Reducing waste from construction sites


Environmental problems have now become a worldwide concern for the global community. The threats posed by climate change and global warming are pushing the Earth to its limits. The Built environment has a major effect on the natural environment. In many countries construction is a major part of the economy and will be used to stimulate the local economies with an economic boost, and without the construction industry many economies will become stagnant and not grow. Construction sites pose serious environmental impact due to the nature of construction.

Many countries that have become concerned with the deterioration of the environment, have instituted measures to minimize the negative implications of construction sites. Wastes and hazardous materials come in various forms such excavation and demolition materials, road building and maintenance materials, worksite waste materials, and so forth.

One construction site can impact the environment; if there is no proper regulation and equal concern, it will exacerbate climate change and global warming. Polluting the environment has serious and long-term implications for public health.[1]

Environmental Management Systems came from concerned organizations that wished to comply with regulations and codes for environmental compliance. When standardizations became a trend, standard-writing bodies began to produce a standard for managing the environmental impacts of an organization; the British Standards Institute (BSI), a world-respected standards body, is one of them. ISO 14001, was first published in 1996, is a Standard to minimize environmental impact. Firms seek ISO 14001 certification for so-called green advantage, to attract ethical investment, reduce insurance risks, and reduce costs.[2]

Purpose of the Research


This dissertation will provide an overview of the impact of environmental management systems in reducing waste outputs from construction sites, conduct a research/study and make an analysis and possible recommendation after the analysis and discussion.


This paper will conduct a survey research on construction firms in Northern Ireland. This will be a form of qualitative research with questionnaires and interviews on managers/assistant managers and construction site workers of these construction firms. After the survey/research, an analysis of the results will be conducted, with discussion and conclusion/recommendations provided at the end of the paper.

This paper will also conduct a literature review on environmental sustainability and management systems being implemented by organizations and to provide an analysis of these studies and researches. This will include understanding how environmental management systems work and the impact of EMS on the construction industry. Included are a review of the effectiveness of ISO 14001 and the successes of EMS.


Ho 1: ISO 14001 is an effective environmental management system and have reduced waste output from construction sites.

Ho 2: Construction firms in Northern Ireland have effectively implemented ISO 14001 Standard and EMSs in construction sites.


Methodology consists of a review of the literature which can be from books, journals, and the internet. Studies and researches of different authors can be sourced from the university library, online library and other print materials. There is an extent of literature on environmental management systems, standardization, total quality management, environmental protection, and other related topics. From the vast amount of literature, the next step is to simplify things focusing on some firms experiences and real-life environmental protection measures.

We conducted our own qualitative research on construction companies in Northern Ireland. Sixteen managers and assistant managers responded to our letter request; questionnaires were sent to the participants and telephone interviews were conducted. Another set of questionnaires were sent to construction site workers of the same companies in Northern Ireland. The names were sourced from a list provided by the managers. Five workers for each company that makes n=40 acted and responded to our request.

The questionnaires and interviews covered their knowledge and opinion about EMSs, ISO 14001 Standard, how they are being implemented in construction sites. The managers responses revealed that they have knowledge of EMSs and ISO 14001 Standard. In an extra space provided in the questionnaires, the managers expressed their views, problems, and suggestions. However, the ordinary laborers or site workers revealed that they have little knowledge of EMSs and ISO 14001 Standard. The questionnaire was an eye-opening for them.


After the study of the findings, we found out that the extent of literature including the many studies and researches, and the case studies as well, can constitute a discussion and possible conclusion and recommendations.

The analysis and results of the survey questionnaires will be given more focus in this study.

Literature Review

The general public is becoming increasingly aware of the issue of sustainability. The very science and technology that has been developed to give us the life style that we enjoy now has left us in a position to choose what environmental legacy to hand down to the next generation: environmental sustainability is the best proposition. However, sustainability cannot just be delivered so easily; it has to be hard-earned. For now every single living thing creates environmental impact; it has been found recently that even a small dog or a cat can have an environmental impact.

Construction is the issue. More and more constructions are being done by peoples everywhere. It seems construction of buildings revolves around the status quo: the number of buildings or properties you have reflect your wealth. But how does that affect our environment?

Scholars and policy advocates have argued over what combination of voluntary measures, economic incentives, and government regulations represents the best way to control pollutant emissions and other environmental impacts.[3] There have been attempts to solidify their plans such as legislation, but sometimes plans remain as such due to many factors like lack of budgeting only big companies could do it. What started were simple regulations, but in the UK and Europe they came up with standardization which became the trend.

Environmental Impact in Construction Sites

Construction has significant impacts on the natural environment.[4] One of the challenges construction companies face is the negative impacts generated by construction and demolition wastes (C&DW). Construction generates a fairly large amount of pollutants, including noise, air, solid waste and water.[5] Nevertheless, some construction firms have long been involved in environmental protection. They build sewage treatment plants, water treatment systems, and waste-to-energy incinerators and install pollution controls and other waste-management equipment. Organizations however recognize that eliminating waste requires a lot of skill and political will to implement. Wastes and hazardous materials continue to exist for as long as constructions continue. These materials come in various forms and may vary from place to place, such as:

  • excavation materials, e.g. earth, sand, gravel, rocks and clay;
  • road building and maintenance materials, e.g. asphalt, sand, gravel and metals;
  • demolition materials, e.g. debris including earth, gravel, sand, blocks of concrete, bricks, gypsum, porcelain and lime-cast; and
  • others like wood, plastic, paper, glass, metal and pigments.[6]

C&DW contributes 33 percent of the total UK waste stream, four times the waste produced by all UK households. Thirty per cent of UK fly tipped waste is construction waste.[7] Commercial fly-tipping is illegal waste disposal, e.g. highly toxic waste may be falsely reclassified as non-hazardous. This is committed by professional criminals[8].

