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The power of proactivity: Early environmental planning as a keystone for project success

Why early environmental planning is a game-changer

Environmental compliance is often perceived as a challenging hurdle in the construction industry. It's a myth that has pervaded the sector for years: the belief that prioritising environmental compliance inevitably leads to increased costs and delayed deadlines. This myth, likely rooted in past experiences or industry anecdotes, has become a common enemy, hindering project managers from realising the true potential of their projects. Today, we’d like to debunk this myth by highlighting the transformative power of early environmental planning, right from the tender stage.

Early planning – your blueprint for success

The stakes are high when embarking on a new construction project. But what if we told you that integrating environmental planning from the tender stage isn't just a regulatory checkbox but a strategic move that can elevate your project's efficiency and success? Here's why:

Pre-emptive problem-solving

Early environmental planning allows you to identify potential issues before they escalate into costly problems during construction. By proactively addressing concerns, you're not only safeguarding your project against regulatory pitfalls but also streamlining the process to avoid unforeseen delays. This approach shifts the narrative from 'reactive' to 'proactive', positioning you as a forward-thinking leader in the industry.

CASE STUDY. Navigating the regulatory and consenting process

Installing a culvert for access under specific conditions requires authorisation under The Water Environment (Controlled Activity) Regulations, commonly known as "CAR". The timeframe for receiving a response on a registration or licence can range from 30 days to four months. However, constructing a minor bridge that does not affect the riverbed or banks, circumvents the need for such registration or licence. This design approach is rewarded for its reduced environmental risk compared to a culvert installation.

While the design and materials for a bridge may incur higher costs than those for a culvert, the potential to save up to six weeks in a project timeline can be highly advantageous. Moreover, opting for a bridge over a culvert demonstrates a strong commitment to minimising environmental impact. This approach not only aligns with sustainable practices but can potentially lower the costs associated with fulfilling a project's Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) obligations, showcasing a balance between environmental stewardship and project efficiency.


Contrary to the belief that environmental management is a cost burden, identifying potential issues and outlining mitigation strategies during the tender stage is more cost-effective. Identifying environmental considerations early on can help optimise resource allocation, reduce the likelihood of penalties, and even uncover opportunities for sustainable, cost-saving alternatives. It's not about spending more; it's about spending smart.

CASE STUDY. Hay bales, silt fencing and false economy

Impact Assessments and standard Pollution Prevention Plans often suggest the use of hay bales and silt fencing as control measures for treating suspended solids. Consequently, these methods frequently appear in tender documents, leading to bids that include only these measures. While such bids may comply with the tender requirements, they expose the project to significant risks, including environmental pollution, potential regulatory action, reputational harm, and unexpected financial burdens.

Developing a comprehensive pollution management strategy, informed by industry good practice such as those found in the CIRIA series, is crucial at the tender stage. This approach not only outlines effective pollution risk management but also justifies the inclusion of costs associated with advanced measures like proactive drainage and, if necessary, chemical treatment systems.

Importantly, presenting a tender that goes beyond basic compliance demonstrates a commitment to safeguarding your client's reputation, highlighting that competitors who fail to offer such enhanced solutions may pose a risk to the same client.

Additionally, as projects evolve to meet Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) requirements, minimising the development footprint becomes increasingly vital. Traditional gravity treatment systems require extensive land use, which is now more costly due to the financial value assigned to habitats. By showcasing methods that reduce the land area needed for water treatment, albeit at a higher initial expense, a tender can offer cost efficiency when balanced against BNG calculations. This approach not only ensures environmental compliance but also demonstrates foresight in project planning and resource management.

Building a reputation

In the construction industry, reputation is everything. By prioritising environmental responsibility from the outset, you're not just meeting standards; you're demonstrating a willingness to set them. This commitment to environmental responsibility enhances your professional image, distinguishing your brand from your competitors and aligning your projects with the evolving values of society.

Elevating environmental performance, on time and budget: overcoming the myth

So, how did we come to believe this myth? The construction industry, historically focused on timelines and budgets, often viewed environmental compliance as an 'add-on' rather than an integral part of project planning. However, the is evolving, and so must our approach. Sustainable construction is no longer a niche concept; it's a mainstream expectation. By adapting to this shift, you're not just keeping up; you're leading the way.

Debunking this myth starts with a single step: recognising the value of early environmental planning - it's more than just a regulatory necessity; it's a strategic advantage. Whether you're a seasoned project manager or new to the field, it's never too late to integrate this mindset into your projects. By embracing this approach, you’ll enhance the efficiency and success of your projects and contribute to a more sustainable and responsible construction industry. Early environmental planning is the cornerstone of modern, successful construction management.


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