Environmental Issues in the construction industry | Design Build | California (2023)

Ever since the dawn of the industrial revolution and the invention of the internal combustion engine in the 19th century, environmental pollution has skyrocketed to unimaginable rates. This is because with the development of the internal combustion engine came a wide range of machinery that has made our lives much easier but has had and is continuing to have detrimental effects on our atmosphere.
The transportation sector was revolutionized by the invention of vehicles and hence road networks. Unfortunately, these road networks are not efficient in taking care of the billions of vehicles that exist on our planet today; the result- unimaginable gridlocks in many major cities like London and New York, leading to more emission of greenhouse gases that ultimately destroys the ozone layer.
Even trains that are being powered by diesel engines or electricity are not free from contributing to this pollution. Aircraft are truly great and it has truly cut travel time to levels unimaginable 130 years ago. However, there has also been ever-increasing pollution from aircraft. Ever since ships stopped using wind has its source of power, it’s a contribution to air pollution has been on a continuous increase. Spillage from oil tankers has also had detrimental effects on both terrestrial and aquatic life.

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All these and many more sources of pollution has led to a pressing struggle that scientists and architects all over the world are up against: the quest to meet up to the rising energy demands to power our transportation mechanism with clean energy solutions.
Aside from the transport sector, the Industrial sector has also contributed to this environmental degradation that we experience.
Industrial activities have drastically changed our landscape; the invention of steel has helped raise our buildings to unimaginable heights, the demand for raw materials has also spawned an eclectic rise in diverse industries from quarrying operations to level highlands, drilling down great depth to access the black gold, mining operations to obtain limestone and so much more. They have all contributed jointly to all forms of pollution; air pollution from the engines we run, land and water pollution from the waste we dump or oil spillage. The landscape as we know it will never remain the same again.
This article attempts to discuss briefly the Environmental issues in the construction industry.
According to the U.S Green Home Building Council, the construction industry accounts for 40% of worldwide energy usage and is expected to rise in the years to come. This is not hard to believe if you consider the number of buildings that sprout up every day. For a building to come to life, a lot of components is required to make things work out. From excavating for raw materials like limestone to as little as getting water. In fact, everything you see in a building has taken a particular amount of energy to be transformed into its usable form. The result- ever increasing pollution.

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International communities have realized that to ensure sustainability, building design must allow for smartness and efficiency.
Sustainability is a convoluted concept because various factors have to be put into proper consideration before it can be achieved. However, it has become a necessity if we want the earth to still be habitable in the future. Sustainability as a concept is the proper management of natural resources so as to avoid depletion and ensure ecological balance. For a project to be considered sustainable, it must meet the following criteria:

1) It must be energy efficient
2) Reduced emission
3) Prevent pollution
4) Improved indoor air quality
5) Inexpensive
6) Low maintenance cost
7) Biodegradable after abandonment

(Video) Environmental Impact of the Building Industry

Home building experts have begun to consider ways in which buildings can be sustainable. They tackle the problem from a bottom-up approach by isolating all the processes involved in building and looking for ways they can make each of them sustainable. From the building design stage to completion, sustainability is the watchword. However, in current times, a broader eye view is being taken by focusing on global objectives while micro-level integrated decision making is neglected.
As counterintuitive as it may sound, it is sustainability on this micro level that is practically feasible and can add up to make the greater change, by taking a holistic approach to enhance decision making. Although different technologies exist to help in structure design, from Building Research Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) to Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability (BEES),
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). The common goal is to provide building design that will have the least impact on the natural environment and the health of humans.

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According to research, by the year 2056, global economic activities will increase by a factor of 5, world population would have increased to about 11 billion and energy demand will be at least tripled. As indicated earlier a reasonable amount of this energy will be taken by building construction. A completed home building project initiated by an architect uses energy for its HVAC system, lighting, power and ventilation systems. Current natural resources are being depleted at an uncontrollable rate and our future depends on making the right decisions now.
It is sad however to know that most of this energy used is wasted in form of emissions and pollutions. Not only is it being wasted, the waste product is also damaging our environment. Now global warming is a worldwide pressing environmental issue due to our depletion of the ozone layer by the emission of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and other greenhouse gases.
The principal environmental issues that have been identified in the construction industry are now being discussed.