Rodriguez et als[9] study revealed that as much as 50 to 80 per cent of the waste is reusable or recyclable,[10] and more countries are focusing now on waste minimization and reduction of waste disposed in landfills or eliminated illegally.[11]

Around 90 per cent of demolition waste is currently recycled in the UK but it is also down-valued due to lack of segregation. The House of Lords recommends providing demolition contractors with training on waste issues to enable separation of waste streams for reuse and recycling, and for the planning system to encourage deconstruction rather than demolition of buildings.[12]

Reusing C&DW is a benefit of environmental management. C&DW can be used as filling materials for land used for reclamation.[13] Across Europe, construction waste constitutes 40-50 per cent of construction and demolition waste.[14]

Measure in controlling C&DW that is quite popular and commendable is the reuse-recycle-reduce technique which is also known as the 3Rs, and this can be done through control aspects such as design quality, applied technology and habitual construction methods.[15]

Recycling techniques are popular in many countries, both industrialized and developing Asian countries, due to its positive impact to the environment and even to the economic implication such as job generation. Other benefits of recycling are:

  • it helps in theres lack of raw materials and when theres no adequate disposal site;[16]
  • it helps in the preservation of land for future development, and to improve the general state of the environment.[17]

Figure shows policy recommendations for reducing environmental impacts of materials and construction waste, and the steps to be taken to deliver change.

Environmental Management Systems

Implementation of Environmental Management System or EMS may be carried out by adopting either ISO Standard 14001 or the EMAS Regulation as a norm or reference model. The International Standard specifies that the organization should implement an environmental management system in order to develop and implement a policy and objectives which take into account legal requirements and other requirements to which the organization subscribes, and information about significant environmental aspects[18]. EMS is a set of rules and requirements that sets up a policy for environmental aspects.

The International Standard also advocates continual improvement in the environmental management system. This is to continuously seeking improvement for environmental advancement. Organisations should continue to provide innovations and changes in the process of EMS implementations to cope with the current changes in the business or to adjust with environmental requirements of the place or community where construction is located, as the case may be.

What benefits do organisations derive from implementing EMSs and ISO 14001? There may be countless benefits which will be discussed and enumerated here.

ISO literally means International Standards Organization. It is international in scope, for the aims and objectives revolve around environmental preservation and sustainability.

Environmental Management Systems (EMSs) have existed a long time ago, the first ones having been in response to industrial accidents.[19] At first, there were the codes of conduct in industries, which later evolved into the present EMSs. The best known are the International Standardization Organizations ISO 14001 and the European Communitys Eco-Management and Auditing Scheme (EMAS).

Statistics showed that there were 66,070 ISO 14001 certifications in December 2003. Most of the certifications are in Europe (48%), the Far East (36%) and North America (8%). At the time of the survey, the UK had 5460 certificates 2547 more than in December 2002 (a remarkable annual growth rate of 87%). Japan was more compliant with 13,416 certifications. The USA was sixth in the world with 3553 certifications just ahead of Sweden with 3404.[20]

Environmental Management Systems (EMS) is a way of addressing the impact on the environment in the course of constructing buildings and other structures. EMSs are a way of answering the environmental compliance regulations, lowering environmental costs, reducing risks, and other relevant activities for environmental best practice.

An EMS may consist of policies, goals, information systems, task lists, data collection and organization, emergency plans, audits, regulatory requirements, and annual reports.[21] An EMS, in its simplest form, asks us to control our activities so that any environmental impacts are minimised.

In an EMS, a manager establishes an environmental policy or plan, implement the resulting plan by assigning responsibility, providing resources, and training workers; check progress through systematic auditing; and act to correct problems. Sometimes, an organization invites outsiders in their environmental planning and rely on independent environmental auditors to help monitor and certify their environmental performance. There may be difficulties in the interpretation of the EMS requirements in the International Standard but this can be solved if a large organization can simplify things and seek the assistance of some organisations like BSI.

Christini et al (2004) revealed that implementing an effective EMS can have various benefits for an organization, such as:

  • Improved regulatory compliance requirements;
  • Open markets and reduced trade barriers;
  • Reduction in liability and risks;
  • Enhanced credibility among customers and peers;
  • Reduction of harmful impacts to the environment;
  • Prevention/reduction of pollution and waste, many times resulting in cost savings;
  • Improvements in site and project safety by minimizing injuries
  • related to environmental spills, releases, and emissions;
  • Improved relationships with stakeholders such as government agencies, community groups, and investors; and
  • Establishment of a system for continued environmental improvement.[22]

The benefits mentioned above are quite overwhelming for an organization and the community. We all know how climate change and global warming has been a major worldwide policy concern. The effective implementation of an EMS in an organization is one of the best solutions.

