How Bad Is Construction Pollution?
Oct 08 2017 Read 982 Times
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has repeatedly stressed his ambition to tackle the city’s poor air quality levels and signalled his intention once more by requesting more powers from the government to impose emissions limits on construction vehicles. In the wake of new figures published by UK Green Building Council (UKGBC), Khan has pinpointed construction as a key contributing factor the city’s air quality crisis.
Writing to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Khan has specifically asked to be granted powers to impose stringent regulations on the machinery used at construction sites in and around the capital, which currently comprises the second biggest source of particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) in London.
A dire situation
London’s difficulties with air quality are long-standing and well-documented, but it’s perhaps less well-known how much the construction industry contributes to pollution. With roughly half of contamination caused by non-transport sources, construction is high up on the list of other culprits.
A recent infographic published by the UKGBC stated that approximately 22% of national carbon emissions come directly from the embodied and operational carbon of our built environment. Perhaps even more concerning, 59% of total UK waste is caused by the construction, excavation and demolition industries – and that waste isn’t limited to the landfill. The problem of oils in contaminated construction dewatering water is a whole separate issue on its own.
Another alarming statistic published by the UKGBC revealed that 10% of all carbon emissions are caused by the central heating systems of private and public buildings across the country. In an industry which is relatively unregulated (in comparison to power plants and passenger vehicles, for example), Khan is now requesting greater powers to tackle the problem.
Khan on the warpath
Earlier in the year, former Deputy Mayor of London Matthew Pencharz called on the government to address the air pollution caused by construction sites, pointing out that the 2017 Air Quality Plan only imposed regulations on new machines – not the thousands of old, highly-polluting ones which are more prevalent on British building sites.
Now, incumbent mayor Khan has followed up on Pencharz’s plea by writing to DEFRA Secretary Michael Gove to ask for greater powers when dealing with construction companies and their machinery.
“With more than 400 schools located in areas exceeding legal pollution levels, and such significant health impacts on our most vulnerable communities, we cannot wait any longer and I am calling on Government to provide the capital with the necessary powers to effectively tackle harmful emissions from a variety of sources,” said the Mayor in a statement.
In particular, Khan wants to target the older machinery used on construction sites that was highlighted by Pencharz, as well as create a DVLA-style database of non-road mobile machinery (NRMM) to help police the new laws once they are brought in. Additionally, he also would like to alter the Clean Air Act to introduce ultra-low emissions zones (ULEZs) for wood-burning stoves, which have been known to hamper the health of those in their vicinity.
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