Contractors often bag the biggest and best jobs by cutting costs and lowering their profit margins.

But how many win work by promising to deliver an environmentally friendly service?

Sally Peck explains why – in the long run – it pays to be green.

The importance of preserving the environment has climbed up customer agendas over recent years.

And many are giving real consideration to the efficiency and sustainability of their projects and the wildlife they may disturb if they carry out work.

Having said that, it can be difficult for any client to see past the numbers when taking on a scaffolder, builder or other workman.

Read the fine print

Most good contractors would suggest the inclusion of a full ecological survey on a project.

Others might fudge that on their proposal to win the gig by being less expensive.

But remember, whatever your cheaper alternative may tell you in order to secure the job; ecology surveys are an essential part of site preparation.

Any responsible contractor should ensure this is executed on any project where there is a chance of disturbance of wildlife or indeed any protected species or plant.

And trust me, it can work out cheaper in the long run to check.

After all, advance planning of ecology issues is critical to prevent delays both in achieving planning consent and to the overall build programme.

And if the correct ecological surveys are not undertaken at the correct time, a developer may be exposed to legal action and inordinate delays as well as potentially abortive work.

Early identification of any ecological constraints ensures no nasty – and costly – shocks further down the line.

What are they for?

Legislation protects many species, such as bats, badgers, breeding birds, water voles, great crested newts and otters.

Undertaking an ecological survey ensures that:

  • The developer or applicant is aware of any ecological constraints at an early stage.
  • The development can be designed to minimise impact on that wildlife.
  • No laws are broken.
  • The design of mitigation and enhancement measures will be appropriate to the site and surrounding area.
  • The local planning authority can consider all the relevant material considerations whilst determining an application.

When it goes wrong

Fifteen great crested newts added £315,000 to the cost of a road widening-widening project in North Wales in 2007 because the correct surveys had not been done in a timely fashion.

In 2008 five slowworms caused a six-month delay on a house-building project in the south after Natural England – the agency that advises the Government on nature conservation – stepped in to stop work on site.

By carrying out an ecological survey at the start of a project, you can minimise this sort of blow.

Other ways to be green

Ensuring our work has minimal impact on the environment has always been something we strive for in our operations and we plan to continue with the effort we put into achieving this.

As such our team are all SEATS – Site Environmentally Awareness Trained.

We recycle our pallets as well giving them to the local pony club for hunter trial jumps and all our yard waste is sorted and recycled.

We have even given our old roof lights to the local allotment holders to grow things under.

By making simply changes like this, any business can reduce their carbon footprint.

The building trade in particular can make steps to reduce the 60% of all materials which are thrown away on site – most of which is packaging – and the 13% of materials thrown away which consist of over-ordered materials.

In recent years there has been an introduction and implementation of environmental management systems within the industry.

So there is plenty of buying guidance such as only purchasing timber which has the Forest Stewardship Council’s (FSC) trademark indicating that wood comes from a sustainably managed forest.

Why we should care

Being environmentally friendly simply means making choices about the way you live or work which protects and respects the environment.

It’s simply about taking small steps to make this planet a better place for our communities and generations to come.

We all have a part to play.

After all, we are caretakers of the future.

And if we do what we can to protect it, we can create a better, healthier and happier world for our children and grandchildren.

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