Environmental management systems have significant roles to play in relation to environmental protection, workplace safety and public health. Businesses and organisations adopt such systems for a variety of reasons. Effectiveness varies from country to country depending on the countrys national regulatory systems. In the United Kingdom a wide range of environmental administrative penalties should urge firms to introduce environmental management and auditing systems.[23]

Developing EMSs has become a trend and is being practiced by organizations in increasing numbers. Thousands of European and Asian firms have adopted EMSs in recent years, and an ever-growing number of corporations in the United States are developing their own EMSs and certifying that they meet international EMS standards.

Other organisations have adopted EMSs as a competitive advantage. Stakeholders are asking for environmentally focused programs and activities of their organizations, and customers want them too.

British Standards Institute

The British Standards Institute or BSI is the worlds leading global independent business services organization that delivers standards-based solution, and environmental management systems founded in 1901. It advocates, defines, and implements best practice in almost every field of human endeavour, serves 55 per cent in Europe, Middle East and Africa, while the rest is for the Americas and Asia. It is said that the standards industry has contributed 2.5bn annually to UK economy. The primary objective of BSI is the development and sale of private, national and international standards and supporting information.[24]

ISO 14001

One of the consequences of the standards issues and concerns was a large number of requests to standard-writing bodies to produce a standard for managing the environmental impacts of an organization. As a result, the British Standards Institute (BSI), a world-respected standards body, in conjunction with many other committees, and interested parties, developed and produced BS 7750:1992, the worlds first environmental standard. The International Standards Organization (ISO) established a new technical committee to develop international standards in environmental management.

ISO 14001 was first published in 1996 and now serves as the standard for developing an EMS. EMS, in the context of ISO 14001, is defined as a management tool enabling an organization of any size or type to control the impact of its activities, products or services on the environment[25].

The whole spirit of ISO 14001 can be summarised briefly in a phrase:

Control and reduce its impact on the environment. [26]

Reasons for seeking ISO 14001 certification:

  • To gain or retain market share via a green corporate image
  • To attract more ethical investment
  • To reduce insurance risks
  • To reduce costs.[27]

Organisations have different ways of complying with legal and environmental requirements they term this environmental performance. Activities in this regard include complying with laws and regulations, establishing and meeting environmental objectives and targets that go well beyond legal compliance, and formally including community environmental concerns and issues and decision-making on environmental improvement projects.[28]

A key feature of ISO 14001is the establishment of a framework for the management of the environmental aspects of an organization. It has 17 key elements grouped into five major areas:

  1. Environmental policy The Standard has the intent of making the organisations environmental policy available to the public, and so the organization is setting highly visible environmental objectives. Through this, the organization is demonstrating its commitment and accountability which can be verified, examined, and even criticized, if it failed to deliver the promises made.
  2. Planning The purpose of this clause is to ensure that the organisation has the capability and mechanisms to identify continually any environmental aspects it has, and then to attach a level of significance to those aspects in a structured and logical way.[29]
  3. Implementation and operation During the implementation and operation, the organization has to conduct a thorough management with the right people in place.
  4. Checking and corrective action This can refer to areas wherein planned actions and activities that take place can be verified. An internal audit system could be the method for this verification, but other mechanisms could be used such as reviews of reports indicating failures or delays to action plans.[30]
  5. Management review This means that the organisation should check, review, inspect and observe its planned activities to ensure that they are going on as planned.

It has also the capacity to be designed appropriately for any company, regardless of industry, size, location, and the level of their environmental responsibilities. The ISO 14001 is a voluntary, consensus-based, and market-driven standard.[31]

An organization has to know its standing with regard to its interaction with the environment, before it is able to go forward in controlling and minimizing its environmental impacts. It is only after performing a preparatory environmental review that a meaningful environmental policy, with proper and relevant objectives and targets, can be set out.[32]

Problems and Benefits in EMS Implementations

Benefits usually include monetary savings from energy efficiency and waste minimisation, lower insurance costs, and involving upper management in environmental decisions.[33]

The major obstacles include a lack of government pressure, lack of client requirement or support, expensive implementation costs, and subcontracting systems which create difficulties in managing the EMS. Another limitation is the size. Without the upper management support and decision to mandate a company-wide EMS, environmental personnel may not have the resources to establish and maintain an ISO 14001 EMS.

Industry groups such as the United Kingdoms Construction Industry

Research and Information Association (CIRIA) provide guidance documents (Uren and Griffiths 2000, cited in Christini et al, 2004, p. 331) and workshops on implementing an ISO 14001 EMS within the construction industry.[34]


We want to bring to light some of the studies in EMS implementations from around UK and Europe, and other parts of the world, to give a feel of what organizations have experienced and would like to experience when it comes to Standard 14001 and other EMS problems and benefits.

The Carillion Building

Carillion plc is one of the UKs leading support services and construction companies, averaging annual revenue of around 5bn and operations across many countries in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and the Caribbean.[35]

The Carillon uses sustainable design as a selling point. This selling point provides a business case stating the control of water use, recycling waste, choice of materials and relationships with suppliers. The building economist undertook research, established a database of good practice and record of lessons learned from experience.[36] Other businesses can emulate this practice using environmental measures as marketing strategy.

