Construction and Its Impact on the Environment

Modified: 8th Feb 2020
Wordcount: 2944 words

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More than 7.5 billion people (U.S. Census Bureau 2018) inhabit this world, and the quest for continued development has made construction essential.  Development of construction projects has its advantages, because they lead to potential economic growth and social development. Economically, construction allows for the creation of new employment, new development and the creation of wealth and jobs through new development.  Socially, construction helps with the rejuvenation of inner city run down areas, by replacing older buildings with new ones, having affordable housing and reducing crime.  Construction allows for a better standard of living and quality of life. The problem with construction is it affects the environment throughout its cycle of development (Azqueta 1992). Construction has its dark side; rapidly growing construction activity can lead to numerous challenges in the economy and environment (Zainul Abidin 2010). There is a growing concern about the impact that construction has on human and environmental health. The problematic issue of environment deterioration is becoming increasingly apparent globally (Bentivegna et al. 2002). Major environmental issues (e.g., global warming, ozone layer depletion, resource depletion, and ecosystem destruction) are leading the world into a potential environmental catastrophe (Langston and Ding 2001). In addition the with problematic issues that construction has in line with the environment that ways through sustainable construction and letting local communities get more educated with how to combat this issue of construction.

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 Many factors make construction a problematic issue for the environment. All construction projects need land and take up a great deal of room both underneath and above land. Construction has large impacts on the environment by clearing the land being prepared for development, it leaves its mark on the landscape, natural amenities and wildlife and a lot of this cannot be replaced once it has been demolished. The utilization of natural resources has also a major effect on the environment, deforestation and quarrying leave their mark long after the crude materials have been removed. Construction sites additionally give rise to air contaminations as harmful toxic fumes from plant, hardware, gear utilized and the production forms utilized. Inside a finished building there is still danger of further contamination through chlorofluorocarbons. Transportation is a needed component when working in construction. However, the impacts of transportation can eventually lead to problems in the environment. The problems caused by transportation are described as direct impacts, indirect impacts, and cumulative impacts (Rodrigue 2017). The direct impacts to the environment include immediate problems from transportation. Carbon monoxide emissions from construction can have a direct harmful effect on the environment.  Those emissions increase the issues of global warming with causes more rainfall to occur and cause more pollution because of it. Indirect impacts, or the secondary effect impacts, can cause more damage than that of direct impacts (e.g., when the pollution of cars causes respiratory or cardiovascular problems). The cumulative impacts are often led by the continuous addition of damage caused by the transportation being utilized. Often times these impacts will cause climate damage; 15% of carbon dioxide emissions are caused by transportation.

In many countries, the construction industry has yet to achieve full sustainability, meaning that construction causes the environment, especially the soil, to deteriorate. The deterioration occurs because of erosion on and around construction areas. Erosion is accelerated when soil is left bare and exposed to the abrasive action of wind and water. NRCS (2000) mentions the critical erosion and sedimentation damage that on-site and off-site construction activities can have on the environment. The on-site impacts of construction are due to loss of topsoil because of the use of heavy equipment or erosion. The topsoil is the most nutrient-rich part of the soil. Once the topsoil is removed, the soil loses the ability to regulate water flow, provide nutrients, and combat pests and disease. The off-site impacts of construction are a major problem, causing damage to the soil quality of the areas around it. When soil is not properly protected, erosion because of construction ruins the surrounding environment. The off-site impact of erosion will cause a deterioration of water quality in the surrounding water bodies, which will result in mud and flash floods in immediate or downstream areas during heavy downpours in the construction area. 

Construction has been the leading contributor of pollution and hazards in the environment. The types of pollution and hazards often include dust, harmful gases, noise, and solid and liquid wastes (Chen et al. 2000). According to Chen et al. (2005), direct impacts of construction on the environment can be listed in eight categories: underwater contamination, soil and ground contamination, construction and demolition waste, dust, noise and vibration, harmful gases, hazardous emissions, and wildlife and natural features.

Many countries do their best to minimize the negative impacts that construction has on the environment. Construction activity in Northern Turkey has negatively affected the country by accelerating environmental deterioration through pollution. Many historical and natural sites of interest in Turkey have been damaged (Yorucu and Keles 2007). In Cyprus, construction is an important contributor. Through construction, the country seeks to continue to progress in its financial and well-being status. Analysis done on the construction activity in the country has shown that pollution is one of the most pressing contributors of its environmental problems. As construction projects continue to grow it will also create more pollution, which harms all communities (Celik and Buayan 2016). As pollution increases from major construction projects in Cypress, it will also be a major contributor of illnesses and diseases and cause destruction to the environment (Celik and Buayan 2016).

There is also a large amount of waste in the construction industry. Waste is often produced because of obtaining raw materials, filtering raw materials for the use in the construction process; there are also big problems in the transportation of materials, the handling and storage of materials during the construction phase. While working with these materials it can create a considerable amount of dust and dirt pollution, there may also be a commute issue and this is one of the major comfort disturbances experienced by the local communities to any construction project.

