Students from the University of Edinburgh are helping one of the largest privately owned infrastructure groups in the UK embrace change within the construction industry.
Nine students are responding to a data-led challenge set by Robertson which looks at ways to reduce waste in the construction industry – identified as a priority sector in The Scottish Government’s first circular economy strategy, ‘Making Things Last’.
The challenge, which is part of the university’s Students as Change Agents (SAChA) project, saw the group analyse Robertson’s waste management data using the Building Research Establishment (BRE) Smartwaste tool, presenting their recommendations to design out waste and drive sustainability across the entire construction process.
To kick off the five-day challenge, the students participated in a training day before meeting with Robertson’s sustainability manager, Tony Grundy, and BRE’s Matt Bransby, who each gave an overview of the brief.
Tony said: “We’re huge supporters of any project that helps make a positive impact – in this case generating social change through data-led sustainability solutions.
“It’s been interesting to see how the students approached the challenge by analysing our innovation, construction, installation and maintenance waste and environmental data, providing a robust set of recommendations as to how we can continue to better our waste management procedures with the assistance of data.
“The challenge was of great value to not only the students but also to Robertson, and we look forward to continuing to support the University of Edinburgh with industry challenges.”
Funded by the City Region Deal Data-Driven Innovation (DDI) Programme, the challenge is designed to give students the chance to address real-world challenges with industry partners, and is open to students from all faculties.
Maria Gelen, a third year student at the university’s College of Humanities and Social Science, was in one of the teams to work on the challenge set by Robertson. Maria said: “The basic idea behind the challenge was to propose methods for designing out waste from the construction process. This involved different academic disciplines coming together to work towards the same goal. It was a great opportunity to put theory into practice with a real-world challenge.”
Ruth Donnelly, Assistant Director, University of Edinburgh Careers Service, said: “We’re delighted that so many of our talented and passionate students have been able to benefit from working with our external partners to become ‘change agents’. Together they have tackled complex challenges impacting on society, the environment and the economy, using data and working together across boundaries to drive innovation. This is an important step on our journey to become a challenge-led university, co-creating change with students, staff and partners.”
Support for the challenge also came from Zero Waste Scotland, which has worked closely with Robertson’s sustainability team to support waste management and maximise re-use of resources.