Quantifying how the construction industry impacts the environment entails a multitude of factors. The materials used, machinery emissions, transportation and the general sustainability of the completed building are just some of the aspects to consider when reviewing the environmental effect of the construction industry.
However, this also means that there is plenty of scope for precautions and measurements to be put in place to help reduce the undesirable impact construction can have on the environment.
How Much Does the Construction Industry Contribute to Global Warming?
A report by the United Nations Environment Program in 2017 estimated that both buildings and the construction process contributed to 36% of the energy used throughout the world. Around 39% of the planet’s carbon dioxide is also linked to the energy released by the industry on a yearly basis.
A Recorded Decrease In the Carbon Footprint of the ‘Built Environment’
However, it is also important to note that the UK’s Green Construction Board has recorded some reductions in the industry’s contribution to environmental welfare from 1990.
The decrease is due to a combination of two elements. Firstly, the increase in building insulation from 2008 to 2012. Secondly, the drop in the greenhouse gas emissions of grid electricity since the start of the 90s.
How Can the Construction Industry Improve Their Environmental Impact?
Here at Martin Perry Associates, our team of structural engineers in Plymouth and Cornwall work on a diverse range of construction projects. Whether projects include old or new builds, we know there are many ways to adapt the construction process for the welfare of the environment. Listed below are some of the considerations.
Consider the Building Materials Available
Before construction even begins, it is advised to plan ahead and carefully deliberate on the suitable materials which can be implemented that are also reflect an environmentally conscious choice.
These materials could include:
• Natural building materials
• Building materials produced with a reduced amount of carbon dioxide
• Recycled building materials
The Green Guide
With the introduction of the Green Guide, businesses in the construction sector have been advised on which materials can support the environment as opposed to damaging it.
Since the Green Guide has been published, 230,000 construction projects are regarded as having a reduced impact on the environment. Furthermore, it is estimated that over one million businesses in the sector are pending certification across the world.
Integrate Renewable Energy Sources Into the Design
It is not only the construction of the building that needs consideration with regards to the carbon footprint but also the future impact that the building will have on the environment.
Eco- Consciousness Begins at the Design Stage of Construction
Contemplating the sustainability of the building and how it will affect the environment will start in advance of the construction process and begin at the design stage of the creation.
What Renewable Energy Sources to Include
There are many elements to deliberate when choosing renewable and decreased energy sources for the final product.
For example, one possibility could be to ensure natural light entering the building is increased through well-placed windows. This, in turn, may help to reduce the energy used for lighting.
Other considerations may include:
• Smart appliances
• Solar panels
• HVAC systems
Choose Efficient Building Methods
How buildings are produced will, of course, have an impact on the environment. There are many avenues to consider, and below we have provided a few basic ones.
One of the ways to reduce wasted energy is to ensure that equipment and machinery are up to date and functioning correctly. This could be through regulated maintenance tasks which contribute to the upkeep.
There may be newly released alternatives that some companies want to invest in for a more energy and time-efficient method of construction.
Fossil fuels, such as diesel and gas, are not environmentally sustainable. To try and decrease their usage in vehicles, plan effectively to reduce distances when in transportation as well as reducing any idle waiting time when not in use.
In addition to this, items of machinery may be upgraded to improve the efficiency of fuel. There may be an alternative, greener fuel which is not only better for the construction process, but also beneficial for the environment. Hybrid equipment is also an excellent solution which can improve the number of harmful emissions released while on site.
One of the most frequent complaints is noise pollution. Building work can affect those residing or working near the construction site, so this needs to be thoroughly contemplated.
Ways to combat this would include informing the surrounding residence of the planned construction as well as working in suitable time zones, such as avoiding times early on the weekend.
Ensure Waste Product isn’t Released into the Environment
Instead of sending waste to landfill, consider which materials can be reused or recycled.
Furthermore, ensure any harmful substances are treated correctly to avoid any harm to the environment as well as construction workers. Substances to be aware of include wastewater from the washout of concrete, paints, oils, fuel and other materials used on the construction site.
Hopefully, our points have inspired you to consider more environmentally friendly options during the construction process. If you have any further advice you would like to share with us, why not contact us on our social media channels?