Exhibitor News: Cleaner Construction London

PLANTWORX is one of the UK's largest live, working construction events, providing the ultimate opportunity to demonstrate machine innovation and technology.

With around eighteen months until PLANTWORX 2022 the team are focused on sharing good news from exhibitors to the highly engaged PLANTWORX community. Set to feature in the monthly e-news we are keen to highlight new products/services and relevant updates online that support our industry to work safer or smarter.


One of the first to feature is Andrew Gordon. Andrew heads up the Cleaner Construction for London initiative that works in support of meeting the agreed emission levels in London. First time exhibitors at PLANTWORX 2019, perhaps better known by some as the NRMM (Non-Road Mobile Machinery) Project, NRMM is defined as any mobile machine or vehicle that is not solely intended for carrying passengers or goods on the road. The NRMM standards apply to all sites in Greater London. Andrew had some great news to share and an update on plans to roll this initiative out across the UK.


Emissions were a key focus for PLANTWORX 2019 which also saw the launch of the CESAR Emissions Compliance Verification initiative. Fixed alongside the standard “CESAR triangle” this new version of CESAR provides an immediate visual check on compliance backed up by a scannable QR code. The service is specifically aimed at those charged with monitoring compliance with Low Emission Zone requirements.


The focus on emissions  is a major part of  our industry’s    sustainability agenda – not least within the government’s Build Back Better and Build Back Greener initiatives in their COVID-19 recovery programme. PLANTWORX’s Amy Law spoke to Andrew about the steps being taken by him and his team:


Andrew, could you explain to us who you work for and your role?

I’m working for the Regulatory Services Partnership at Merton Council, where I’m part of the team that is delivering Cleaner Construction for London. This initiative is tackling air quality negative emissions arising from construction machinery and is operating across all 33 London boroughs. In simple terms the process has a number of functions, including awareness-raising, working with industry, and forming partnerships with boroughs to provide guidance. The project has a core on-the-ground assessment and auditing function. This checks the cleanliness of the engines in use, and ensures that they are compliant with the Mayor of London’s Low Emission Zone for Non-Road Mobile Machinery [NRMM].


When we first spoke it was because you and your team had recently won an award, could you tell us a bit more about that?

Yes, we were chuffed to bits about that! Right back this time last year we presented our project before judges at the Local Government Chronicle, a sort of a Dragons’ Den panel where innovative local authority projects compete for national awards across a number of categories. Then the global pandemic took-hold, so the awards event got postponed, and we got stuck into the challenges of continuing our important work. Then at the end of October we were finally at a virtual event, and despite being a very small team against some extremely impressive competition, we were crowned Environmental Services Team of the Year. It was great to get the recognition of course, but the real reason we were so pleased is that it’s a high-level national endorsement of our project methodology and approach, which is going to help us expand beyond London. Our current project is due to end in London in 2022, and we know we shall have to ensure that something replaces it in order to continue and build upon the work that’s been done so far, but why should this work not progress out of London? Why should additional cities undergoing vital regeneration not also seek to protect their residents from poor air quality through similar enforcement approaches? As the judges said on the night, our activity is: “Replicable on a significant scale,” with a “demonstrable impact the on move to be ‘cleaner’, influencing the supply chain on the way.”


So, we’re planning exactly such replication right now, and intend to reach out to a number of prospect cities and the construction industry once our products and processes have been finalised.


Many people will know the acronym NRMM and its reference to emissions for Non-Road Mobile Machinery but what is its aim / purpose?

We still find ‘NRMM’ to be a bit of a mouthful to be honest, despite having been deeply involved with it since 2016. Essentially and for our particular purposes, it’s the regulatory framework for the emissions characteristics arising from Non-Road Engines. It enables us to use EU directives to infer the likely emissions profiles of engines in terms of their Nitrogen Oxides and particulates. NRMM is about more than construction machinery, however we ourselves are directing our attention to engines on construction sites operating between 37 and 560kW, the ones the requirements apply to. That’s most of your typical site excavators, dumpers, telehandlers and the like, as well as generators and pumps, even the occasional tractor. If it’s an engine deployed on a construction site, then we’ll be looking at it. To provide a better understanding to our work we have rebranded the NRMM project tag to Cleaner Construction for London.


The first roll out in London focused on Stage IIIB engines, how has that impacted air quality in the city? 

It’s not quite that simple, there were zones set out with differing requirements, and in September 2020 the requirements hiked, again with zones, this time incorporating the large number of ‘Opportunity Areas’ around the city.


There are also complexities around the constant-speed engines typically found in generators, at first these could only be specified at IIIA, but now with the new directive, we are driving for EU Stage V.


From the information we collect during our audits of sites, we are able to analyse the change in the emission characteristics of the London fleet over the course of the project. In turn, we’re able to estimate the emissions we have prevented through our project. The emissions saved had reached 315 tonne of oxides of nitrogen and hydrocarbons (NOx+HC), and 17 tonne of particulate matter (PM) by April 2019. We are on-course and expect to reach 1500 tonne NOx+HC and 78 tonne PM by April 2022. We are currently exploring ways in which we can make these figures more relatable, such as the number of road vehicles you would have to remove from London to achieve the same emission reductions. Although this model is still being developed and has not yet been peer-reviewed.


What were the challenges / what was learnt during the first roll out?

We had to define a new system of working, one that is simple, easily understood, deliverable and measurable. We also, right at the beginning, decided that our approach would be one of partnership with industry and not simply a regulatory tool. The industry has changed and there is a clear desire to contribute to environmental impact mitigation.


We all had professional regulatory backgrounds and were rather expecting when coming into this field to be using the same kind of escalating enforcement approach that might be used for public nuisances such as noise and odour etc. What was immediately apparent however, was that all the organisations we were coming into contact with were keen to achieve compliance and keen to take on board recommendations as to procurement of plant, off-hiring, swapping-out dirtier engines etc. Quite simply, the ‘push-back’ we’d been braced and prepared for really wasn’t there. Certainly the challenges included how to ensure that site auditing, essentially the business of determining compliance or non-compliance of a site at a given time, actually translated into improved air-quality. How could we ensure that this was not just a red-tape exercise, another table-top activity with little delivery in the real world? I think our local authority backgrounds, with the method of having boots on the ground and old-fashioned clipboards, was a helpful starting point, we were practical and solutions-oriented with the sites we visited. We have the industry to thank for the success of the NRMM LEZ in London, huge strides have been made in 2016, the picture now is so different compared to then.

What happens next? Does compliance more to Stage IV and are there plans to roll it out to other cities?

In London it’s actually already Stage IV in the Central Activity Zone and in the Opportunity Areas.

What standards additional cities might choose to specify is for their own consideration, based on the modernity of the available fleet from the suppliers in those areas, and the urgency with which they seek to address the public health emergency of poor air quality. Whatever is specified needs to be achievable, otherwise the whole thing becomes an unreasonable expectation, and enforcement inoperable.


As we saw in London, we’d anticipate industry players in other cities to be keen on pushing the environmental and air quality agenda, and to showcase their organisations in the best light. A lot of what we do is actually to evidence and document the work that has been undertaken by site managers and environmental advisers, and to raise the profile of this activity in the face of their project delivery overall.


Who do PLANTWORX exhibitors and visitors talk to if they have questions on Cleaner Construction for London / NRMM? 

Drop me a line at andrew.gordon@merton.gov.uk

If you want to know more about the CESAR Emissions Compliance Verification initiative, please visit the website www.cesarscheme.org or email enquiries@cesarscheme.org