Energy Conservation

Using energy in today’s world has become a serious environmental issue as buildings consume greater percentage of the energy. Each stage involved in building requires energy including design, construction as well as demolition. One of the ways to tackle this energy issue is to make our buildings use energy in an efficient manner. Ideally, our homes should be built using a percentage of the present energy requirements of such buildings. This will help to reduce significantly the rate at which our non-renewable energy resources such as oil and coal are depleted. Furthermore, there will be reduction in emission of greenhouse gases emanating from buildings.

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The key to having an energy efficient building is to bring down the operational energy requirement. The energy needed to maintain the internal environment of a building is known as operational energy. It accounts for about 95 percent of the energy used and carbon dioxide emitted from the HVAC devices, according to Thormark’s life cycle. The operational energy of most homes will drop drastically as they become more energy efficient.

(Video) How do buildings affect the environment

Having understood what energy efficient building is all about, the building industry is beginning to buying into this idea presently and more energy efficient buildings are being built to pave way for this innovation. Therefore, the best thing to do is to make our buildings more energy efficient so that the earth will remain a living place for generations yet unborn.

Material Conservation

Building structures require a lot of materials for their construction. In most cases, these materials are non-renewable like limestone and in some cases, they are like trees, however, their depletion is so great that they cannot be sustained. This material usage has an immense impact on the natural bio-diversity thereby affecting the ecosystem. It is therefore imperative that when buildings want to be constructed, the proper analysis is done on how material consumption can be substantially reduced. This can either be through adopting synthetic building materials where applicable.

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All these should be properly considered in the design phase when discussing with the architect, so as to come up with a very material efficient building with least environmental impact.

Land Conservation

The land is a finite resource i.e. it can be exhausted. All construction is realized on land. Land use, therefore, poses a major challenge as other activities like farming compete for land space. In fact, urban cities are even extending habitable land into the oceans and desserts and architects are being tasked with almost impossible projects. Land reclamation from the ocean on a large scale can greatly affect the aqua system. Even farming lands are being destroyed by increased erosion due to tree felling for construction, groundwater pollution, industrial pollutant and so on. This is destroying our plant life and actions much the taken to restore natural habitats.

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It is therefore important that certain policies be put in place to ensure that our land is used wisely. Zero-expansion policies can be placed on already expanded urban cities, this can be attained by using land occupied by old buildings to construct new structures.
Also, the way in which building arranged on land can be more executed efficiently by increasing the population density to a sustainable amount. For example, a concentration of medical centers, recreational centers, shopping malls in a certain area would ensure settlement within the neighborhood of such centers. This will prevent expansion as the new buildings will have lower access to infrastructures. Another idea is to develop non-arable land for construction purposes and integrate an efficient transportation system.

(Video) 5 reasons why ESG could hurt the construction industry

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Design conservation

Tweaking design is one of the great ways to be environmentally oriented when the construction of a building is being planned. There are 4 ways to achieve this:

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Health Interior Environment

It must be ensured that health-friendly materials are used in buildings. Materials that emit toxic gases should be avoided as they are detrimental to humans. Also, proper ventilation should be planned to ensure proper fresh-air circulation in the building.

Energy Efficiency

Buildings should be constructed in such a way that they use the least amount of energy. Material type and design structure should be properly selected to ensure that the HVAC system consumes a considerably lower amount of energy.

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Ecological Building Materials

Renewable materials should be the first option of consideration in construction before non-renewable materials can be used if its purpose cannot be achieved by a renewable material.

Good Design

A good building should be efficient as well as aesthetically pleasing. Material, structure, and beauty must be integrated in such a way that the resulting building is safe, efficient and lovely. Also, green designs should the guide of architects when designing. From the way the windows are arranged and inclined to the materials used, the goal should be to have a green building while not compromising its look.


Environmental issues are a major concern in today’s world and sustainable buildings is most for the building design industry and other architects to adopt. Sustainable building structures will help achieve that balance between economic, social and environmental performance when implementing constructions. Construction of structures is of high economic value and so it is indispensable. However, with the rising alarm on environmental pollution from construction, a check has to be placed on construction practices and policies to ensure that the new generations of buildings that will be emerging are environmentally friendly. We have seen that to achieve this state of sustainability, three core framework must be upheld; resource efficiency, cost efficiency and proper design. All these will ensure that right from the conceptual stage, all key variables are accounted for to result in a sustainable building.
This framework has the potential to speed up the understanding and execution of sustainable buildings. This framework emphasizes the importance of a holistic approach when tackling the environmental issues associated with buildings. All key components, including material, design and so on are taken into consideration in the design, construction, operation, renovating and demolition stages of a building. This framework is intended to be complementarily used in conjunction with existing assessment systems like BREEAM and LEED.
The requirements for sustainability are intertwined and the challenge is for the designer to look for innovative ways to efficiently account for these requirements in a proportion that will ultimately result in a building with least environmental impact.
Sustainable building designs are the way to go and unless we realize and work toward it, progress will prove difficult.

