GirlEng Case Study-Sustainable Growth

iTuesday, Aug 19th, 2014 comments by Amien

GirlEng Case Study

Sustainable Growth

Unilever is passionate about reducing its environmental impact and constantly look for ways of innovating and growing sustainably. Unilever plans to double the size of its business while halving its environmental impact by the year 2020. A new factory is being built in South Africa to support Unilever's ambition.  Read the attached news article and write a 1-2 pg report on how Unilever can incorporate sustainability into the design and build of their new factory.

Why should you complete the case study? Completing the case study will compliment your bursary application and will assist Unilever in deciding successful bursary candidates.

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Building a recycled legacy

Most of us are now dab hands at sorting our waste into our plastic boxes, but will we ever see it again? Will our old bottles, and cans and yesterday's newspapers come back to us in a useful form? Could we build an entire house from them? With more and more households offering their rubbish to be recycled - the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs wants councils to recycle 25% of household waste in 2005-6 - there is increasing potential for the development of recycled materials in this country. But first we have to get used to the idea of using recycled products.

"It is a case of educating the building trade to use more recycled construction materials. By increasing the demand, the value of recovered material increases and it becomes more cost effective to sort and recycle waste instead of dumping it in landfill sites," says Wrap, the Waste and Resources Action Programme, which hopes next year to increase the value of materials or products with recycled content used by the construction industry by £330 million.

Each year in the UK, construction activity consumes 420 million tonnes of material. Construction and demolition also produce about 90 million tonnes of waste each year. Of this, about half is recycled, mainly into construction applications. "The potential exists to recover and re-use much more material, both from construction/demolition and from other waste streams," says Wrap. "For example, the UK generates up to 5.5 million tonnes of glass waste each year, of which we currently recycle less than 20%. Of the 1.4 million tones of plastic used in construction each year, only 10% is recycled content. And more than 9 million tonnes of timber-based products are used by the construction industry each year, whereas only one-third of a million tonnes is recycled wood, of the 3-5 million tonnes of waste wood available."

But it seems that the building trade is slowly waking up to the idea of green building. Keith Hall, editor of the magazine Building For the Future, a specialist publication that serves as a forum for builders to share environmentally sound ideas, says he has seen his subscription go up from just a couple of hundred to a current readership of 3,000. "In the past 18 months it has started to mushroom, everyone is having to face up to the environmental impact of what they do, and new building regulations are forcing builders to consider greener options."

Richard Lanning, Operations Manager at the London-based company Construction Resources, which distributes materials for sustainable buildings, has noticed a similar trend. "We are now spending all our time trying to keep up with the ever increasing demand for our products," he says. In the US, the car manufacturer Honda has proved what is possible with their Gresham, Northwest regional facility, which has been built almost entirely with environmentally friendly products. Every element of the building has a high recycled and recyclable content.

The US Green Building Council (USGBC) awarded the site its Gold Leadership in Environmental Energy Design (LEED) rating. Gold is the second-highest LEED rating and only three buildings in the US have received the distinction, according to the USGBC.

In the 212,888-square-foot warehouse, training centre and regional office, the carpets are made from 100% recycled wool, the tabletops are made of crushed sunflower seeds, and the wall coverings started out life as telephone directories. The chairs have been made from recycled car bumpers and the flooring from recycled car tyres. The building utilises natural daylight as much as possible, with an abundance of skylights and windows and sensors to assess daylight levels and dim the fluorescent lamps accordingly.

The warehouse has been built with 90% recycled structural steel and has no mechanical heating or cooling. Water is collected on the roof, which is used in the toilets and landscaping.

With this truly innovative building, Honda have shown themselves to be environmental leaders. "We hope other companies will be inspired by Honda's achievement," said Christine Ervin, president of the USGBC. "They have demonstrated that a commercial building can be environmentally friendly, energy efficient and support normal business activity."

We may be lagging behind in this country, but Lanning believes that it is now possible to build a house almost entirely out of recycled or re-used products. "You can create a solid building brick by filling an old tyre with compacted rubbish and soil from the site. You can insulate the structure with recycled material; paint and finish it with ecologically sound products, or using waste paint secured from the Paint Reuse scheme. Furniture can then be sourced from places such as Salvo or the London Furniture Exchange," he explains.

So keep filling that recycling box - you may find yourself living in it one day.

Reference : 'Building a recycled legacy',, 2011, accessed 12 June 2014 ,,,1663666,00.html

For more information on the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, please visit

Terms and Conditions

  • The case study is open to grade 11's and 12's in the year of 2014
  • Vacation work length is dependent on the length of the holiday
  • The vacation work time of year will be at the discretion of Unilever
  • The vacation work will be in the Engineering Field only
  • The student must be medically fit - this will be assessed by the site clinic
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