Ever growing demand for homes in select locations at affordable prices might mean construction companies are forced to put the environment low on the agenda. Chase Norton Construction Ltd is one company that thinks differently. Annie Roberts talks to managing director Alistair Lindsay
Every brick, every lorry delivery and even every plan that needs to be drawn all comes under scrutiny for the teams working at Chase Norton Construction.
Alistair Lindsay explains: "Chase Norton is well aware of the impact our activities can have on the environment and strives to minimise any negative consequence whenever we can. This is why we take a stringent approach to environmental management – both off and on site."
These efforts have not gone unrewarded – it has recently become one of the first Midlands-based companies to be accredited with the internationally acclaimed environmental standard ISO 14001.
The standard is only awarded to companies that have implemented and displayed the most efficient environmental management process and, in industry terms, is considered to be the cornerstone standard of the ISO 14000 series.
The strategy that earned the award starts well away from the building sites and in the offices. Most teams now operate in a ‘paperless’ office with systems in place that mean there is no longer a need to produce reams of documents.
"It has been difficult to implement such a big change but it is now beginning to work," said Alistair, who explained planning applications and tenders, for example, are now electronically generated rather than printed on to paper.
The archive system has been improved and is more efficient and accessible and the long drawn out tendering process, that traditionally generated reams of paperwork, is now done online.
"It is about getting each person to think differently and see how they can do things differently," explained Alistair, who became Chase Norton’s managing director in 2002 when he joined the company.
He leads a team of 50 staff based at the head office in Meriden and another 80 field personnel who face their own challenges to respect the environment.
Alistair said: "The nature of our work means we move into an area, do what we have to do and then we move on to the next job. To us it is important that we leave the right impression and keep any disruption to a minimum."
Chase Norton’s environmental management system has five assessment stages that allow for a wide variety of options to be taken into account before, during and after the construction of each prospect. These range from careful planning of delivery routes and times to the implementation of effective waste management processes.
The choice of materials can affect a build – the balance between the use of sustainable materials and those available locally rather than having to be imported.
"Decisions have to be taken about what we will and will not use – sometimes what seems to be the cheapest option may not be the best in the long term for the environment," explained Alistair.
One example is the choice of bricks – maybe imported from China or selected because a planning authority is insisting on a particular colour while readily accessible ones are available closer to home.
"It might be the case that there have to be compromises but in the long term it is better for everyone," said Alistair.
The company works closely with the group’s affordable housing division, Chase Partnership Homes. The affordable housing sector is viewed in the industry as the frontrunner for environmental management procedures and Alistair acknowledged that new owners will often want to know their home has been built with respect to the environment.
"Working hand-in-hand with the sector has undoubtedly influenced our own approach to environmental procedures and has subsequently allowed us to position ourselves ahead of many of our peers in our field."
But Alistair is like a growing number of business people in today’s world of commerce and industry. "I have young children and, whatever you believe, I want to know that I did what I could for the environment when I had the chance. It is important to me."