved in the production, installation and disposal of plasterboard plus government departments and agencies.

The Windows Sustainability Action Plan was thought necessary due to windows being installed in almost all buildings and having significant effects on the energy and efficiency performance of buildings. It also acknowledges the industry's good record in identifying and implementing sustainability improvements. The plan was prepared in conjunction with and is supported by the Windows Sustainability Partnership, which is made up of representatives from right across the windows supply chain.

The Joinery Efficiency Action Plan was funded jointly by WRAP and the BRE Trust and was prepared by the British Woodworking Federation, representing over 500 member companies from all levels of the industry. A Timber Resource Efficiency Partnership has been set up to implement the plan.

The Flooring Efficiency Action Plan was prepared by the Contract Flooring Association, whose members include manufacturers, distributors, consultants and flooring contractors covering a wide range of flooring finishes and associated products. Funding again came from WRAP and BRE, with a Flooring Sustainability Partnership set up to implement the plan. Among several recommendations is a need to increase the recycling and reuse of recovered materials.

The final plan, the Packaging Efficiency Action Plan was developed specifically to help meet the industry's target of reducing packaging waste by 20% by 2012. This is the industry's contribution to the Strategy for Sustainable Construction and was initiated by the Construction Products Association with funding from WRAP and BRE. A key recommendation is that the number of times timber pallets are used is increased significantly.

Feedback & Reaction...

General reactions to the plans were that they demonstrate the industry's seriousness in its intentions to improve sustainability and resource efficiency in key materials and products. The plans provide recommendations, information and actions that can be implemented by the industry with the support of trade associations and other bodies.

Launching the plans at the BEST show, Lord Henley, the Conservative peer and Under Secretary of State with responsibility for waste management and recycling, said: "The Sustainability Action Plans for plasterboard and windows and the Resource Efficiency Action Plans for joinery, flooring and packaging, are good examples of the initiatives the construction industry has developed to take responsibility to address the challenges of sustainability at various life cycle stages. The plans are the result of extensive debate and collaboration and will help us achieve the overarching objective of leading the world in sustainable construction, production and consumption."

These action plans come at a time when the construction industry is increasingly required to incorporate good environmental performance into buildings while at the same time providing good value in a competitive market. Legislation and market forces are dictating construction methods, with purchasers concerned about the cost of running the premises and housing developments having to meet stringent standards. The new action plans may help developers meet the conflicting demands.

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