In Thailand, construction activity has increased significantly. During this increased period of construction activity, many high-rise buildings have been constructed at the expense of the environment. As more high-rise buildings are constructed, more construction waste is produced. A lack of control in waste management has been seen, causing more pollution to occur in the country during this period of booming construction. An analysis was done to see how to manage the multiple constructions of high-rise buildings that contribute to the pollution of Thailand. The analysis concluded that during the rise in construction activity, approximately 4,200,595.85 tons of building-related construction waste had been generated. The inevitable result was that construction negatively affected the environment. The landfill area was not enough for the volume of construction waste that was being created (Thongkamsuk et al. 2017). What the analysis showed was that construction waste was dumped illegally in unpopulated areas, and it was dumped without separation of hazardous materials. Some of the waste was disposed in landfills together with municipal solid waste; the thinking was it would not continue to contribute to the pollution in the area.

In Okinawa, Japan, the Kaichu-Doro, a 4.75 km interisland highway, connects from the Okinawa main island of the Katsuren Peninsula to Henza Island. The construction of the Kaichu-Doro has had an apparent negative impact caused by sewage and pollution runoff in the marine ecosystem of the island. A study was done on 10 different areas surrounding the Kaichu-Doro highway. The study showed how this highway was built with the intention of helping people travel around the island but without consideration of the degradation that would occur to the environment surrounding the highway. This study concluded that 7 of 10 sites at the Kaichu-Doro had evidence of environmental deterioration. The construction of the Kaichu-Doro led to a change of the hydrodynamic conditions of the surrounding body of water it was created to cross and altered the benthic biota of the aquatic ecosystem (Reimer et al. 2017). The study showed a high incidence of a reduction in water flow and that certain areas around the Kaichu-Doro had been heavily impacted by this reduction. The study showed poor water quality caused low diversity and a disturbance to biotic communities. What was initially seen as a way to improve travel among the islands in Okinawa has harmed the surrounding marine life in the area.

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Another study further implicating the impact of construction on the environment was done on the Gaza Strip. The overall adverse effects of construction on the environment were documented. The impacts from the construction on the Gaza Strip continue to grow from numerous construction activities. The results of these construction activities indicated an adverse effect due to construction, including air, soil, and water pollution and damage to construction sites, creating unsafe working conditions (Enshassi et al. 2014). The study documented the construction issues related to the effects of the damage being done to the environment and eventually to the community.

In Uganda, a study detailed how construction affected the environment. The country had finished numerous works of construction, including hotels, residential buildings, super markets, and shopping arcades. This study discovered that forests and wetlands were degraded. As the demand for construction increased, proper planning to reduce the damage facilitated by construction was ignored. Wetlands were disappearing because people started to dump concrete and debris all over them. Because of the poor planning by the proper authorities, high volumes of garbage were generated and destruction of vegetation became the after effect (Lawrence et al. 2012). 

It will be inevitable that the environment will be exposed to damage by construction activities. Construction companies are doing better at minimizing the damage they cause, but sustainability is key to this. The World Commission on Environment and Development (1987) defines sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Sustainable construction looks to provide a way of reducing environmental impact while using economic sustainability to create comfort and safety for the people that use it (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987). Sustainable development is pulling in more consideration of late, but many do not comprehend its full potential. Sustainable development is not just about the creation of a building that has a low environmental impact, it is another way in the building area that enhances the way in which individuals can live and fabricate. As the advantages will turn out to be progressively obvious amid the following years, the upsides of this green construction development falls into three fundamental classifications including ecological benefits, money related benefits, and social benefits. This order outlines the multi-angle commitment of sustainable building and is one of the primary strong strides of development to concentrate on the full building life cycle, consolidating utility with insightful resource managing. Reused materials utilized amid the development procedure are contributing to the assurance of the environment and to the decrease of waste. Furthermore, the utilization of sun based radiators, protected cooling funnels and photovoltaic boards can make structures more vitality effective and less hurtful to the earth. Sustainable construction has plenty of advantages in each phase of a development venture. It will also enhanced an individual’s wellbeing because of more secure materials, used to expand viability on account of better environment and progressively compelling green structures that will enhance life and environmental quality.  Conservation practices are occurring that will help reduce erosion and runoff (NRCS 2000). Using covers or changing field-slope lengths can help reduce erosion and runoff.

As construction companies continue to grow and become a need much greater in our society, they will continue to cause greater damage in the environment. Unfortunately the construction industry does not heed the words of the professionals, there are a number of problems associated with flooding, many of our cities are covered with hard surfaces and the rainfall runs off into undersized gutters and drains, this will cause flash flooding. Poor planning is also a major problem and the local authorities and town planners should look at themselves as being a major contributor to the problems of excess surface water. Poor planning results in building on the flood plains, building over traditional streams and natural catchment areas interrupted by new artificial landscapes. Managing and preventing environmental damage caused by construction will be key to solving this issue. Communities need their local governments to provide help and guidance to developers and contractors to limit the damage being done and help preserve what is currently there. Communities should also be better educated about the harmful impacts construction can have on the environment and ecosystem. The damage that can occur in the environment can affect their health and quality of life. Communities should push local governments to emphasize the rules and regulations that govern construction instead of just allowing waste to go where they find it convenient.  Recycling and reusing waste instead of fresh materials use up more energy and create more waste should be made a trend.


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