Carillion obtained its ISO 14001 certification with the help of BSI Management Systems. BSI supported the development of the environmental management system by providing knowledge, giving Carillion a chance to perform a gap analysis of the steps and processes required of aligning their business practices with that of the standard. Before, there was a negative image of the construction industry on environmental projects which led to a group wide environmental policy. Carillion sought the certification to demonstrate the companys commitment to environmental management systems[37] (Carillion-UK).

Carillion also sought 14001 certification as a way of competitive advantage. With this certification, the benefits included being selected for sole negotiation with Manchester for Countryside Properties. It also earned for Carillion some awards like: Major Contractor of the Year 2000, Finalist in the Sustainability Awards of the Year Category, and Winner of Environmental Category in 2000. Carillion has a pool of suppliers whose policies, practices and values are aligned with their own[38].

Carillion also developed an integrated management system with EMS as part of it, and then it was further developed into a total management system known as project Eagle, an Intranet-based management approach combining best practice with business processes.[39]

Tam et als., (2006) Study: The Hong Kong Experience

It is said that the construction industry has not been doing very much concern over the environmental issues.[40] This is the Hong Kong experience.

In 1995, the Hong Kong Government launched the Green Manager Scheme, mandating every department of the government to appoint a Green Manager in managing environmental performance of individual organizations. The departments concerned followed the order putting some weight on environmental issues.

The Hong Kong government initiated their efforts through the introduction of the Environmental Performance Assessment or EPA. EMS has been suggested to be adopted by all industries to improve their environmental performance.[41] In Tam and colleagues study, they defined EPA as improving environmental performance by providing information about achievement of the environmental policy, objectives, targets, actions, responsibilities and information flows and measuring, analyzing, assessing, reporting and communicating environmental performance of organizations.[42]

This allows the organization to determine its own performance in meeting environmental criteria and help it in coping with the challenges of meeting with these criteria. Matteo and Federica (1999)[43] suggested that EPA could provide a substantial contribution to the improvement of environmental performance by facilitating the identification of the gap between company performance and a given standard.

Tam and colleagues (2006, p. 165) used in their study the three major areas of EPA regulatory compliance, environmental auditing performance and resources utilization in formulating the performance measurement indicators (PMI).

There are a number of regulations and ordinances in environmental protection in Hong Kong, and these may revolve around air pollution, ozone layer protection, noise control, dumping at sea ordinance, water pollution, and so forth. These need a program for effective implementation and follow-up. The EPA program helps an organization identify how well it has achieved the environmental regulatory requirements; non-compliance of regulations and ordinances may result in fines and penalties. Auditing activities are considered in three stages, such as: pre-auditing, auditing and post-auditing. Every construction organization in implementing environmental management should provide auditing for controlling the quality of activities.

Construction activities bring about polluted water and ineffective use of water; personnel should be encouraged and educated for the effective use of water. A recommendation was the use of water recycling systems to reduce the usage of water and the generation of polluted water.

The researchers used the weightings of PMIs for the construction industry, a structured survey, in the form of questionnaire and interviews based on the performance measurement indicators. The questionnaires were sent to 377 construction and related practitioners of governmental departments, building developers, construction consultants, building contractors and sub-contractors in Hong Kong. They used a one-way analysis of variance to test the general degree of concordance among all the groups and F-test to assess if there was any significant variance among the groups.[44]

Conclusions were that regulatory compliance is the most important element in environmental management for construction; auditing activities has great control on the quality of documentation; whilst promotion of conservation in resources consumption is effective and it can lead to cost savings[45]

Spains Experience

Rodriguez et al.s (2006)[46] study provides results of an analysis and evaluation of the application of ISO 14001 to construction sites in the Autonomous Community of Madrid, focusing on practices of control and management of wastes generated on sites, and to the fulfillment of legal rules on waste management.

The study aimed to analyse if there were some violations or deficiencies in EMS and current management instruments. The recommendations was for promoting management of C&DW based on reuse and recycling in construction companies. Companies involved in the area have established practical measures to manage waste generated from their construction sites. The government has initiated the Plan for Integrated Management of C&DW.[47]

In their application of EMS, they made use of reusing, recycling and reducing generation through control of aspects such as design quality, applied technology and habitual construction methods.[48]

Recycling is competitive in situations where both raw materials and adequate disposal sites are scarce.[49] Recycling helps to preserve areas of land for future urban development, and to improve the general state of the environment.[50]

The situation in Madrid is conducive and favorable to environmental management, the fact that it is aided by legislation. Spain is a member of the European Union (EU), in which common policy bases for C&DW management have been established. The Environment Ministry drew up a National Plan for C&DW, known as PNRCD 2001-2006. Council Directive 1999/31/EC (26 April 1999) on the dumping of waste was also incorporated into the Spanish law.[51]

Several laws had set out a series of obligations for producers of C&DW, to be carried out prior to the start of building activity. Producers should provide the corresponding local authority with an estimate of the quantity of waste to be generated, as well as information regarding the destination of the wastes and the measures adopted for their classification, with some deposit to be paid beforehand.[52]

The Spanish construction industry has implemented EMS by adopting ISO Standard 14001 or the EMAS Regulation as a norm or reference model. The control of significant aspects or impacts that may arise during the construction activity or process, and the fulfillment of legal obligations applicable to the environmental aspects of such activities are among the EMS requirements being implemented.

