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Home Guest Writers Four things to consider when investing in eco-friendly welfare equipment

Four things to consider when investing in eco-friendly welfare equipment

A guest writer feature from Andy Grayshon, commercial director at Welfare Hire

The rail industry is working to reach carbon net zero by 2050 (as outlined in the Department for Transport’s 2021 ‘Transport Decarbonisation Plan’) – and its supply chain has a key role to play in these efforts. With tracking and reducing on-site emissions now a priority, rail construction companies are waking up to the benefits of eco-friendly equipment – including welfare units.

But equipment is only as sustainable as the sum of its parts. When choosing between eco-friendly welfare units, it’s crucial to look at the bigger picture: how is each model powered, how does it use water, what are its servicing requirements, how is it transported to and from site – and perhaps most importantly, does the data back up its suppliers’ claims?


How is the welfare unit powered?

Today’s most advanced welfare units rely on hybrid power technology – often a combination of solar panels, battery, and backup generator. These units might sound like a sustainable alternative to equipment powered solely by diesel, but not all hybrid technology is created equal. Site managers should always drill down, establishing for exactly how long a unit’s generator (the main source of its emissions) would need to run over the course of a normal working day.

This will often depend on its power management system – a smart feature, designed to decide which power source the unit draws from at any given time. The system in Welfare Hire’s ECO10Li unit always prioritises solar power, switching to a highly efficient lithium battery (itself charged by solar) when necessary. This smart system will only revert to generator power as a last resort – meaning that the unit itself requires a generator for around an eighth of the time of alternative models.

It’s also important to establish whether different appliances draw from different power sources. You might find that, due to a unit’s wiring, boiling a kettle triggers the generator – while only its heating system relies on natural solar power.

And the more solar panels a unit is fitted with, the more green energy it will generate. You should consider how many panels are required to meet your site’s own energy needs.

Ultimately, using less fossil fuel and more sustainable energy will enable you to reduce your on-site emissions. Ensure the eco-friendly welfare unit you choose is fitted with a power management system that supports this goal, prioritising clean energy sources.

Is the welfare unit using water sustainably?

And power isn’t the only consideration – you should also ask suppliers to explain how their units use water. The best models feature rainwater harvesting technology, which will enable you to top up your tanks more sustainably. ‘Grey water recycling’ (whereby water from sinks and kettles is reused in toilets) should also bolster sustainability efforts onsite.

Tank size matters too. The larger a unit’s fresh and wastewater tanks, the less often they will need to be topped up or emptied. Coupled with freshwater toilets (which are more hygienic than the chemical alternatives), they should enable you to increase the length of time between service visits.

How else could welfare equipment contribute to your carbon footprint?

And increasing service intervals won’t just lead to cost-savings – it will also help you to cut your carbon emissions further, removing lorries from the road. This might not sound significant – but, given that transport produced 27% of the UK’s total emissions (with 18% of this figure attributed to HGVs) in 2019 alone, it’s an important step.

Ensure that you understand each unit’s servicing requirements, which will depend not just on the size of their water tanks, but the amount of fuel they use.

Finally, it’s worth considering how a welfare unit will be transported to and from site. While many units are moved by HIAB lorry, Welfare Hire’s towable models can be transported using ULEZ-compliant pick-up trucks. This reduces both our own carbon emissions, and those of our clients.

Ultimately, site managers should take into account a unit’s entire carbon footprint, considering each stage of the hiring process, and the impact it could have on the environment.

Does the data support sustainability claims?

Suppliers often make bold claims about the sustainability benefits their welfare equipment offers. It’s important that they can support these claims with the right information, demonstrating how their units deliver carbon savings, and even providing data on onsite performance.

It’s something Welfare Hire works hard to deliver. Powered by real project data, our custom-built eco-calculator produces a clear summary of the carbon savings contractors could make, were they to invest in our lighting or welfare equipment. And, because our higher-end units are fitted with telemetry systems, we can share invaluable data on how and when different power sources were used.

Armed with this kind of information, site managers aren’t just able to make informed decisions about which unit to opt for – they also have a clearer understanding of their site’s sustainability, and how it could be improved.

To learn more about Welfare Hire’s products and services, visit

Photo credit: Welfare Hire

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