Air Clean Up

How Can the Construction Industry Tackle Pollution?

Mar 23 2018 Read 979 Times

Increased mainstream media coverage of the dangers of air pollution and the detrimental impact it can have on human life has catapulted the issue to the forefront of global and governmental consciousness – but up until now, much of the focus has been placed on improving air quality by reducing transport-related pollution.

By contrast, the construction industry has escaped close scrutiny, despite the significant role it plays in contributing to the pollution of our airwaves. In a bid to rectify the situation, a consortium of concerned organisations within the industry have launched the Considerate Constructors’ Scheme (CCS), shining a light on best practices and advising companies on how to clean up their operations.

By the numbers

It’s not just our air that the construction industry might be polluting. One unwanted by-product of the industry is contaminated dewatering water, which can be tricky to deal with – especially if it contains oils. However, the main current focus remains on the contribution that construction makes to airborne pollution.

According to data provided by CCS, building sites around the UK are responsible for a sizable amount of the pollutants in our air. They contribute 14.5% of particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5, incredibly fine pollutants which are among the most dangerous to human health), 8% of larger particles and 7.5% of nitrogen oxides (NOx).

The main factors responsible for these emissions are plant machinery (including the use of portable generators), dust generated through construction activities and the transportation involved with ferrying materials to and from building sites.

Building a cleaner tomorrow

In February, CCS launched their “Spotlight on… air pollution” campaign, aimed at raising awareness surrounding the issue. Research conducted prior to the campaign’s commencement found that 91% of representatives within the industry concurred that air pollution is a serious concern, but only 39% knew of their companies’ obligations in meeting them.

In January 2016, a new guide was published with the aim of educating construction firms on how they could avoid environmental fines, and the CCS’ latest campaign aims to push that knowledge even further. Suggested measures include introducing company policy to tackle dust management, emissions from Non-Road Mobile Machinery (NRMM) and workplace awareness schemes.

Meanwhile, independent energy firm Off Grid Energy has released a new Universal Hybrid Power Unit, which combines a standard diesel generator with battery storage technology. In this way, users can minimise the use of the polluting generator and only switch it on when the battery becomes flat or is insufficient to meet power needs. Its creators estimate it could save firms up to £500 and 2.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) every week.

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