Charlotte Harris joined Pexhurst just over a year ago as Assistant Buyer/Sustainability Administrator. She was charged with overseeing the running and management of a new sustainability scheme called SmartWaste being implemented across the company’s sites. She has since seen the system transform how Pexhurst and its sub-contractors manage waste; it has even changed how she thinks about waste and the environment, as she explains…
“SmartWaste is an on online environmental portal designed by BRE to help the construction industry deliver on its environmental management needs. At Pexhurst we use the tool to report and record on areas such as waste generation and management, water and energy use, material supply, and the carbon impact of transport, this is through every stage of the construction process, including post construction.
For me the success of the tool has been in its ability to allow us to collate all of a project’s environmental impacts in one place. This means I can compare each project against Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and industry benchmarks which allows me to see where we can make improvements and be more efficient in the future. I can also use the tool to predict how much waste a site might generate and then compare it against the actual results which has proved interesting and helped improve the way in which we develop our site waste management plans.
Last year we were able to recycle 98% of our waste from all of our sites which meant only 2% of our waste went to landfill. This is an amazing achievement for Pexhurst and demonstrates that it is a company that believes in a sustainable future and recognises its role in protecting the environment. It is an exciting journey to be on and a part of.
I also use the SmartWaste tool to create reports that influence and inform Pexhurst’s environmental strategy going forward. I am proud that Pexhurst is really making a difference in the industry and supporting my role in driving sustainability as I aim to soon become a BREEAM assessor. Training to become an assessor has been extremely helpful because it has enabled me to understand the complexities of the BREEAM standards and helped me align our sustainability strategy with BREEAM requirements on our relevant projects.
I am confident we can meet the ever-increasing demands for project monitoring as well as the requirements of BREEAM New Construction Standards. To do this I have built good relationships with our subcontractors and suppliers to help them understand the information that we require and the reasons behind our drive for increased visibility, and accountability resulting in improved sustainability. We can all make small changes, eventually they add up to big changes that can reduce our impact on the environment as individuals and as companies. On a site we need a breakdown of waste streams into bricks, plasterboard, and general waste etc. In terms of a supplier, we will add their Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) form to the portal to ensure that product information is up-to-date and accessible. I also use the tool to demonstrate compliance with regulations, so it acts as a management tool in these instances, not just a reporting one.
By using the SmartWaste tool to highlight where savings have been made in terms of time and money, we have also been able to demonstrate to our subcontractors and suppliers that sustainability doesn’t always mean that costs will be incurred; in fact, savings can be made.
BRE is continually developing the tool and adding new modules, one of which is Social Value. I think this could be an interesting next step for Pexhurst as we consider our social and environmental impact in a local context.
Implementing the SmartWaste tool into our business over the past year has changed the way I think about waste and the environment. I am now thinking about where I shop and where the products I buy come from. I am asking myself questions like, is there a local option? What packaging will this be sent in? Can I find a company that uses recycled packaging? I think it is about changing your mindset and when you do, you realise you can shop differently, there are choices to make, sustainable ones.”
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