Construction And The Environment

There's no doubt that the construction industry impacts on the environment in many different ways, from air emissions, contamination of land and waste disposal  to noise, air and water pollution.  However as environmental consciousness increases, government agencies and contractors are increasingly working together to come up with new ways to tackle environmental issues and minimise the effects that construction techniques have on the environment.

Green construction

‘Green construction' is always a delicate balance between providing cost effective buildings without damaging the environment.  By using sustainable designs, construction methods and materials we can ensure that our valuable resources are being used more efficiently to create healthier and more energy efficient homes and buildings.  However sustainable construction is also determined by the quality of the site management.   Encouraging contractors to make the most efficient use of their resources, increase the recovery and recycling of materials, reduce carbon emissions (from both the construction methods and transport used to deliver goods) and avoid or reduce disposal costs also makes a big impact on the environment.

Making the most of resources

When considering environmental issues, it makes sense to ensure that all materials used are responsibly sourced and that they have been created using processes that leave a light footprint on the environment, but there are other ways to reduce the carbon footprint.   For example:

  • Using materials which contain recycled content
  • Using sustainable products such as timber from well managed and legal sources
  • Using  low odour paints
  • Avoiding wastage of materials by only ordering the exact quantity needed
  • Using suppliers who use minimal packaging
  • Using suppliers who will take back materials, particularly pallets.

Waste Disposal

When we consider that:-

  • Approximately 400 million tonnes of waste is produced on an annual basis in the UK; 72 million tonnes coming from the construction industry
  • 50% of the cost of building a structure is taken up by building materials and yet approximately 13% of these materials end up in a skip without ever being used.
  • The average cost of 8 cubic yard skip is around £150 and yet the average value of waste dumped in the skip from construction sites amounts to £1,200

It's easy to see why it makes sense for construction workers to evaluate a project prior to starting on site as this not only helps them to understand the potential impact on the environment, but leads to reduced costs by decreasing the amount of waste they produce.  It's no longer legal to just dump the contents of skips into landfill and correct disposal of waste is expensive.

Noise, air and water pollution

Construction sites know the importance of ensuring that their work does not interfere with the ‘neighbours'.   Many sites now take steps to minimise the impact on the surrounding area and lessen the potential nuisance of noise, vibrations, dust and emissions and odours by informing people in advance of the work commencing, erecting solid screens and using mufflers on equipment, switching off engines when equipment is not being used and using electric generators instead of petrol or diesel.


John is a ‘Self Build' project manager who helps others realise their dreams of building their own homes.  When not on site, he writes articles for several construction companies including Piling Equipment Ltd.

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