RG Group: Brunel House, student accommodation development

0% landfill diversion

Exceeded targets of 98% set by RG Group at the project outset

0 tonnes of waste managed

Full waste compound designed despite a limited site footprint to enable advanced site segregation

0% reduction in waste expenditure

Overall waste expenditure for the project was reduced by 27% compared to general waste disposal costs

Student accommodation

Brunel House is one of Bristol’s best-known buildings, having been designed in the mid-19th century by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and built as a hotel for travellers. After being redeveloped in the 1980s and occupied by Bristol City Council’s planning department, in 2016 the building was purchased by property development company, Unite Students, for conversion into student accommodation

With the renovation plans approved in 2017, responsibility for converting Brunel House into 246 student bedrooms was awarded to leading building contractor specialist, RG Group. With only limited on-site space to deal with waste, RG Group contracted Reconomy to manage the segregation, collection and disposal of on-site waste materials, setting an ambitious, but achievable, 98% landfill diversion target.  The project represented the first time RG Group and Reconomy had worked together. With opportunities for future collaboration resting on the outcome, there was a strong desire to demonstrate the full extent of Reconomy’s waste management expertise to RG Group.

Waste management

With no external structural work required, and all internal demolition and reconfiguring already completed, Reconomy personnel arrived on-site in November 2017. Their first job was to carry out a site audit, which identified the specific waste steams requiring segregating and disposal, namely: packaging and light mixed recycling, metals, hazardous waste, timber, plasterboard, canteen waste and general waste. Due to limited on-site space, it was agreed that only 8-yard skips, front-end loaders and wheelie bins would be used within the site’s waste compound area. Due to the narrow archway from Brunel House’s front façade to the waste compound only allowing for single vehicle access, Reconomy and RG Group collaborated to develop waste collection schedule that minimised the risk of any vehicle delivery / collection times overlapping.


Once the waste compound area was established, Reconomy provided all subcontractor managers with a toolbox talk that had been created specifically for the site. This included examples of good and bad practices, reinforced the importance of good segregation and outlined the consequences of cross-contamination, including the potential risk of fines. This information was then cascaded down by the subcontractor managers to their operatives, while the message was further reinforced through posters on noticeboards, leaflets in the canteen, and high-visibility signage around the waste compound. To maintain the pressure on trades to abide by the site’s waste segregation rules, the toolbox talks were regularly repeated throughout the duration of the project.


To segregate waste at source, wheelie bins were placed on each level of the building to collect hazardous, general and packaging waste. Once full, these were then transported down to the ground-level waste compound. Despite the wheelie bins being colour coded, incidents of cross-contamination were still being reported. To overcome this, the decision was made to station additional labourers at the waste compound’s entrance to systematically check the contents of each wheelie bin before tipping it into its associated skip. Though this did increase labour costs, it was considered by the site management team to be a minimal expense in comparison to the potential fines they would have faced if skips had left the site filled with cross-contaminated waste.

Achieving results

All renovation work on Brunel House was completed on schedule and in time for the 2018/19 academic year. Throughout the project, Reconomy managed a total of 190.5 tonnes of waste on behalf of RG Group, successfully diverting 98.3% away from landfill. By implementing a full waste segregation programme on-site, Reconomy reduced the project’s overall waste expenditure by 27%, compared against ‘general waste’ disposal costs. Furthermore, by brokering a rebate on the project’s scrap metal, Reconomy helped RG Group to recoup 97% of the site’s metal waste disposal costs. The Brunel House project was regarded as a trial of Reconomy’s waste management service offering by RG Group, and thanks to its success, Reconomy’s services have so far been retained on a further 23 RG Group projects, with more set to be announced in the coming months.