Construction waste minimisation in the UK healthcare industry

Over recent years, there has been considerable growth in healthcare infrastructure investment throughout Europe where billions of Euros are invested in new and refurbished healthcare facilities. In the UK, capital expenditure on healthcare has increased from around £1.1 billion in 1997/98 to around £5.5 billion in 2007/08; an increase in real terms of almost four times the expenditure in 1997. As a result, several environmental concerns and challenges, including construction waste generation, have emerged. There is a consensus in the literature that factors causing construction waste span the project life cycle, however, healthcare facilities have different features compared to other buildings due to functional and operational complexities. By means of a questionnaire followed by interviews with construction industry practitioners specialising in healthcare facilities, this paper aims to identify the level of importance given in the healthcare industry to minimising construction waste; recognising the effect on construction waste generation due to complexity and special features of healthcare facilities; exploring causes of waste particular to the healthcare lifecycle and to examining the waste minimisation strategies used in the industry. The findings revealed that lifecycle waste mapping in healthcare facilities is similar to other types of buildings. Results also indicate that waste management is not treated as a priority in the briefing and design stages of most healthcare facilities and is still seen as the responsibility of the contractor. Initiating waste minimisation practices at the construction stage inevitably results in loosing a number of effective waste reduction opportunities at the beginning of the project. The findings from this research contributes to a growing body of literature on sustainable healthcare construction and to support NHS policy on ‘greening the environment’ through reduction of construction waste. This paper concludes that a more integrated lifecycle approach is required to effectively reduce healthcare construction waste.