UKCG Environmental Training Standard

The UKCG Environmental Training Standard  was published in July 2015, and recognises the leadership role that UK Contractors Group member companies play in driving best practice within the construction sector. It sets down the minimum training expected for individuals to undertake their roles on member’s sites to be able to demonstrate their competency through formal environmental training, including the CITB SEATS course.

This document sets down the standard of environmental training applicable to those who manage, supervise or undertake construction related activities as follows:

Site Managers (including those employed by supply chains):

  1. CITB SEATS+ Course (SEATS plus additional management modules); or
  2. A comparable external course approved by the UKCG Environmental Training Task Group; or
  3. An internally developed course that can demonstrate training outcomes comparable to 1 and 2 above.

The training must last a minimum of TWO DAYS, include a form of assessment, and a completion certificate. Refresher training must be carried out at intervals not exceeding five years.

Site Supervisors (including those employed by supply chains)

  1.  CITB SEATS Course; or
  2. A comparable external course approved by the UKCG Environmental Training Task Group; or
  3. An internally developed course that can demonstrate training outcomes comparable to 1 and 2 above.

The training must last a minimum of ONE DAY, include a form of assessment, and a completion certificate. Refresher training must be carried out at intervals not exceeding five years.

Site Operatives (including those employed by supply chains)

A relevant competency scheme card including the CITB Health Safety & Environment Test where required, and renewed as necessary.

Note – in July 2015, the UKCG and NSCC (National Specialist Contractor’s Council) merged to form Build UK. A list of the members of the new body can be found here


Thoughts on a flat-packed wardrobe …

Just before Christmas, I assembled a flat pack wardrobe for my daughter, and it got me thinking about waste, or rather non-waste.

I was impressed. We ordered it over the internet, picked our day and a four hour delivery slot (10-2). The day before, the courier reduced this to a two hour slot (10-12), and on the day a text informed us that delivery would be within the hour, which it was. And at 11.30am, two packages totalling 88kg (big wardrobe with drawers …) were sitting on the floor ready for assembly. Unpacking took a while, with a small mountain of cardboard wrapping & polystyrene spacers set to one side. Not one scratch, ding, chip, mark … at all. Four poly bags of fittings, 319 items in total. By 5.30pm, it was fully assembled, in position, doors aligned, and safety-fixed back to the wall. And all that was left over was four poly bags. The fittings were exact. None missing, none left over. Spot on. Exactly what I needed, no more, no less.

(One beef, oh flat-pack-furniture industry … why polystyrene? Why not blocks of corrugated cardboard that can go into the recycling bin instead of the landfill bin? Just a thought … )

So, what impressed me? Well, firstly; I got what I wanted, when I wanted it. With excellent communications so that I could be at my daughters at the right time, and not waste any of my day sitting twiddling my thumbs wondering where it was, when it would arrive, or whether it would even arrive that day at all. Secondly, it arrived in good condition, carefully handled, with the right amount of packaging to ensure nothing was damaged or missing. No having to argue about delivery damage, or getting replacements. And thirdly, all 319 parts that were delivered fitted somewhere. They all went in … I had nothing whatsoever left over. They had confidence in their take-off & packing systems: nothing extra delivered “just in case”.

And in the New Year, I’ll be back on construction sites again, looking at all the surplus materials delivered “just in case”, lying forlornly in the rain and snow, and destined for the skips at the end of the job because they’re too heavy/awkward/tatty to take to use somewhere else. And I’ll be walking around picking up (as you do) all the screws/bolts/widgets strewn around the floor and putting them back into their nearby boxes. And thinking about my wardrobe experience. And the 120 million tonnes of waste that the UK construction industry generates every year.

The waste that costs an average project about 0.5% of the project value to dispose of. The waste that if you look at it properly and think of it’s true worth, really costs a project 10x-20x it’s disposal cost. (How much did you pay for the things you’re throwing away, their delivery, storage & handling on site, and eventual movement to the skip?) In other words, the waste in your skips, rather than being a minor consideration, represents 5-10% of extra profit, or improved competitiveness. And I know many Commercial Managers in the industry who would sell their grandmothers for a tiny slice of that. (Bet you smiled … because you know it’s true.)

