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Building Sustainably: How to Create Environmentally Conscious Construction Sites - featured image
By Guest Expert

Building Sustainably: How to Create Environmentally Conscious Construction Sites

The ongoing population growth combined with rapid urbanization has led to an increased demand for housing over the years. Simply put, with more people in the world, we need more places where they can live safely and comfortably.

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Note: According to the most recent United Nations reports, the global population today is three times larger than it was during the mid-twentieth century and is expected to grow from the current figure estimated at around 8 billion to 9.7 billion by 2050.

Since shelter represents one of the most basic human needs, being an essential component to our survival, the construction industry is tasked with accommodating the housing needs of communities all over the world.

However, although construction companies have to fire up their engines to keep up with the rising housing demand and build houses that ensure this fundamental need is adequately covered, they need to do that without disregarding the environment. It’s a well-known fact that common construction-related activities are a major contributor to climate change and global pollution, whether it comes in the form of chemicals, waste, the use of heavy machinery like breakers, bulldozers, or excavators on site, air, water, and noise pollution, and so on.

Therefore, more buildings being erected also means more pressure on the environment. So, developers have a double challenge on their hands that makes it much harder for them to ensure quality and affordable accommodation for the world’s population, all that against a backdrop of socio-economic issues that add to the burden.

Nevertheless, sustainability in construction remains a non-negotiable, so let’s look at some of the eco-friendly strategies and practices that stakeholders can employ to decrease the environmental impact of construction sites and learn how to build more sustainably.

environmentally conscious construction

Sourcing sustainable materials

The construction industry relies heavily on a wide array of raw materials to complete projects and build structures that meet modern standards. Unfortunately, our planet doesn’t benefit from limitless natural resources, so the excessive use of these materials eventually leads to resource depletion and a plethora of related issues.

Therefore, for a construction site to be deemed truly sustainable, one needs to start with the very basics and that implies using materials and components with a low environmental footprint. These types of materials can reduce waste and lower carbon emissions on construction sites.

Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • reclaimed wood
  • bamboo
  • timber sourced from eco-friendly forestry
  • low-carbon concrete
  • recycled steel
  • recycled glass
  • straw bales

sustainable building materials

Switching to green energy

It’s no secret that construction sites consume a lot of energy to power up specific operations, and most of that energy comes from fossil fuel combustion which leaves a long trail of pollutants in its wake. Fortunately, tech advances in recent years have made it possible for large consumers to move away from fossil energy and partially replace it with renewable alternatives wherever possible.

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Note: Transitioning to renewable energy can be done on-site, by investing in systems that harness the power of natural resources such as sun, wind, water, and geothermal heat.

Introducing these types of solutions into their processes can help construction companies drastically reduce their reliance on fossil fuel energy and thus cut back on the greenhouse gas emissions they generate.

Embracing energy-efficient practices

Although using renewable energy is highly beneficial to the environment, we’re still not at a point where we can afford to ditch fossil fuels altogether and use green energy exclusively. This doesn’t mean there are no other solutions that could address the high energy consumption issue that seems to plague the construction industry.
One of the simplest and most effective ways to tackle this challenge is to employ energy-efficient practices. This can translate into using energy-efficient equipment such as LED lights, installing daylight sensors, replacing old gear with high-efficiency models, using high-quality fuels, implementing an energy management plan, and so on.

Streamlining waste management

Construction sites also create a lot of waste, from debris and leftover materials to packaging and other types of rubbish which obviously pose a threat to the health of the natural environment. The developers have a duty to manage and dispose of waste responsibly, and that can be done by following a series of steps, such as:

  • creating a comprehensive waste management plan
  • using prefabricated parts
  • recycling or reusing materials to reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill
  • investing in on-site recycling equipment
  • composting
  • donating excess supplies

Apart from protecting the environment, developing a more effective waste management strategy is also going to lead to considerable savings in the long run. Working with local specialists can help a lot in this respect. For example, waste management experts in or around Brisbane in Queensland can serve construction companies operating in this area and provide the assistance they require to enhance their waste management plan.

Prioritizing water conservation

Construction implies several water-intensive processes such as tool sanitation, hydro-demolition, groundwork, equipment cooling, or dust control. While it may be impossible to avoid the use of water on construction sites, different practices can help builders become more water-efficient.

They can start by installing water meters to stay on top of their water usage and see where they need to implement changes. Another fairly simple yet highly efficient method is to install water-saving devices like aerated taps, low-flush toilets, and leak detectors. Collecting rainwater and using it for different operations that don’t require potable water is also a solution worth taking into consideration for resource conservation.

water conservation

Educating the workforce

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Note: Ensuring sustainable construction sites requires a team effort. None of the methods and strategies mentioned above will make a notable difference if the people working on-site or those who have an impact on on-site operations don’t adhere to sustainable practices themselves.

This emphasizes the need to prioritize sustainability education among the workforce, from lower-level employees to top managers and even contractors. Making sure everyone is on the same page and ready to put in an effort to protect the environment is the surest way to advance sustainability in the construction industry.

Sustainable construction sites might sound like an unattainable endeavour, but despite the numerous challenges companies might face, they must continue to strive towards this goal and find new ways to bring sustainability to the forefront.

About Guest Expert Apart from our regular team of experts, we frequently publish commentary from guest contributors who are authorities in their field.
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