The Guide of Standard ISO 14001:96, which serves to facilitate implementation of EMS by companies, places emphasis on the environmental aspect of reducing waste generation so as not to tremendously reduce the life of the landfill which may result in greater environmental impact. It establishes criteria for the specific management of different types of waste generated on the construction site, such as used oil, hazardous wastes, wastes derived from containers and packaging and inert waste.[53]

Madrid also used a facility known as Clean Point which was provided by the City Council for the selective collection of domestic-origin solid waste, wherein users deposit their separated wastes at the Clean Points for their later valorization or elimination.[54]

In principle, wastes of industrial origin are not permitted at Clean Points, but Madrid allows it by admitting waste derived both from domestic consumers and from companies.[55]

Not all construction companies in Madrid fulfill their obligations as hazardous waste (HW) producers owing to the high costs involved in appropriate HW management. Competent environmental agencies also fail to carry out on-site inspections to ensure that the relevant legislation is observed on hazardous wastes.

Rodriguez et al (2007) recommended that a corresponding budget allocation should be afforded by these promoters of EMSs. They concluded in their study that the national and regional governments were slow to apply C&DW management plans which resulted in the negative effects: no reduction in the quantities of C&DW eliminated in landfills, and no effort to promote practices such as the prevention of C&DW generation, reuse and recycling, or to develop and stimulate the market for by-products obtained from C&DW.

George Wimpey

George Wimpey is another of UKs pride in home building. Today it has 300 operational sites which include mixed residential developments of private and social housing, apartments and houses. It has 5,000 employees across the UK. George Wimpey obtained its IS 14001 certification through BSI Management Systems. Wimpey became the first house builder with certification to ISO 14001 for all parts of its business and operating units across the UK.[56]

The company was pressured from stakeholders to demonstrate commitment to environmental management, rising insurance costs, and product and waste disposal costs. George Wimpey decided to pursue certification to ISO 14001:2004 Environment Management System with the help of BSI Management Systems.

Work began with the company reviewing its existing operations, activities, and other services, and assessed following the requirements of ISO 14001. A consultation process was set up, whilst contractors were also involved in the auditing process.

George Wimpey obtained these benefits from ISO 14001:

  • Ensuring stakeholders that the company works for best practice and has minimised potential liabilities.
  • ISO 14001 has made the company more environmentally aware and responsible.
  • Demonstrating to stakeholders, such as English Partnerships, the companys commitment to environmental issues.
  • Potential home buyers are assured that a quality system is in place to ensure the elimination of environmental risk.
  • Credibility of the company in the industry is enhanced with BSI at the helm.

Environmental programmes and responsibility are now immersed in the companys activities and these give competitive advantage to George Wimpey. The certification boosts the companys ability to continue to deliver good quality housing with environmental features.

  • With the programmes of ISO 14001 now with the company, George Wimpey can now implement principles such tackling the root cause of waste or minimizing waste.
  • With ISO 14001 benefits, the company can also pass these to customers. George Wimpey has offered a preferential rate to its customers with the Royal Bank of Scotland and the Halifax.[57]

Through the ISO 14001, George Wimpey has developed a focused green procurement programme. It also intends to create benchmark for its suppliers environmental credentials, and the information will be used to develop a buyers guide outlining specific environmental issues buyers need to consider during contracts. Supply chain will also be benefited in the process.[58]

ISO 14001 also helped George Wimpeys environmental standing both internally and externally, with employees having great enthusiasm and motivation after they were consulted in the management system. The company is now one of the market leaders in environmental and sustainability terms.[59]

Joint EMS Implementation

This is a case study of a joint EMS implementation involving 30 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Hackefors Industrial District in Sweden; the SMEs have co-operated on environmental issues. The group has formed a network and established a joint EMS in accordance with ISO 14001.[60]

The definition of SMEs according to the European Commission is determined by the number of employees (250), a turnover of less than 40 million or an annual balance sheet total not exceeding 27 million.[61] Independent enterprises are those not owned as to 25% or more of the capital or the voting rights by other enterprises.

Statistic Sweden showed that 99.5% of Swedish companies have fewer than 250 employees and a turnover of no more than 40 million, meaning most of these companies are SMEs. Together they have combined annual sales figure that represents 42% of total annual sales of Swedish companies. SMEs in Sweden are not subject to environmental regulation to the same extent as are larger companies, thus environmental impact may be poorly controlled.[62]

Hackefors Industrial District in Linkping, Sweden, consists of about 90 SMEs with 1,500 employees, and they represent a wide range of businesses, including manufacturing, waste recycling, transportation, construction and graphic industries.

During the 1980s, businesses in Sweden would usually form into associations, one example is that of Hackefors. Their objective was to stop the closure of the local post office, but then it evolved into other issues, such as environmental matters.

The concern was the environmental work in 1996 of waste generated by the companies. They formed a central unit for collection, separation and utilization of waste, which then raised awareness of environmental issues in many of the companies and some of them decided to go one step further. They raised issues such establishing an environmental profile for the district and find a means of publicizing their environmental achievements and credentials. They started to look at ISO 14001 and the application of EMSs. Thirty companies formed the Hackefors Environmental Group (HEG) and started to develop a joint EMS according to ISO 14001. Of these enterprises, 17 have five or fewer employees, four have between six and 10 employees, two have between 11 and 20 employees, five between 21 and 30 employees and four have more than 30 employees. In other words, majority of the enterprises are micro.[63]

By organizing themselves into one solid group, the 30 SMEs at the Hackefors Industrial District in Sweden have overcome many of the difficulties encountered by big companies, and they were certified according to ISO 14001 by 1999.

