Early integration of waste management strategies during design is key to providing sustainable solutions that function in harmony with the rest ofthe development, says Peter Hambling MCIWM, senior waste consultant at Velocity Transport Planning.
Who or what is to blame for communal bins overflowing, or a discarded mattress restricting bin-store access? How about bins left out for days after collection, or contaminated recycling bins?
Lack of consideration for the management of waste within a residential or commercial environment has the potential to bring significant detrimental effects across the lifetime of the development. As a consultant for a firm providing waste-related planning advice, I am responsible for helping design out these issues from future buildings, as well as improving their overall sustainable performance.
Consideration of waste management alongside other disciplines, such as transport or architecture, at an early stage of the design is key to sustainable solutions that function in harmony with the rest of the development.
Since the widespread introduction of kerbside recycling collections, it is now common practice for new developments to accommodate appropriate storage of the chosen segregated materials. Until recently, little – or no – consideration was given to how requirements will change over time, and sufficient space is rarely available to respond to the changing requirements of local authorities to store and manage waste effectively. This can lead to contamination, overflowing bins and fly-tipping.
Given the length of time modern developments are expected to operate, we need to apply a long-term vision to ensure their waste facilities are designed to allow flexibility and avoid unforeseen operational issues in future.
Starting with a strategy
An effective waste management strategy should be considered a fundamental component of any high-quality development; improperly managed waste can cause significant degradation of the public realm or communal spaces. Proper management of waste demands valuable space at ground-floor level for compliant collection access, which conflicts with the need to create an appealing aesthetic and revenue-generating areas that bolster overall viability and planning committee approval.
Compounding this issue is the need to accommodate structural, mechanical, and electrical requirements (among others) in accordance with Building Regulations.
Developments proceed largely based on their financial viability, which drives increasing housing density and maximum delivery of lettable commercial area. Management of waste is regularly not considered a priority by developers and, so, addressed too late in the design process to provide effective solutions.
All too frequently, the introduction of waste planning consultants to the design process is a late one, with inappropriate and undersized areas ringfenced for waste management, leading to difficult, last-minute changes to well-established design proposals to offer compliant solutions.
Not only is this a more costly approach, but the opportunity is missed to introduce more innovative waste-handling methods to the detriment of the sustainable performance of the development across its lifetime.
Local authorities providing comprehensive guidance is the first step towards ensuring the built environment in future gives appropriate consideration to the management of waste
Operational waste strategies are largely influenced by guidance or policy published by the planning authority, culminating in a document detailing the operational waste management strategy for submission as part of the planning application. There can be significant variance between guidance documents – and, in some circumstances, a total absence of policy.
Local authorities providing comprehensive guidance is the first step towards ensuring the built environment in future gives appropriate consideration to the management of waste. This is being increasingly recognised by some authorities, as developers are required to demonstrate consideration of alternative residential waste-storage methods, such as underground, pneumatic, or in compactors, particularly for larger development proposals.
Such an approach offers flexibility on how the design develops, and the opportunity to implement more efficient collection methods beneficial to collection authorities in the face of ever increasing financial pressures. For this to happen, and to provide a well-functioning and future-proofed built environment, waste management needs to be given the consideration it deserves early in the design process.
The planning authorities that stipulate the information required for submission as part of the application can drive this change by including operational waste within their policies. More needs to be done to encourage developers to engage with their waste team during the application process, and include strategy documents as a mandatory planning requirement. This is already the case for transport, air quality or noise impact assessments, for example. While it may seem unlikely to ever be a design priority, integration of innovative and effective waste management within the future built environment is going to rely on the collaboration of developers, architects and local authorities.
Consideration of waste management alongside other disciplines, such as transport or architecture, at an early stage of the design is key to sustainable solutions that function in harmony with the rest of the development. It is crucial that we raise the profile of waste management among all stakeholders in the planning sector and highlight the short- and long-term implications of excluding it from the design process.
The built environment of the future needs a proactive approach to waste management design to ensure the mistakes of the past are not repeated.
This article first appeared in the March/April issue of Circular magazine.