Redrow: ‘Reduce the Rubble’ Project
During its 40-year history, Redrow has grown into one of the UK’s largest housebuilders with a reputation for leading the industry in matters relating to sustainability. In 2019-20 Redrow reported that 97% of all its housebuilding construction materials were either reused or diverted from landfill. Despite this success, a report commissioned in 2019 also found that on average, Redrow was still producing 10-tonnes of waste for each home built by the company – equivalent to the weight of nine Mini Cooper cars. This demonstrated to Redrow that there remained much opportunity for improvement.
As part of this desire for improved sustainability practices, in 2020 Redrow launched its Reduce the Rubble initiative to learn more about the waste produced during the housebuilding process and uncover ways to ‘design it out’ in the future. As the UK’s leading provider of outsourced waste management services, The Reconomy Group played an important role in supporting Redrow on this project.
Reconomy has a longstanding relationship with Redrow, currently providing its services across nine of the housebuilder’s 14 regions, consisting of over 65 live sites. In 2020 we oversaw the disposal of 11,357 tonnes of waste on behalf of Redrow, diverting 98% away from landfill.
Reduce the Rubble
Redrow’s ‘Reduce the Rubble’ initiative was a UK-first in that it sought to drill down and identify every single component of waste generated during the housebuilding process, with precise waste types and weights captured and logged. The project was driven in part by customer attitudes, with a Redrow survey identifying that 64% of its consumers were more likely to buy from a company that was actively looking, or already had, reduced its levels of waste.
‘Reduce the Rubble’ was implemented at Langley Grange in Yorkshire and The Brooks in Lancashire. Both sites fell into regions where The Reconomy Group was the appointed waste management service provider. We welcomed the opportunity to be a part of this project, taking responsibility for ensuring the accurate collection of all waste stream data.
Redrow selected its ‘Oxford’ house type for the project; one of its most popular homes – a detached, four-bedroom family residence, typical of the company’s ‘Heritage Collection’ homes. Gaining a detailed knowledge of the type and volume of waste produced in building the Oxford would allow Redrow to better understand what causes it and identify how it might either be recycled or reduced during the procurement, design and construction stages – potentially leading to a significant change in house design and how its construction teams think about waste.
The Reconomy Group has years of experience establishing waste compound areas for housebuilding sites to segregate their waste, but this project required a different approach. Because the waste from each of the Reduce the Rubble ‘Oxford’ homes required individual segregation, Reconomy was required to set up specific compounds just for these plots. Space remained at a premium and so we arranged for many waste streams to be collected in one tonne ‘dumpy bags’ rather than traditional builders’ skips. This presented a logistical challenge to source suppliers capable of delivering, collecting, and weighing individual dumpy bags down to the nearest kg, instead of relying on a traditional weighbridge to gather waste data. Thanks to our expansive supply chain, BWS Waste Management and ADS Recycling were identified as having the required set-up and subsequently appointed.
On most housebuilding sites, waste streams are typically split into seven broadly categorised waste streams: plasterboard, timber, light mixed waste, inert, mixed metals, hazardous and general. However, the core objective of ‘Reduce the Rubble’ meant that this was not sufficient, with far greater levels of detail needed. For example, on a typical housebuilding site any number of recyclables are combined into ‘light mixed waste’ collections. Instead, The Reconomy Group was required to factor in the means for site operatives to split out light mixed waste into unique collections for items such as cardboard, plastic packaging, hard plastics, polythene, polystyrene and insulation. We also had to factor in any outside influences that had the potential to deliver false weight readings, such as the weather. For this reason, arrangements were made for cardboard and other absorbent materials to be collected and stored in internal containers, preventing the risk of them becoming wet and skewing the data to due excess water weight. The level of detail was considerable, drilling down to individual waste streams such as floor sweeping and plaster skims.
The project took place at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, when much of the UK was under lockdown. This limited opportunities for face-to- face toolbox talks and training with site operatives, resulting in our staff attending site more regularly than usual to compensate – typically 1-2 times a week. Our Site Liaison Officers (SLOs) also took on additional responsibilities for ensuring waste streams were being properly segregated. This included carrying out visual audits of dumpy bags to check segregation levels were of a suitable standard, checking the utilisation of bags to ensure ample numbers were always available and accompanying waste to the relevant disposal facilities. Our SLOs would then obtain and analyse all the gathered waste data and provide each site with a full breakdown of weights and disposal costs per individual waste stream.
The Reconomy Group has made a substantial contribution to the Reduce the Rubble project, providing the required level of granular details needed. This has flagged immediate areas for improvement, for example revealing the significant levels of plasterboard off-cuts created during the build of each Oxford house. As a result, Redrow is now looking into the possibility of changing the design phase of forthcoming homes, to minimise these off-cuts – something not previously considered during the design process. Redrow is using the results of Reduce the Rubble to engage with its own supply chain as a means of demonstrating to them just how much waste is being produced and how much is potentially avoidable. Reduce the Rubble is just one of the ways Redrow is looking to meet its 2022 target to reduce the carbon intensity of its construction operations and offices by 10%, and follows its commitment to reusing waste products where possible.
An informal survey of those working on Reduce the Rubble found that 96% are now also actively working to reduce the amount of waste they create outside of the workplace. Since the project started, more than half (53%) have also started sharing their recommendations on how materials can be better recycled or re- used with key members of their teams.