A thought: The construction industry contributes about £100 billion a year to the UK’s GDP. What’s 5-10% of that?

Back to the wardrobe & the things I learned. It is possible to have just what you want, delivered just when you want it, adequately packaged and in good condition. We know that consolidation centres and just-in-time deliveries work for construction projects, but these are the exception rather than the rule as soon as you move away from congested city centres, but why? Isn’t it time to spend some of the £5b – £10b we waste every year embedding this approach into the industry so it becomes the norm everywhere rather than the exception? I have no doubt it would pay dividends immediately if properly done. And stop a lot of waste.

It’s time to stop talking about “recycling”, and “zero waste to landfill” as aspirational targets – these should now be the norm. It’s now time to start talking about completely removing waste from the construction process – just “Zero Waste”.

Polymer flocculation

Discharging turbid water with excessive levels of suspended solids is a serious problem for construction sites, particularly if it enters stormwater drains or a natural water body as it can seriously degrade the habitat of fish and other aquatic life, or cause silting and increase flood risk. As a result, to do so is an offense under UK legislation. However, whilst coarser particles can be readily removed by filtration or sedimentation, finer particles will often remain in suspension with the slightest water movement making them very difficult to remove without treatment.

Turbidity in water is measured using a nephelometer, which passes a light beam through a sample of water, and measuring the scattering at a detector set at 90 degrees to the source, reported as “Nephelometric Turbidity Units” or NTUs.

Flocculation is the process of using chemical agents (flocculants) to bind together small soil particles into larger ones (flocs) that are heavy enough to settle to the bottom of the liquid for removal. Introduction of positively charged (cationic) polymer macromolecules into turbid water attracts the naturally negatively charged clay particles, clumping into a floc having sufficient mass to sink to the bottom of the liquid. However, although cationic flocculants are highly effective in isolated systems, their positive charges make them toxic to aquatic organisms when dissolved in water, and they should NOT be used when runoff could enter stormwater drains or open-water bodies.

Anionic polymer flocHowever, anionic polymers, which carry a negative charge (like clay particles) are not toxic, and if added to stormwater together with positive calcium ions (Ca++) to form ionic bridges, anionic polymer flocculation will take place, reducing the turbidity of the treated water without harming aquatic life. Once the flocs have formed, provided the flow rate is sufficiently low, they should settle to the bottom of the water body ready for removal.

For polymer flocculation to be effective on site, three fundamental process must take place: chemical binding, settlement, and floc removal. To bind particles, polymers can be applied directly to soil surfaces, to water flowing in a collection channel, or into a settling pond, either through impregnated jute mats, hand or mechanical spreading of dry polymers, or direct application of liquid polymers. Following treatment, the objective is then to reduce the velocity and erosive force of the water by allowing it to spread out over a relatively level area, aided by perpendicular wattles, silt fences, and impregnated jute matting. Once settled, the sediment can be removed for reuse or disposal, and the now-clear water discharged to stormwater systems or open-water bodies.

Great crested newts – a new approach

Great crested newtA pilot project is currently underway in Woking that may herald major changes to the way great crested newt conservation is undertaken in the UK, minimising cost and disruption to development sites under the present restrictive system whenever newts are present in the area.

The trial, being undertaken jointly by Natural England and Woking Borough Council, aims to identify to size, location and connectivity of newt populations in the area by testing for trace newt DNA in pondwater. This new survey technique will be used to produce a local conservation plan for the newts, linking up and protecting the most important populations, specify where new habitat should be created to ensure a healthy overall population, and identify areas where development will have least impact. The Council will then put the new habitats in place so that when development results in habitat loss, habitat gains will already be in place to compensate.

Speaking of the new proposals, Andrew Sells, Chairman of Natural England, said:

“This innovative pilot in Woking is an exciting opportunity that I hope will bring significant benefits for conservation. The current licensing system for European Protected Species in England is quite a rigid way of protecting great crested newts, placing the emphasis on individual newts, rather than the species as a whole. By making the system more flexible and strategic, it will enable us to establish habitat for great crested newts, where their populations will most benefit from being in a wide network of habitat, rather than being squeezed in around development. Alongside creating strongholds for great crested newt, this ground-breaking approach will streamline the delivery of much-needed development and lift constraints on the layout and design of development land.”

