Have you ever heard the saying, ‘’Everyone acts like nothing will change, yet everything changes’’? It could not be more true when it comes to construction and its approach to ecology. Some try to pretend that the climate is not changing and that their businesses do not impact the environment. In reality, the construction sector contributes to 23% of air pollution, 40% of drinking water pollution, and 50% of landfill wastes. These numbers are alarming.To really understand this topic, we need to dig some more into the details. How exactly does our business impact the environment? Is there anything we can do about it?
The construction sector is one of the largest exploiters of resources, with half of them being non-renewable. According to the World Watch Institute, the industry consumes 40% of the world's usage in raw stones, gravel and sand and 25% of its virgin wood per year. We can pretend that the problem does not exist, but sooner or later it may turn out that we will run out of many crucial natural resources.
Some companies are slowly starting to change, by applying modern technologies to reduce materials usage like 3D printers or biodegradable textiles. However, the change may not come soon enough as construction is still one of the least digitized industries.
Think about how construction impacts animals. The first few things that probably came to your mind are loud machines or work in construction sites during the night. Noise and light pollution heavily impact wildlife, especially bats, badgers and birds, by disturbing their natural day cycle. However, it is only a part of a much more complex problem. Construction work also has long term effects on wildlife. To mention just a few:
air and water pollution
When it comes to air pollution, every action matters as the production of dioxide gases is one of the main factors causing global warming. The construction sector is responsible for 39% of energy and process-related carbon dioxide emissions. This high percentage stems from actions on the construction site, transportation, and the manufacturing of building materials.
Likewise, we should not forget about another critical factor for air pollution - dust from a construction site. PM10 is created from cement, wood or stone and is often invisible to the naked eye. Carried for long distances and extended time, this dust can cause serious health problems for humans and animals! .
Rubbish is everywhere. In 2014, the UK generated 202.8 million tonnes of waste. This number may not seem alarming, but imagine that the construction industry created 59% of that number. Within this context, the problem's scale becomes impossible to ignore. Construction generates a massive amount of waste because it relies on fast, cheap solutions that need to be replaced every year or even every few months. Simultaneously, recycling is still not a must on construction sites, resulting in many valuable materials being wasted.
Every single construction action has an impact on the environment. From the materials that we choose, the technologies that we use, to the construction sites we build, all generate carbon gases that cause global warming. Of course, we cannot stop our businesses and the whole economy, but we can balance our environmental impact with thoughtful actions.
Luckily, nothing is lost yet. When we compare the last ten years, we can definitely say that the industry is slowly changing its approach towards environmental concerns. For example, green building is becoming a significant trend nowadays, supported by government programs and funds. Many companies have decided to invest in sustainable technologies like solar power or durable materials that help to reduce waste and minimize energy usage. There are also ways for construction companies to reduce their carbon footprint that do not necessarily involve large investments.
When it comes to system solutions, the zero-net target for carbon emissions by 2050 that was legislated by the UK government may be the driving force behind this change.
How about you? Have you already implemented some eco-solutions? Or maybe you have not been aware of the scope of construction’s environmental impact?
We believe that the future of construction is sustainable, which is why now is a perfect time to change our approach and take responsibility for our actions. After all, such practices can only be beneficial for our planet!
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