The EMS model used at Hackefors Industrial District is what is now called the Hackefors model. Each enterprise within the HEG has an EMS of its own that fulfils the requirements of ISO 14001 and thus holds its own certificate.

The joint EMS is organised in a way that is very similar to the organization of systems for larger industrial concerns. The companies have an environmental co-ordinator and these together form the EMS group. A steering committee is formed consisting of seven of the environmental co-ordinators, which in turn selects a central co-ordinator. Some support groups are also formed. The central co-ordinator was employed by a consulting firm which is a member of the HEG.

To address the problem of interpreting the difficult requirements of ISO 14001, the central co-ordinator and the steering committee prepare many of the documents needed.

Environmental training is very vital to the success of the EMS implementation. The members, especially those who have active role in the EMS work, were trained and their knowledge on environmental matters and EMSs are necessary to motivate others and to make them understand how to cope with environmentally related tasks. Each employee receives at least 30 hours of training, and made possible through government funding. The training included basic environmental information, education on EMS and ISO 14001 waste management, environmental impact of industries in general and legal and other requirements.[64]

Countless benefits were derived from the joint EMS implementations. The Hackefors model led to significant cost savings compared to individual certification. Estimates reveal that the price for the group certification could be at least 50% lower than for individual certification. Majority of the expenses were shared by the 30 enterprises.

The Hackefors model is an enterprising one facilitating both implementation and maintenance of EMSs according to ISO 14001.


Majority of companies where participants are employed can be classified as small-and-medium enterprise; one company is a multinational with employees exceeding 250.

According to the definition by the European Commission, a small-and-medium-enterprise or SME employs less than 250 employees, has a turnover of less than 40 million or an annual balance sheet total not exceeding 27 million.[65]

Implementation of EMSs requires substantial resources, both financially and in terms of staff, and many small-and-medium enterprises are hesitant of implementing EMSs.[66]

Eight construction companies responded to our request for interviews, which were later done through telephone, and questionnaires were emailed to the participants. Participants were provided numerical codes as contained in their questionnaires, so that their personal identities and company names remained anonymous in accordance with earlier agreed arrangements with this Researcher.

Of the eight construction companies, one is considered large multinational construction firm; that means their employees exceeded 250, they have a turnover of more than 40 million and an annual balance sheet exceeding 27 million each. All of the construction firms are active, meaning all of them have present projects with constructions sites that require in the opinion of this researcher environmental management systems, considering the amount of C&DW produced everyday and the kind of projects they bear which are building constructions.

Since there were eight (8) construction firms from Northern Ireland who answered back our requests, we were successful in acquiring two in the upper and middle-level management for each company, making the n= 16. The 16 managers filled up the questionnaires and were asked for a follow-up interview on the phone. It should be noted that their answers to the phone interviews are exactly similar to their answers to the questionnaires, making the phone interviews almost identical or a follow-up of the questions asked in the questionnaire.

Analysis for Appendix A

Questionnaires for the managers and assistant managers are embodied in Appendix A. It is comprised of two parts: Part A requires an answer of Yes or No, but for the questions that require an opinion, the participant is asked to provide the answer in the extra space provided. Part B: The participant is asked to complete the sentence and encircle the level of agreement or disagreement from a five-point scale: 1 Strongly disagree; 2 Disagree; 3 Neither agree nor disagree; 4 agree; and 5 Strongly agree.

The following is an analysis of the answers of the managers and assistant managers.

Majority of the findings in this section consists of the descriptive statistics produced by the questionnaire and the data obtained are considered completed after they were emailed back to the researcher for evaluation. After they had responded through email, a scheduled interview was set.

For purposes of this study, the term completed means:

  • The questionnaires were answered, sent back to the researcher for evaluation and analysis, and there were no discrepancies or incompleteness noted of their answers;
  • The participants who are managers and middle-level managers of construction firms in Northern Ireland, followed to the letter what was agreed upon before they filled up the questionnaires;
  • There were no problems with the participants answers and so it was presumed that they understood the instructions provided in the questionnaires.
  • The researcher well understood and carried on an analysis of the participants answers, and arrived at conclusions and recommendations from this research.

Demographic Profile

The demographic profile by gender showed that there were 14 male and 2 female participants, and their ages range from 22 to 60, as shown in the table below:

Majority of the manager-participants (15) responded that they know their company uses EMS to manage the vast C&DW in their construction sites. Fifty per cent (8) said that their company is ISO 14001 certified, but the remaining fifty percent said they were still in the process of certification and that they are submitting requirements. Majority also stated that EMSs are effective means of minimizing environmental impact in construction sites, and ISO 14001 can guide the company in the proper implementation of EMS. Some managers said that they had been implementing EMSs before they applied ISO 14001: this led to a quick issuance of ISO 14001certification.

Only one company is being helped by BSI for ISO 14001 implementation. We investigated this matter and found that this is explainable because there is only one large multinational company that can afford the services of BSI.

One very important note here is that many of the small-and-medium enterprises have formed a network in pursuing ISO 14001 certification and in EMS implementations. This is a positive development. We have cited in the literature the Hackefors model wherein 30 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Hackefors Industrial District in Sweden have co-operated on environmental issues. The group has formed a network and established a joint EMS in accordance with ISO 14001. The Hackefors model works well in the companies of Northern Ireland.

