How many recycled products have you specified on that project? how could you use more? wrap’s recycled content toolkit can tell you. Here, three users explain how it works

It’s one thing to recycle waste products, but it’s quite another to ensure that buildings actually contain recycled content. However, in the war on waste, this is important. Using recycled materials and products helps drive demand, thereby improving the economics of collection and recycling, and diverting materials from landfill.

Fortunately, products containing recycled content are becoming increasingly easy to source as manufacturers respond to the growing interest in recycled content and the government’s moves to encourage use of such materials. As recycled products become more mainstream, growing numbers of clients – including local authorities and government departments – are specifying that, on their projects, a certain percentage of total materials by value must include recycled material. For example British Land and Stanhope have set themselves a target of 15% on new buildings (see pages 16-17).

WRAP promotes a target for all construction projects to set a minimum level of reused and recycled content by value of at least 10%, plus a requirement for cost-neutral good practice improvements. Measurement is the key, according to WRAP. Apparently, most projects will already be achieving this target using normal working practices, but they don’t know it as they haven’t measured it.

According to Dr David Moon, procurement programme manager at WRAP, there is a growing appetite from organisations that specify and procure construction projects to be able to set a firm target for recycled content by value. One of the drivers is that it is a clear contribution towards minimising a building’s overall impact on the environment, and therefore supports enterprise-wide corporate social responsibility policies and sustainability targets. WRAP says that it can now demonstrate that the setting of minimum targets for recycled content should have no impact on technical ability, speed, availability or cost.

How can you guarantee new buildings will feature sufficient recycled content? Even the most technically minded procurement manager will only be aware of some of the many areas where recycled material can be built into the design and construction process. And as the design changes, so too will the content. That 10% recycled content target recommended by the government starts getting harder and harder to prepare for.

This is why WRAP launched its Recycled Content Toolkit last year. A simple piece of online software, the toolkit allows users to determine the percentage of recycled content in a new building, both at the design stage and throughout the development process. The toolkit isolates five “quick wins” - products and areas where developers, designers or project managers are guaranteed to boost the amount of recycled content in their building. Here three users explain how the toolkit has changed the way they work, and allowed them to boost the level of recycled content in their projects.

The QS

Ed Brown, senior consultant, Davis Langdon

“We’ve been using the toolkit for a year and a half now. The process reflects the cost plan, so it’s very straightforward. It’s a cost plan with extra data. Training doesn’t normally take longer than an hour – it’s been written with the user in mind. There is a mental hurdle to overcome when you first use it, but it’s only getting used to the methodology. The “quick wins” allow you to identify which material streams give you the baseline level of recycled content in

the project. At the moment we’re upskilling all our staff so they have a basic understanding of it. This is one slice of sustainability where quantity surveyors can make a real difference, working with big clients to help them understand the issues. It’s a step change in thinking.”

The contractor

Jonathan Henderson, supply chain manager, Carillion

“We’ve used the toolkit on a £76m PPP project to build six schools in Scotland. We have a dedicated sustainability action plan, which we have incorporated WRAP into. The toolkit gave us an objective measure which we could take to the client and prove we were meeting our target of 10% recycled content. It’s about being able to show what you’re achieving and look at the areas where you can improve. It’s changed the mindset on how we procure materials. We think it’s the means for us to get closer to green procurement. This is the first time Carillion has used it, but we will certainly be using it again. It’s been a great success.”

The client

Mark Warner, Leeds Metropolitan University

“The toolkit has been used on our Rosebowl project, a mixed-use development with a lecture theatre for the university. As far as content goes, 11% of the building’s material will be from recoverable sources. Using the toolkit has been quite a steep learning curve, but it’s unique in that it allows you to visualise what you’re going to do. It’s made us reassess the supply chain, to better communicate to the construction and design teams what we’re after. Having third-party verification from someone like WRAP means a lot. We can go to the students and the council and say, ‘We have an environmental strategy and this is how it works’. It ties our sustainable agenda together nicely.”