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Building Contractors Expert Q & A

Building Contractors Expert Q & A

Bruce Meechan (B.Sc. Civ. Eng.), a leading technical journalist and Editor of MMC Magazine, talks to Hayley Gilmour, a project quantity surveyor for BAM, one of the UK’s most forward thinking building contractors about the issues of waste management and snagging for handover.

As a builder and civil engineer in the privileged position of viewing many contemporary projects from the point of view of a technical writer, it often strikes me how much waste still blights our building sites. For despite hikes in landfill tax and initiatives such as toolbox talks by contractors, an unacceptably high percentage of the materials and products delivered to schemes, up and down the country, leave again in skips.

It is not just the piles of broken bricks surrounding the scaffolding or the sheets of plasterboard damaged by harassed fork-lift drivers, too many individuals employed on building sites continue to show disregard for the work of others, or the project as a whole.

It is encouraging then to encounter a building contractor that is an “early adopter” of a comprehensive waste management policy; and that is embracing new practices to try and optimize the process of making good: in order that as few components as possible require replacement. BAM Construction has in fact enshrined a commitment to achieving Near Zero Waste to landfill by 2015 as part of its Corporate Mission Statement.

While much of the responsibility for waste management is left to individual project managers, BAM Construction as a company has become a regular client of , with the specialist’s finishers called in on sites across its regions. Recent projects involving Plastic Surgeon have included an office development on Cardiff Bay, and a prestigious apartment building in Bristol.

Most recently, though, one of the finishers has spent nine days working on a school project in Warrington. There, BAM has erected a brand new secondary school on the playing fields adjoining the existing Culcheth High School, under the BSF Pathfinder programme.

Asked to summarise the construction solution, Project Surveyor Hayley Gilmour explained: “This is a facility to take up to 1250 pupils aged 11-19, constructed with an RC frame and post-tensioned concrete floors. The walls were then infilled with a highly insulated lightweight metal framing system from Kingspan; though there are also areas of brickwork, timber cladding and render. It was in fact the curtain walling which turned out to have suffered the most accidental damage during the build – from ladders and the like – but of course you only find these marks when you start to clean the building down for handover.

Apparently external metal doors, the composite window frames and IPS or integrated panel systems in washrooms had suffered similar scratches, so I was interested to learn why BAM had used Plastic Surgeon’s services rather than requesting the sub-contractors concerned to make good. Hayley continued saying: “I knew that other projects had involved Plastic Surgeon in the past, and I had one of their brochures on my notice board since the Culcheth contract began a year ago.

What you are faced with is the choice of actually having to re-order some quite large components and wait for them to be made, with all the delays and extra cost this can involve. The feedback we got from Plastic Surgeon along with the account paperwork showed the total weight of products saved – which would have had to go to landfill – was 2.58 tonnes; while the actual cost could have been two or three times higher than the £3300 we paid for the 11 visits by Plastic Surgeon.”

Summing up the experience of working with Plastic Surgeon, Hayley Gilmour says: “Until you actually start looking at the situation of having to replace something like an IPS unit with all the disruption, and then see the ease with which Plastic Surgeon can sort it out, you don’t realize just what a good option repair is over replacement. The site manager was amazed at the range of items that Plastic Surgeon could put right.”

BAM Construction has actually been so successful in reducing its environmental footprint that it was amongst the top companies named in this years Sunday Times Green List. The company has managed to cut its carbon footprint by an impressive 11% over the past 12 months, which followed a 7% drop in the previous year. BAM spent £5.6m between 2007-9 on green strategies and employees responding to the Sunday Times survey believe that this has paid off, targeting everything from a green travel policy to recycling in the workplace.


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