Majority (14) of the participants filled up the space provided for opinion or ideas and answered the question about their knowledge of EMSs and ISO 14001. Their answers are both general in scope; some are very particular, while others seem interesting:

  • EMS is about environmental control.
  • EMS is a motivational factor for our employees and construction site workers.
  • My workers realized the important of EMS that they now work hard for environmental programmes.
  • ISO 14001 Standard is quality management. I never realized its importance until we fully implemented it.
  • I thought it was just useless spending for worthless projects. Later when business benefits came up, I realized EMS is for lowering costs. Its a business innovation.
  • Its strategic management; every organization must adopt it.
  • ISO 14001 and EMS implementation enhance harmonious living of companies with the natural environment.

Some questions received distinct responses. Two managers, who belonged to two distinct construction firms, disclosed their lack of knowledge of EMSs and ISO 14001. They said that ISO 14001 had nothing to do with their EMS implementation. They had long implemented EMS in their operations and that ISO 14001 was only a duplication; in other words, they disliked ISO 14001. However, in their explanation which were provided in the questionnaires, we found that they have little knowledge of ISO 14001, which also led us to conclude that they implemented the ISO without enough prior study.

We conducted further inquiry on these two cases, which proved the effectiveness of our methodology, i.e. questionnaires first, and then follow-up interview after the questionnaires. The two managers had almost the same cases: they implemented ISO 14001Standard, applied for its certification, upon orders of higher management. One manager said that he implemented EMS and ISO 14001, spent company funds because he thought these two were the same. In other words, there was total lack of knowledge, information, and communication on the part of management. There was no selection of the right staff for ISO implementation, no training was conducted, and there was no systematic application of the requirements of ISO 14001 and EMS implementation. These two managers also commented that their companies were not on the right track of pursuing environmental concerns.

Moreover, majority disclosed the importance of addressing environmental impact in construction sites. They stated that environmental impact is a primary concern and responsibility of construction firms.

In Part B of the questionnaires for managers, the participants were asked to encircle their level of agreement or disagreement in a five-point scale: 1 strongly disagree; 2 disagree; 3 neither agree nor disagree; 4 agree; and 5 strongly agree.

The participants were practically asked whether they agreed or disagreed on EMS implementation. The first statement was if EMS implementation has helped the environmental concerns of the company. Ten participants agreed, 4 strongly agreed; while 2 strongly disagreed. The level of agreement here is strong: majority of the participants favor EMS and ISO 14001 implementation, and these had helped address the environmental concerns of the company in their construction sites. However, the 2 who strongly disagreed is attributed to the 2 managers who had no knowledge of ISO 14001 Standard, or who implemented the Standard upon orders of higher management. The 14 participants understood well the contents of ISO 14001 and studied the processes of implementation before they committed their companies to working for ISO certification.

Statement: EMS implementation improved the condition or atmosphere of the construction sites.

Majority answered a strong agreement, which means 4 or 5 level of agreement. Another 2 answered a strong disagreement, while 1 manager answered that the question was not clear. He provided his explanation in the extra space, and said that the terms condition or atmosphere were quite vague: the terms can describe different things to different people. This participant had a rather good sense of argument, quite smart and fluent in saying that condition or atmosphere could mean the physical environment, but it could also mean other things, like the general perception of the construction sites, etc. Anyway, there was no need of further argument: it was explained to the participant that his information or data input was properly noted and that it would be a factor in the discussion and conclusion of the Study.

All of the participants (16) disclosed that EMS implementation reduced construction and demolition wastes. The two managers who had low level of agreement on EMS agreed here, but they said that they had implemented EMS before they introduced ISO 14001, or before this survey was conducted on the construction sites. The two emphasized that ISO 14001 Standard is not anymore necessary.

As to the question whether EMS has reduced costs in their businesses, 10 managers agreed, 4 neither agreed nor disagreed, while 2 strongly disagreed. This can be explained. The 10 managers have enough knowledge of EMS, 4 were quite skeptical but have not fully implemented EMS, while the 2 managers as expected remain the questionable managers.

Fourteen managers said that EMS improved partnership/collaboration. This means it has fostered cooperation and camaraderie among the staff and managers and motivated them to work as a team. This further led us to the point that EMS is a motivational factor (this argument needs further research).

Quite remarkable is that all 16 strongly agreed that EMS has motivated the employees to be more environmentally aware. No participant disagreed on this remark. However, 14 agreed that EMS has motivated the employees to work for environmental programs, while 2 strongly disagreed. Also, these 14 strongly agreed in the statement that EMS has enabled them to control their activities to minimize environmental impacts, and that it also allowed them to be more vigilant. The 14 also strongly agreed that EMS improved the organisations environmental sustainability; whilst the 2 neither agreed nor disagreed. The 2 managers who have no knowledge of EMS and ISO 14001 agreed that EMS added more headaches to the company, but 14 strongly disagreed.

Questions 27 to 32 revolved around ISO 14001 certification, and the participants answers also revealed a pattern: 14 agreed or strongly agreed, whilst 2 disagreed or strongly disagreed.