Nass Derak 19 comments

(Video) Design Build Operate | Ep2 Built Environment


Environmental Issues in the construction industry | Design Build | California? ›

Here are some of the environmental impacts of the construction industry: Climate change. Water pollution. Noise pollution.

What are the environmental issues of construction? ›

Here are some of the environmental impacts of the construction industry: Climate change. Water pollution. Noise pollution.

What are the environmental impacts of the construction industry? ›

According to some studies, construction is responsible for up to 50% of climate change. It also impacts landfills and air, water, and noise pollution.

How does the sustainability in the construction industry impact the built environment? ›

Sustainable construction means building with renewable and recyclable resources and materials. During construction projects, care must be taken to reduce waste and energy consumption where possible and protect the natural environment around the site.

What are the environmental factors affecting building design? ›

The climate, natural landscape, and available building materials are just a few factors that can influence the design of a building. For example, buildings may be designed to stay cool in a hot and dry climate by incorporating features such as large overhangs or courtyards to shade windows and walls from the sun.

What environmental pollution is caused by construction? ›

Water Pollution

Construction activities often involve the use of toxic chemicals and pollutants that can end up in the water table if not managed well. Common construction sources that contribute to air pollution include: Diesel and oil. Cement.

What are the negative effects of the built environment? ›

The built environment influences a person's level of physical activity. For example, inaccessible or nonexistent sidewalks and bicycle or walking paths contribute to sedentary habits. These habits lead to poor health outcomes such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer.

How does construction affect the climate? ›

The built environment generates 40% of annual global CO2 emissions. Of those total emissions, building operations are responsible for 27% annually, while building and infrastructure materials and construction (typically referred to as embodied carbon) are responsible for an additional 13% annually.

What is the built environment in construction industry? ›

What is the Built Environment? The built environment touches all aspects of our lives, encompassing the buildings we live in, the distribution systems that provide us with water and electricity, and the roads, bridges, and transportation systems we use to get from place to place.

How can the construction industry become greener? ›

Sustainability in construction means building greener by implementing sustainable practices like reducing waste, reducing carbon emissions, conserving energy, and using recycled or renewable building materials.

What are the 7 components of the built environment? ›

Components of The Built Environment
  • PRODUCTS. Products include materials and commodities generally created to extend the human. ...
  • INTERIORS. Interior spaces are defined by an arranged grouping of products and generally. ...
  • CITIES. ...
  • REGIONS. ...
  • EARTH.

What is one of the major environmental factors in job design? ›

Environmental Factors

They include factors like employee skills and abilities, their availability, and their socio economic and cultural prospects. Employee availability and abilities: Employee skills, abilities and time of availability play a crucial role while designing of the jobs.

What environmental factors can affect the durability of construction materials? ›

Pollution and climate change have had a significant impact on the ceramic materials used in construction [1]. Temperature can cause freezing, thawing, and thermal shock, all of which can affect materials in different ways. Water can affect materials through precipitation, moisture cycles, and moisture time.

What are the major pollutants in the built environment? ›

Consumption of the final products: Both the vapors from gasoline and the substances produced when it is burned (carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and unburned hydrocarbons) contribute to air pollution. Burning petroleum products also releases carbon dioxide, which contributes to climate change.

How much pollution does the construction industry produce? ›

The buildings and construction sector accounted for 36% of final energy use and 39% of energy and process-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2018, 11% of which resulted from manufacturing building materials and products such as steel, cement and glass.

How does construction affect biodiversity? ›

Construction sites generate a lot of noise and light, which may not directly affect the animals, but could impact breeding and feeding behaviours, which may have an effect on future population numbers. This disturbance may also cause them to relocate to another area, reducing biodiversity around the construction site.