…. Go to the original CIEEM article


Dirtbag 1There are times when you have no option but to pump out silty water, leaving you with no alternative but to treat it to remove the silt before you discharge it to a watercourse or sewer (with the relevant consents or permits, of course!). If your need is large enough, you can use settlement lagoons, or pieces of specialist plant, but sometimes what you need to do will be so minor that it doesn’t really warrant the expense and effort. Dirtbags offer a simple filtration solution that takes very little space – a large geotextile envelope that you pump the water through, leaving the suspended solids in the bag. The standard bag is 1.5m square, and according to the manufacturers, it can handle flow rates up to 4600 litres per minute. As the bags are manufactured in the UK, Dirtbags can be custom-made to suit site conditions or flow rates.

In my mind, they are a really useful primary control technique, removing the easily filtered particles, but secondary treatment (settlement, flocculation, etc) may be necessary to improve the water sufficiently to meet any suspended solids requirements of an offsite discharge consent. (The manufacturers have a separate webpage showing Dirtbags in use for primary filtration inside standard settlement tanks) They’re also really useful where you’re discharging to elsewhere on your site as part of a general silt management strategy to help you keep the discharge area clear of mud.

UtilityBagAnd if you’re in the utilities business, and you regularly face the challenge of dewatering ducts full of silty water before you can carry out your work, Dirtbags also make “Utilitybags” – a smaller sausage-shaped Dirtbag to fit over the end of the discharge hose to at least take out the larger solids before discharge to a road gully.

(To visit the Dirtbags website, click on any image)


ConcretesockConcretesocks are a simple (and patented!) idea – a tough fabric cover that fits securely over the end of the delivery chute of a concrete ready-mix lorry to stop materials dropping out onto the road as the lorry travels between the batching plant and site, and back again. To other road users, its benefits are just the same as vehicle sheets on any other delivery vehicle – it keeps the load secure, avoids debris harming vehicles and pedestrians, and prevents concrete spilling and setting on roads or washing into road drainage systems in wet weather.

To contractors. they open up a range of other possibilities, from simply giving greater environmental protection from washout residue spillage when returning to the batching plant to, if carefully assessed, not washing out lorries on site at all, but instead allowing them to return to the batching plant for washing out and refilling without risk to other road users.

By doing the latter, not only do contractors avoid all the practical and environmental risks of managing a concrete wash-out point on site, but batching plant operators have the opportunity to recover and reuse materials that would otherwise be lost as washout waste on site, making their own operations more resource efficient – a win-win all round.

(To visit the Concretesock website, click on the image above)

Nesting birds and construction sites

Nesting birdsAutumn may seem a strange time to be thinking about nesting birds, but for the UK construction industry, now is the time to be planning winter works to prevent delays and disruption on site during next spring’s breeding season.

All wild birds have legal protection from harm from the start of nest-building until the time their young are no longer dependent on the nest. During that period, it is illegal to injure or destroy any wild bird, to remove, damage or destroy their nest whilst it is being built or in use, or to take or destroy their eggs. In other words, once a bird starts to nest on your site (or nearby if your works may cause it to abandon a nest), there’s not an awful lot you can do about it until it has finished raising its family, and leaves on its own accord.

However, there is nothing to prevent contractors from removing nesting opportunities during the autumn and winter months before nest-building starts in spring, and a little forward planning now can prevent potential delays next year. Steps that could be taken include:

  • Where trees and hedgerow are to be removed as part of the works, plan their removal prior to the start of the nesting season rather than during it
  • Plough or strip greenfield sites during late winter to remove sites for ground-nesting birds
  • Install bird netting, ledge bristles etc on buildings structures to remove opportunites to nesting sites
  • Include prevention measures in sub-contract packages to reduce the risk of birds taking up residence in new structures as the works progress

Acoustic intervention during early Spring (shot-firing, pre-recorded distress calls, etc) or regularly flying predators such hawks near the site can also be used to encourage birds to take up residence away from the site and its surrounding area, reducing the risk of delay or disruption to the planned works.