Today is Earth Day, an event conceived in 1970 to promote support for environmentalism. This is a poignant day for the construction industry, as right now, buildings and construction are responsible for 39% of carbon emissions globally, 28% resulting from energy consumption and 11% from construction materials.
Construction materials are also responsible for around 4% of particulate emissions and more water pollution incidents than any other industry. By 2025, the volume of construction waste is expected to increase to 2.2 billion tons every year. As a result, making construction sites more sustainable is an urgent project; here’s three ways that this could be achieved.
Choose more sustainable building materials
If materials are responsible for almost a third of the carbon emissions caused by construction, then choosing more sustainable materials is essential. For example, straw bales could be a viable alternative to rebar, as they provide efficient insulation from hot and cold weather when sealed correctly.
Bamboo, with its high tensile strength and lightweight composition is also a great green alternative to more traditional load bearing materials. Other examples include rammed earth, timbercrete, hempcrete, mycelium, wood and recycled plastics.
Prefabrication is also a useful strategy. Traditional on-site construction methods require extra materials, resulting in waste and leading to air and soil pollution. In contrast, pre-fabricating parts ensures they’re produced in a controlled environment. An increasing number of engineers and architects are using Building Information Management (BIM) systems to design precision prefabricated components such as air vents and ducts.
Discard construction waste responsibly
Typically construction waste comprises shingles, lumber, drywall, concrete, gravel, wiring, ductwork, glass and metal. You need to recycle everything you can; for example, lumber and plywood can be converted into mulch or biomass fuel. Metal items, meanwhile, can be smelted to convert them into other products.
Site managers should also ensure there is a silt fence to control sediment flow. This will help prevent nearby waterways from sediment contamination, preventing as much as 80% of water-borne particles from escaping the site. This barrier will also reduce soil erosion by acting as a water break.
Make your transport fleet more efficient
To reduce the carbon footprint generated by the transportation of materials, site managers should utilise a transportation management system. This will help them to map out the best possible routes, set speed limits, monitor driver behaviour and provide real-time proactive maintenance.
Or, companies can go a step further and run their fleet on biodiesel. This fuel can be used in existing diesel engines without any modifications. Several major construction equipment brands, including John Deere and Isuzu, now also offer B20 biodiesel-capable trucks and transport vehicles.
Make your site more sustainable this Earth Day
The construction industry has been viewed as a primary contributor to environmental pollution. However, the industry is working hard to change; contractors are increasingly using energy-efficient and environment-friendly construction equipment, vehicles and materials. It’ll be interesting to see what innovations the future brings, but meanwhile, we should implement these fundamental strategies to make construction and buildings more environmentally sound.