How does construction cause global warming? ›

About 30 percent of the electricity buildings use is generated from coal-burning power plants, which release greenhouse gases, causing climate change. Because the energy demands of buildings are so large, designing and constructing energy efficient buildings can lead to large and vital reductions in energy consumption.

What are 4 examples of built environment? ›

Examples would include cities, buildings, urban spaces, walkways, roads, parks, etc. The study of the built environment is interdisciplinary in nature and can include such disciplines as: visual arts.

What makes the built environment so unsustainable? ›

The use of fossil-fuel-derived energy in the production of materials, during the construction process, and by the occupants or users of the building or structure throughout its lifetime is a source of significant quantities of carbon dioxide.

How can we reduce carbon footprint in building construction? ›

10 steps to reducing embodied carbon
  1. Reuse buildings instead of constructing new ones. ...
  2. Specify low-carbon concrete mixes. ...
  3. Limit carbon-intensive materials. ...
  4. Choose lower carbon alternatives. ...
  5. Choose carbon sequestering materials. ...
  6. Reuse materials. ...
  7. Use high-recycled content materials. ...
  8. Maximize structural efficiency.

How to reduce carbon footprint in construction and building industry? ›

Sourcing plant and equipment that operates on carbon-neutral biofuels or renewable energy. Consider installing renewable energy on-site to be used for the construction phase and then also to be transitioned to the operational stage. Recycle and reuse material during renovation and demolition where possible.

How can building environmental performance be improved? ›

Energy efficiency

For example, increasing the amount of insulation in walls and roofs will reduce heating costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Thermal mass can help minimise heat loss, and even out peaks and troughs in temperature during the day.

What is the carbon footprint of building construction? ›

Building carbon footprint (CO2) is the total amount of greenhouse gases produced throughout the life-cycle of a building.

How do buildings and concrete affect climate? ›

Carbon dioxide emissions and climate change

Cement manufacture contributes greenhouse gases both directly through the production of carbon dioxide when calcium carbonate is thermally decomposed, producing lime and carbon dioxide, and also through the use of energy, particularly from the combustion of fossil fuels.

What percentage of climate change is caused by construction? ›

Construction industry accounts for 38% of CO2 emissions.

What are the 4 pillars of sustainability construction? ›

The term sustainability is broadly used to indicate programs, initiatives and actions aimed at the preservation of a particular resource. However, it actually refers to four distinct areas: human, social, economic and environmental – known as the four pillars of sustainability.

What are the green building challenges? ›

Lack of skilled manpower

All groups, from policymakers to architects, engineers to contractors and workers, lack adequate knowledge and skills for green building construction.

What are the three approaches to sustainability in the construction industry? ›

Responsible use of natural resources. Better management of waste. Minimising carbon footprint.

What are 4 features of the built environment? ›

The built environment includes the physical makeup of where we live, learn, work, and play—our homes, schools, businesses, streets and sidewalks, open spaces, and transportation options. The built environment can influence overall community health and individual behaviors such as physical activity and healthy eating.

What is a sustainable built environment? ›

A sustainable built environment is circular, designed for longevity, flexibility, adaptability, assembly, disassembly, reuse and recoverability, and considers future climate risks. It uses low-carbon, low-impact, non-toxic materials and it recovers used resources (materials and products on-site or from other sites).

What is eco environment construction? ›

Ecological construction, also referred to as sustainable building or green building, is a term referring to the method of designing and constructing buildings in the most sustainable manner possible and with care for the environment.

What are the five factors to be considered in construction of a green building? ›

The five principles of green building:
  • Livable communities.
  • Energy efficiency.
  • Indoor air quality.
  • Resource conservation.
  • Water conservation.

What are green practices in construction industry? ›

Definition of Green Building

Green building practices are primarily focused on developing sustainable sites, increasing water and energy efficiency, reducing waste and emissions, using eco-friendly building materials, and improving indoor environmental quality more efficiently than conventional designs.

What is sustainability in building structure? ›

In practice, building sustainability means living in harmony with the natural environment, considering the social, environmental and economic aspects of decisions, and reducing our footprint through a less energy, water and material intensive lifestyle.

What are the built environment principles? ›

Principles for Dignity in the Built Environment DRAFT

Indigenous and cultural rights are protected. The right to adequate housing is respected – including security of tenure, affordability and habitability.

