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Updated 22 Apr 2018

Your impact on the environment and why it’s time to ‘green’ your operations

All construction companies contribute to pollution, but are you aware by how much? These insights can help you develop growth tactics that not only achieve revenues, but also place less of a burden on mother nature. 

Pritesh Ruthun , 15 March 2017  Share  0 comments  Print

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The construction sector is considered a leading source of global pollution. According to Jennifer Gray at Sustainable Build, ‘building’ is responsible for approximately 4% of particulate emissions. As the world looks to celebrate Earth Day this month, there’s no better time to assess how your construction firm is contributing to global pollution levels.

Although construction projects also pollute the soil, Gray explains that your areas of interest must include air, water and noise pollution. Your growth tactics, then, should focus on sustainable site practices to control and prevent contamination of the environment.

Related: Green Building Council scores a century


The UK Environment Agency and other government bodies are putting increasing pressure on construction companies to reduce pollution and conform to environmental regulations. Similarly, South African construction companies must look at how they can align with Green Building Council South Africa’s best-practice recommendations.

Your influence on air, water and noise

Air – “Construction activities contributing to air pollution include land clearing, diesel engine operation, demolition, and working with toxic materials. All construction sites generate high levels of dust and this can carry for large distances,” Gray writes. She says that dust from construction sites can enter the lungs, causing a range of health challenges for people in close proximity.

Diesel emissions (DPM) is another contaminant you’re releasing into the air. It consists of soot and sulphates that combine with other impurities in the atmosphere, increasing the health risks associated with particle inhalation.

Water – “Sources of water pollution on building sites include diesel and oil, and construction debris and dirt,” Gray explains. She says that silt and soil that runs into natural waterways also turns them muddy. This restricts sunlight filtration, destroying aquatic life.

Pollutants from construction zones can also soak into groundwater and once contaminated, you’ll find that it’s more difficult to treat than surface water pollution.

Noise – “Construction sites produce a lot of noise,” Gray says. This is chiefly from heavy equipment and machinery, but also from workers shouting. Your team’s excessive noise is not only distracting, but it can lead to hearing loss and high blood pressure depending on the location of your site.

Related: Why more of your customers will be asking for ‘green’ buildings


7 Tips to help you pollute less

Sustainable Build offers these seven tips as a means to improve your environmental impact:

  1. To prevent soil erosion, minimise your land disturbance and leave try to leave maximum vegetation cover where possible.
  2. Control dust generation by using fine water sprays to regularly wet down the site.
  3. Apply a screen the whole site to stop dust spreading, or place fine mesh screening closest to the dust source.
  4. Cover storage bins and trucks loaded with construction materials and continually wet them with low levels of water – particularly if you’re working in a windy area.
  5. Cover piles of building materials like cement, sand and other powders, and regularly inspect them for spillages. Ideally, you want to store these things where they will not be washed into drains.
  6. As far as possible, use non-toxic paints, solvents and other hazardous materials in the construction process.
  7. .Isolate, securely cover and regularly monitor toxic substances on-site to prevent spills and possible contamination. Remember that seepage can happen when you least expect it.

As the world becomes increasingly ‘dirtier’, the power to rein-in pollution lies in your hands. As small change on your construction site may not seem like much in the beginning, but in the long-term, as you grow, every bit less of an impact you make on the earth will add to your reputability as a class-leading constructor.


  • 4% of the earth’s particulate pollution comes from the construction sector.
  • Construction companies influence air, water and noise pollution.
  • Strategies to reduce your environmental impact is a necessity in order to grow a sustainable construction business.
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Pritesh Ruthun

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