Majority or 14 participants encircled 4, i.e. they agreed, that ISO 14001 enhanced effective and efficient EMS implementation, and it has improved strategically their businesses. 10 agreed that it has enhanced fulfillment in business and personal lives; 4 were cold about it, meaning they agreed nor disagreed, and 2 strongly disagreed. 14 said ISO 14001 inspired the employees to be more environmentally aware, and that they were motivated to continually improve their environmental management style. 2 participants strongly agreed that it was better for the company to have not known or implemented ISO 14001.

Analysis of Appendix B

Appendix B contains questionnaires for site workers of the construction companies of Northern Ireland. As stated, 40 participants 5 for each company responded to our request.

The questions for the site workers are almost identical meaning in their meaning, but there are some modifications. Majority of the workers do not know anything of EMSs or ISO 14001 Standard. They just related in the space provided for explanations that they were being asked to minimize environment impact because it was detrimental to their health and the health of the people in the community.

The site workers were also asked to choose from a five-point scale to show their level of agreement and disagreement to the questions or statements provided.

Q-1 asked if EMS is an environmental strategy for a long time now. Twenty-five participants agreed (4 level of agreement), five absolutely disagreed, ten were undecided (3-neither agreed nor disagreed).

Twenty-five agreed that they knew the company was implementing EMS and that it was management response to the environmental impact construction sites have generated. Thirty strongly agreed that their companys environmental policies affected them, and 25 agreed that these policies should be followed to the letter. This thirty also strongly agreed that EMS implementations have helped them cope with the challenges and emerging environmental problems. Majority said that EMS is an effective tool to minimize environmental impact, and that it is important to them as workers of the sites.

Thirty-two agreed that EMS implementation is a motivational factor for the workers to work as a team and for a clean environment. They have been inspired to work for the companys environmental programmes.

Majority of the construction works do not have general knowledge of ISO 14001 Standard but they knew they were implementing its processes through the EMS implementation. 25 strongly agreed that EMS and ISO 14001 have the same features, and that these are government policies or requirements.

Thirty-five of the participants strongly agreed that C&DW should be minimized and the programs (EMS and ISO 14001) were instrumental to minimizing C&DW.

Part B of the questionnaires for construction site workers contained questions requiring Yes or No answers. Thirty participants offered suggestions for minimizing environmental impact, and their suggestions were noted. Most of their suggestions however, are contained in the ISO 14001 processes. Some questions included concerns of chemical hazards in construction sites. About 50 percent of the participants noted that chemical hazards are not rightly declared and properly disposed of by their companies, and that the reason for this is that they knew how costly disposing of chemical hazards could be.


When we thought of EMS as an innovation in business processes, there was something irregular. Its just a short while ago when environmental management was not in the agenda of organisations. Now its part of organisations mission and objectives. Making EMS a part of business operations delivers considerable benefits for the company.

The philosophy behind EMSs is the focus of this study. We conducted a review of the vast literature and studies on EMSs, the ISO 14001, and analysed some studies and researches on organizations EMS implementations, or those who have opted to incorporate in their agenda and corporate mission and objectives sustainability and environmental programmes.

We drew some ideas from these studies but proceeded to a qualitative research, conducting interviews and email questionnaires on managers and construction site workers.

Our analysis of the results has proven that EMS and ISO 14001 Standard are relevant in organisations environmental management. An ordinary implementation of EMS without the aid of ISO 14001 may not be too successful. In examining EMS and ISO 14001, the latter should come first, so that EMS implementation becomes handy or easy, to say the least. If EMS is implemented without enough knowledge of ISO 14001, it can be a failure.

It is logical recommendation that organizations involve themselves in environmental issues, implement EMSs and apply for ISO 14001certification. Size of an organization doesnt matter. In the studies that we have shown, SMEs can form themselves into networks. Big organizations can attain the help of BSI to help them in the implementation process.

In the research we conducted, there seems to be lack of communication between management and site workers. One of the underlying objectives of ISO 14001 Standard and the EMS implementation is for the two sectors management and workers to have communication. Without effective communication, there is less success in the ISO 14001 implementation and the EMS.


Environmental sustainability is everyones quest but hard to attain. As we know, every living thing on earth has an environmental impact. Constructions continue most of construction activities have no regard for the environment. Sources of pollutants may be excavation materials, road building and maintenance materials, demolition materials, and so forth. However, a great percentage of these C&DW is reusable or recyclable. This is something positive because C&DW can be used as filling materials.

Organizations have realized that implementing EMSs can be very beneficial if they are carried out through ISO Standard 14001; that means implementing Standard 14001 is implementing an EMS.

The benefits derived from ISO 14001certification can lead to the companys successes, in addition to the environmental improvement. Some of these are the gains in energy efficiency, lowering of insurance costs, and so forth.

The hypothesis that we have had dealt in the study of EMSs, that ISO 14001 is an effective environmental management system to reduce waste output from construction sites, is proven in this study. ISO 14001 and other environmental management systems is an effective environmental management system and have reduced waste output from construction sites. This is proven in the various case studies and researches on EMS and organizations that have applied for ISO 14001 certifications.

There are instances that organizations implement their own EMSs before applying for a certifying. However, when they do apply, it becomes easy for them, and certification does follow.

There are many business benefits that organizations gain out of the ISO 14001 certification and these benefits have helped them cope with competition, increased costs, insurance costs, and even globalization.


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