Sustainability in construction: Reducing environmental impact
We take a detailed look at what the industry can do to decrease the environmental impact both on-site and through architectural processes
The construction industry has never been considered the most planet-friendly industry for good reason. Studies have shown that construction is responsible for almost half of climate change and 40% of energy usage globally. It also contributed very heavily to landfill waste in addition to considerable air, water and noise pollution along with the destruction of natural habitats.
The effects of climate change are becoming more pronounced year and year, and the industry has finally begun to focus more on its environmental impact. The industry is implementing several on-site processes to minimize the effect of climate change on top of other methods such as green building designs during the planning process.
Limiting Fuel Usage
Across construction sites all over the world, heavy motorised machinery is heavily used to enable greater efficiency and accuracy. They can bring a plethora of benefits to the construction site and the industry as a whole, but they have a damning impact on the environment thanks to the internal combustion engines that power them, often fuelled with fossil fuels such as petrol and diesel. Fuel usage can be limited by minimising haul distances and reducing vehicle idling time if at all possible. A range of hybrid and electrical equipment continues to be introduced which can also help reduce noise pollution around a construction site in addition to the amount of CO2 emissions produced.
As explained above, the use of electric heavy machinery can be used to reduce noise in and around construction sites, but much more can be done in addition to this. Many good construction firms limit their working hours so they do not disturb the local area where businesses and houses are usually just a stone's throw away. Moreover, construction firms can and should send letters to nearby businesses and residential properties warning them of the potential noise that sites could cause and explaining the effect of noise pollution in the surrounding areas.
Properly Dispose of Waste
It’s been reported that in 2014 well over 530 tons of construction material waste was dumped in the United States, in which most went to landfill. This number is expected to be even higher now as the population continues to expand. Demolition waste makes up for 90% of this figure. Although there will always be some degree of waste coming from an industry such as construction, this can be reduced significantly by salvaging, reusing and recycling any waste materials. These can then be used for projects in the future which eliminates the need for brand new materials to be manufactured.
Utilize Reusable Technology
Reusable technology doesn’t have to be significantly expensive. Some low-cost reusable and recyclable materials include composite materials, prefabricated panels and shipping containers. All of these materials are both very good quality and can be used again and again which can help reduce the negative impact on the environment. Some of these materials can unlock further benefits. For example, prefabricated panels can save a lot of time and money on labour which makes them very efficient.
Expedite Your Project
Accelerating your construction project can bring a range of advantages for the environment. Firstly, traffic disturbance can be greatly reduced increasing a firm’s reputation thanks to lower carbon emissions and noise pollution. Ambitious completion goals should be implemented in order to stay on track.
Eco-Friendly Building Design
The design phase in any construction project is a great opportunity to set eco-friendly goals and make smart choices in order to assure a green construction process. Companies should consider choices such as natural building materials which produce less CO2 during their manufacturing process. In addition to this, renewable energy should be considered to power these buildings from passive solutions such as rainwater collection systems to renewable energy sources such as solar panels.
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Major move forward for UK’s nascent marine energy sector
Although the industry is small and the technologies are limited, marine-based energy systems look to be taking off as “the world’s most powerful tidal turbine” begins grid-connected power generation at the European Marine Energy Centre.
At around 74 metres long, the turbine single-handedly holds the potential to supply the annual electricity demand to approximately 2,000 homes within the UK and offset 2,200 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Orbital Marine Power, a privately held Scottish-based company, announced the turbine is set to operate for around 15 years in the waters surrounding Orkney, Scotland, where the 2-megawatt O2 turbine weighing around 680 metric tons will be linked to a local on-land electricity network via a subsea cable.
How optimistic is the outlook for the UK’s turbine bid?
Described as a “major milestone for O2” by CEO of Orbital Marine Power Andrew Scott, the turbine will also supply additional power to generate ‘green hydrogen’ through the use of a land-based electrolyser in the hopes it will demonstrate the “decarbonisation of wider energy requirements.”
“Our vision is that this project is the trigger to the harnessing of tidal stream resources around the world to play a role in tackling climate change whilst creating a new, low-carbon industrial sector,” says Scott in a statement.
The Scottish Government has awarded £3.4 million through the Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund to support the project’s construction, while public lenders also contributed to the financial requirements of the tidal turbine through the ethical investment platform Abundance Investment.
“The deployment of Orbital Marine Power’s O2, the world’s most powerful tidal turbine, is a proud moment for Scotland and a significant milestone in our journey to net zero,” says Michael Matheson, the Cabinet Secretary for Net-Zero, Energy and Transport for the Scottish Government.
“With our abundant natural resources, expertise and ambition, Scotland is ideally placed to harness the enormous global market for marine energy whilst helping deliver a net-zero economy.
“That’s why the Scottish Government has consistently supported the marine energy sector for over 10 years.”
However, Orbital Marine CEO Scott believes there’s potential to commercialise the technology being used in the project with the prospect of working towards more efficient and advanced marine energy projects in the future.
“We believe pioneering our vision in the UK can deliver on a broad spectrum of political initiatives across net-zero, levelling up and building back better at the same time as demonstrating global leadership in the area of low carbon innovation that is essential to creating a more sustainable future for the generations to come.”
The UK’s growing marine energy endeavours
This latest tidal turbine project isn’t a first for marine energy in the UK. The Port of London Authority permitted the River Thames to become a temporary home for trials into tidal energy technology and, more recently, a research project spanning the course of a year is set to focus on the potential tidal, wave, and floating wind technology holds for the future efficiency of renewable energy. The research is due to take place off of the Southwest coast of England on the Isles of Scilly