CIOB sustainability scholars focus on reducing waste

This year’s Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) Sustainability Scholars, Edward Dixon from Mace and Richard Bartlett from Willmott Dixon, have produced cutting edge research that addresses a sustainable approach to reducing waste from two different angles: how lean management can be used to reduce construction waste, and the influence of sustainability drivers for main contractors with regard to material choices in non-domestic construction.

Edward’s research found that lean management has been the subject of much research in the past twenty years with many papers highlighting synergies between lean and sustainability. With waste reduction being the primary goal of lean implementation, this research explored how lean principles and methodologies can be applied to reduce physical construction waste. Incorporating a literature review and both quantitative and qualitative primary research, the paper evaluates lean theory and examines its application in a variety of construction scenarios.

The principal findings of the research are that reducing waste requires engagement through collaborative planning and training programmes, with techniques such as designing out waste and clash detection proving to be less effective. Attitude towards risk in procurement was cited as the greatest causes of waste, with heightened involvement of subcontractors in the design process cited as an opportunity for improvement. The findings also suggest that much work is needed in the measurement of lean benefits, as little empirical evidence is available which demonstrates the efficacy of lean in the reduction of physical waste.  

CIOB Sustainability Scholars 2013/14: Edward Dixon (left) and Richard Bartlett (right)

Richard’s research explored what drives material selection from the main contractor and how sustainability drivers influence them. The research found that the contractor was inherently conservative with their traditional drivers forcing decisions. His results recognise that a circle of blame has developed where criticism is pushed onto construction practitioners for either not asking for sustainable materials or not specifying sustainable materials. Although it identified that a morecollaborative approach is required, the contractor has the responsibility in all stages of a project to encourage a move towards more-sustainable material selection. Most notably though, it was identified that globally there is still a great deal of complexity and lack of knowledge surrounding sustainability drivers, particularly in relation to risk and cost, and this issue requires addressing through regulation or industry development for integration to be successful.

Each of the scholars presented their research to an invited audience of senior professionals in the construction industry at a special evening on 24 September 2014 at the Global Headquarters of Mace in London. Mike Parrett FCIOB, Chair of the Sustainability Scholarship Panel and Junior Warden elect at the Worshipful Company of Constructors, said:

“On behalf of the Sustainability Scholarship Panel, it gives me enormous pleasure to congratulate both Scholars for their skill, dedication and intellect shown in producing two extremely thought provoking pieces of research. I am sure the research will make a valuable contribution to further reducing waste across the construction sector. We have got to know these two fine young men over the period of 18 months of research and I could not speak more highly of them both in their professionalism and dedication to these important study areas. They have truly embraced sustainability and how this relates to the world in which they work.”

The two scholars received an award of £3,000 each to complete a one-year research project of their own choice which will benefit the industry, the scholar and the company they work for. Established in 2007, the Sustainability Scholarship is run in a joint partnership between the CIOB, the Worshipful Company of Constructors, and the College of Estate Management.

The CIOB is currently inviting applications for the Sustainability Scholarships 2014/15. For further information please contact the Scholarships Team (01344 630748; E-mail:

For full versions of the scholar’s research please contact Dr Chung-Chin Kao, Innovation and Research Manager,the Chartered Institute of Building (E-mail:


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