In many areas of building materials manufacture and supply, an increasingly important decision making factor on the choice of which product should be used in a construction project is not so much what is produced, but how it is produced.
In an industry where the consumption of raw materials, water and energy have often been quite high, many of the more enlightened manufacturers now recognise that minimising waste and reducing inputs can be a virtuous tool in keeping costs under control, as well as creating competitive brand advantage.
The use of gas extracted from land-fill sites to fire kilns in the brick industry is a good example; another is the increased use of recycled aggregates and water in concrete products manufacture.
In the production of roofline and rainwater goods for the housing new-build and refurbishment sector, the approach to manufacture and distribution efficiency is reaching evangelical levels.
Here the use of timber for roofline work – fascia, soffit, barge boards etc at the interface of wall and roof, has largely been taken over by cellular PVC components. Better consistency of materials, ease of working, long life and nil-maintenance have all lead to the gradual dominance of the material.
Cellular PVC can also be fully re-cycled at the end of its service life, adding a further eco-nail in the coffin of timber
But as environmental pressures on the manufacture of this material increase, the need to bear down even further on water and energy consumption and maximise the use of recycled materials becomes ever more critical.
Midlands based PVC roofline and rainwater specialists, Swish Building products has just released figures from its latest  environmental audit. Data shows that since 2008 when Swish began its ongoing “Resource Use Policy”, their manufacturing site at Tamworth has reduced its carbon footprint per tonne of production by 28.8%.
Significant reductions in energy inputs, water usage and scrappage rates during manufacture have all been achieved together with marked improvements in transport efficiency, better levels of service and reductions in fuel usage.
According to Swish, their standard gutter and downpipe systems are now made with 84% recycled PVC, using only a co-extruded skin of virgin material to aid colour matching and to ensure colour retention. As the reprocessing of PVC requires almost 90% less energy than virgin material, approximately 70% less carbon is produced overall in the manufacturing process for these products.
Swish achieved ISO14001 Environmental Management Certification in 2007 and their Resource Use Policy sets out the Company’s commitment to further reducing and refining its use of resources based on the principles of Vinyl Plus, the European PVC industry’s own commitment to meaningful environmental action over the period to 2020.
In 2015, Swish also achieved ISO50001 Energy Management Certification, demonstrating its commitment to continuing environmental improvement.
Swish’s expresses its reductions in environmental impacts in the equivalent output of CO2 per tonne of production. Their major achievements during 2016 and since 2008 look like this:
During this period, Swish also became the first plastics company to achieve BES6001 Responsible Sourcing Certification, engaging with suppliers and ensuring their capabilities in environmental matters.
Minimising waste and employing efficient methods of production to make products with a long working life and next to no maintenance requirement, creates something of a virtuous circle.
This, in combination with a wider programme of activities included in the Swish Resource Use Policy, such as short, medium and long term resource usage, alternate material sourcing, staff, supply-chain and installer engagement and a system that allows the return of damaged or misshapen boards for recycling, all bodes well for the Company.