Most Effective Use of IT in Construction

Winner: Skanska UK

Project: Waste Management System

Business goal: To build a system for recording details of disposable waste, ensuring compliance with industry regulations and analysing data to be proactive in minimising waste taken to landfill sites.

As Europe’s third largest construction services group, Skanska has a long history of building landmarks, especially in London. Its best-known works include the iconic Swiss Re glass tower – affectionately as ‘the gherkin’, the modernisation of the Department of Defence’s headquarters at Whitehall and the redevelopment of St Bartholomew's Hospital. Its next project is the building of Heron Tower, a 222 metre skyscraper in the heart of the City of London that will be the financial district’s tallest building when completed.

With projects on this scale, construction waste is a natural by-product that can be costly to deal with and have a highly negative environmental impact. In the past, waste materials – unused timber, metal, concrete and bricks – were sent to landfill sites. And although Skanska has long encouraged its site managers to take responsibility for the disposal of materials safely and cleanly, its paper-based and spreadsheet system for recording and analysing waste was inefficient. The sheer volume of data often meant that extra resources were needed just to help with manual inputting.

Automating those processes resulted in the Skanska Waste Management System (WMS), with spectacular results: using the system on a recent contract reduced the amount of waste taken to landfill sites by 80%.

“The WMS helps to identify what your waste streams are,” says Gary Rogerson, an environmental manager at Skanska. “And it helps in identifying suppliers who can recycle the materials instead of the materials been sent to landfill sites.”

The system – which uses a web-based front-end designed using Microsoft .NET Framework 1.0 and SQL Server as the back-end database – took just 40 days to complete by a single developer, one IT project manager plus input from a team of site waste managers who set out the requirements and tested the system. Hosted on Skanska’s intranet, the WMS allows managers to enter waste details from networked Portacabins on larger building sites or using a dial-up connection on smaller sites.

Having proved the effectiveness and popularity of the system among site managers, Skanska is now expanding WMS with a Hazardous Waste module that should go some way to ensure it is known for its environmental credentials as well as its spectacular buildings.

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