How does the built environment affect mental health? ›

The built environment affects mental health in two major ways. Characteristics of the built environment can directly influence mental health. Environmental characteristics with direct effects on mental health include housing, crowding, noise, indoor air quality, and light.

What are the 5 main components of environment? ›

Lithosphere - Land, rocks or soil Atmosphere - Air Hydrosphere - Water Biosphere - Living component.

What are the major issues in job design? ›

Job design principles can address problems such as:
  • Work overload.
  • Work underload.
  • Repetitiveness.
  • Limited control over work.
  • Isolation.
  • Shiftwork.
  • Delays in filling vacant positions.
  • Excessive working hours.

What does environmental impact mean in design? ›

Environmental impact design (EID) is the design of development projects so as to achieve positive environmental objectives that benefit the environment and raise the stock of public goods.

What are work and environmental risk factors? ›

Physical hazards include activities or natural substances in a work environment that pose health risks. Extreme temperatures, poor air quality, excessive noise and radiation in the workplace can all harm workers, potentially causing respiratory problems, hearing loss and cancer, among other problems.

What natural factors affect a building? ›

The 9 factors are:
  • Ventilation. Ventilation must be maintained at all times throughout the building. ...
  • Air quality. It is necessary to assess air quality and ensure that moisture and pollution do not exceed the limit. ...
  • Thermal health. ...
  • Humidity. ...
  • Dirt and pests. ...
  • Security. ...
  • Water quality. ...
  • Noise.

What is major factor affecting quality of construction? ›

The most important factors agreed by the owners, consultants, and contractors as the main factors affecting the performance of construction projects were: material prices, availability of resources as planned through project duration, average delay because of closures leading to materials shortage, availability of ...

What are the factors affecting the quality of building construction? ›

Poor design is the main factor that reduces the overall performance of the construction project. The main factors are insufficient overall design time, method of selecting the designer, lowest price offer, lack of documentation and changes in client requirements [2].

How does sustainability impact the built environment? ›

A sustainable built environment protects and enhances people, places and the natural environment, and is critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and tackling the climate crisis. Environmental priorities are balanced alongside socio-economic development, including economic growth, human health and equity.

What is the importance of environmental sustainability in construction? ›

The built environment plays a crucial role in sustainable development. Buildings are responsible for 45% of the total energy use in the world, and about 80% of the consumption of water, whereas 50% of the naturally available resources and materials are used in the construction of buildings.

Why is sustainability important to the construction industry? ›

Sustainable construction is a set of goals and methods designed to ensure that continued construction can take place in the future. The aims of sustainable construction are to reduce the impact of construction works on the environment. To achieve this, a major shift is now underway in the construction industry.

What is sustainability as it applies to the built environment? ›

Sustainable design seeks to reduce negative impacts on the environment, and the health and comfort of building occupants, thereby improving building performance. The basic objectives of sustainability are to reduce consumption of non-renewable resources, minimize waste, and create healthy, productive environments.

How is the built environment related to environmental quality? ›

The built environment directly affects habitat, ecosystems, endangered species, and water quality through consumption, fragmentation, and replacement of natural cover with impervious surfaces.

What is a green or sustainable building? ›

A green or sustainable building is a building that, because of its construction and features, can maintain or improve the quality of life of the environment in which it is located.

What are 4 examples of environmental sustainability? ›

Clean water and sanitation: Such as learning to avoid wasting water. Climate action: Acting now to stop global warming. Life below water: Avoiding the use of plastic bags to keep the oceans clean. Life on land: Planting trees to help protect the environment.

What are the 4 aspects for sustainability in an environment? ›

The term sustainability is broadly used to indicate programs, initiatives and actions aimed at the preservation of a particular resource. However, it actually refers to four distinct areas: human, social, economic and environmental – known as the four pillars of sustainability.

What are the principles of sustainable built environment? ›

Our Global Policy Principles cover seven key areas — carbon, resilience, circularity, water, biodiversity, health, and equity and access.


1. How does construction affect the environment?
2. Impacts Of Construction On The Environment
3. 10 Eco-Friendly Building Materials | Sustainable Design
(Going Green)
4. The built environment: the untapped opportunity for circularity?
5. Challenges of Sustainability and Environmental Impact in the Construction Industry
(What's Up AEC?)
6. Life as a Geotechnical Engineer in a Design-Build Environment
(University of Alberta Geotechnical Centre)
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