Author: Jonathan Cox, Marketing Director – Rye Group.
If you’ve ever been to a conference, exhibition or summit as a speaker you’ll know that there is a degree of trepidation on the run up.
No matter how well you know your subject and how well prepared you believe you are, there are many unknowns outside your sphere of influence. In 2020, Rye Group launched its Sustainable Standard strategy, looking at different ways in which we could make a positive impact wherever we worked. It was through this framework and the ensuing industry outreach that we were invited to the World Demolition Summit by the Editor of Demolition and Recycling International magazine, Steve Ducker.
The World Demolition Summit is an annual coming together of demolition professionals from, as the name would suggest, across the world. It’s an opportunity to network, to share best practice and to learn from leading consultants, contractors and specialists deploying the latest innovations on demolition projects globally. It’s a chance to grow.
Steve asked our SHE Director, Ben Griffiths, and I to make the trip to Vienna (carbon offset of course!) to share our experience of running a carbon audit as an SME demolition contractor. There is much that I could write on that topic, but I’ll save that for another day.
That said however, our reason for attending is a brilliant pre-cursor to the nature of the entire event.
This vibe of collaboration, innovation and conservation ran throughout the 2 day event and is a true beacon of hope and positivity for the industry, which so often struggles with, often unfounded, negative perceptions.
The summit kicked off with a networking reception on the evening of Wednesday 16 November and the conference proper got underway on the morning of 17 November.
Throughout the day, twelve different speakers, shared their experience and expertise on everything from challenging projects such as the remote-control restoration of Christchurch using elaborate cab mounted camera systems, material traceability in the pursuit of net zero, the circular carbon economy in demolition, skills shortages, the implications of legacy asbestos spacer blocks and more.
Of particular interest to us, were the two presentations either side of our session on carbon auditing.
Simon Hébert of Delsan Environmental Services in Canada spoke about the traceability of materials in demolition and shared one way in which the industry can work to ensure waste materials from demolition projects are re-used, sustainably processed or ethically disposed of through material passports.
In a hop across the arctic circle, Kati Tuominen of Purkupiha Group in Finland built on this idea by exploring the concept of the circular economy in demolition.
Both sessions presented some really interesting and challenging concepts in how the industry (demolition and construction together) can work to optimise the lifespan of buildings, reduce waste and maximise re-use of materials when demolition is unavoidable.
This was certainly food for thought as we returned to the UK, though it is not a simple journey.
In truth, these innovations are going to take time to implement, refine and optimise. Mindsets will need shifting, new technology will need to be introduced, government policy will need to evolve and end to end value chain collaboration will be required. Industry bodies such as the National Federation of Demolition Contractors, the Institute of Demolition Engineers and the European Demolition Association are going to need to step up and provide expert guidance to drive the industry forward, but the opportunity is there, and we will look to seize the moment ourselves.
Hopefully others will too.
In conclusion, as people came together from across the globe there really was a spirit of sharing and openness. Professionals who had little to gain by sharing ideas and information with their competitors freely opened up. Delegates were curious, asking many questions throughout the day and were rewarded with candour, humour and friendship: fundamental ingredients for growth and industry wide change.
That trepidation and uncertainty Ben and I felt stepping onto the plane at Heathrow was understandable, but we were rewarded with a thought provoking and encouraging experience that demonstrates that sustainability is not just the domain of the supposed ‘tofu eating wokerati’, but a topic that people across the globe care about, even in industries such as demolition and construction!
Photos courtesy of Demolition & Recycling International & Joe Mather Photography