Site managers at medium-sized contractors are failing to manage sites’ environmental performance or take environmental issues seriously, according to research by Benjamin Potts, CIOB Sir Ian Dixon Scholar 2007 and project manager at contractor Kilby & Gayford.

Based on a survey of 90 senior staff responsible for on-site environmental strategies at medium-sized contractors, most ranked environmental impact and carbon footprint as their least important project priorities, after profitability, client relations and quality. Just 14 respondents rated the environment as their highest priority, while 62 rated other issues as more important.

While most of the managers surveyed had strategies in place to deal with sorting waste, used sustainable materials, and considered noise control, pollution and active recycling, Potts found room for improvement in areas such as the use of grey water systems, energy-saving proximity lighting sensors and renewable energy.

When asked why environmental site strategies were difficult to implement, one in three cited lack of interest from site personnel, while a quarter blamed resistance to change.

The research forms the basis of Potts’ 2007 Sir Ian Dixon Scholarship paper How to Effectively Implement an Environmental Management System ISO 14001 in Medium-Sized Building Contractors (specifically at site level), which he presented in January.

‘It’s important to incentivise subbies, as well as screen them for their commitment to environmental issues and make sure they get a good induction,’ he said.