We recognise that the nature of our business has environmental and social impacts and that we have a responsibility to consider and minimise these impacts where possible. There is guidance as to how the Group, its suppliers and its contractors should operate to achieve this. In 2016, a review of the current panel of suppliers' Environmental Policies was conducted.
Most redundant properties no longer required by the MoD are refurbished, a form of recycling that brings valuable housing stock back into good repair and returns homes to the national housing stock and to the public for future use. Additionally, there has been a growing body of research indicating that extending the life cycle of buildings by refurbishment is preferable to demolition in terms of imporved environmental, social and economic impacts (eg. UCL Urban Lab's 'Demolition or Refurbishment of Social Housing' Oct 2014 Report, BHSF's 'New Tricks with Old Bricks 2008 Report).
Given the geographical spread of the Group's portfolio and proximity to MoD bases, there may be some concern about contamination resulting from previous uses. However, historically, only two sites released by the MoD have been found to have any traces of contamination. In both instances, action was taken to remove the material and replace with 'clean' soil. The Group complies with all legislation and Health and Safety regulations with regards to the handling of dangerous materials. Given the age of some of the properties, there have been instances where asbestos has been found. Any such materials have been, and will continue to be professionally removed and disposed of or, where advised to do so, left in situ but appropriately treated and marked . In 2016, audits were conducted across all sites with external consultants to assess and measure the levels of recycling possible across developments. These findings will be used as benchmarks moving forward.
In line with our Sustainable Procurement Policy, we have a preference for using materials and products that can be ethically sourced and have a low environmental impact, if their technical performance meets the required standards and they are economically viable for refurbished properties. In 2016 the Group partnered with an external advisor to undertake an environmental and sustainability assessment on large projects. Initiatives that resulted included the decision to move towards the installation of air source heat pumps and improved energy efficient boilers.