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Infrastructure is vital for the development of nations and it is because of this that the construction industry is ever-growing. Experts even estimate that by 2030, the global volume of construction output will grow by 85%. The rate translates to $15.5 trillion.  This news is great for construction companies. After all, more growth often means more business. The increase, however, comes at a price. The environmental impact of construction contributes to global warming. Construction projects emit large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane. Infrastructure developments cause pollution and produce waste. As the output of the construction industry multiplies, so can its damaging effects. How can businesses in the sector reduce the negative environmental impact of construction?

How Construction Harms the Environment

There are many societal impacts of construction. Methods, materials, and operations all contribute to the environmental impact of construction.  Construction projects worsen climate change. The sector accounts for 25 to 40 percent of the world’s total carbon emissions. Estimates suggest that emissions from commercial buildings can grow up to 1.8 percent in 2030. Mining projects extract minerals needed for construction materials. Companies then transport these materials to different parts of the world. Both processes burn up fossil fuels, and the combustion of fossil fuels produces greenhouse gases.

One of the biggest environmental problems related to infrastructure development is energy use. The global buildings sector consumes around 36 percent of the world’s energy. According to the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, Dr. Fatih Birol, we need to act as the industry is depleting much needed natural resources.

environmental impact of construction - Dr. Fatih Birol quoted
Construction companies should consider the impact they will make on the environment.

In addition, the environmental impact of construction can also affect wildlife. Roads in rainforests can cut off migration routes. Dams can divert water from freshwater habitats. Spills from oil platforms can kill marine organisms and leave the shoreline polluted.

Shifting Attitudes and Societal Change moving towards Sustainability through Green Construction Projects

Without a doubt, the environmental impact of construction is one of the biggest global societal issues today. Fortunately, the number of environmentally – conscious companies are growing.

More firms are requiring builders to design sustainable construction projects. Increased efficiency in energy systems has become one of the top priorities. There have been policy improvements when it comes to sourcing materials.

These strategies and practices aim to make the global construction sector greener.  Recent efforts have enabled emissions to stabilize over the past few years. Moreover, more construction companies have set emission reduction targets in place. There is indeed the great potential to further minimize the environmental impact of construction.

Despite the encouraging signs, Joyce Msuya, the Deputy Executive Director of UN Environment, says there’s more to be done.

environmental impact of construction - Joyce Msuya quoted
Doubling the effort with better and green construction practices to save the environment.

Addressing the Environmental Impact of Construction and its Impact on Society

Architects, engineers, and builders worldwide are adopting green practices in construction. Many firms even align their sustainability objectives with the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. They take innovative measures to lower the environmental impact of construction projects. They come up with sustainable solutions with the help of technology. Such firms include some of the world’s biggest construction companies.

environmental impact of construction, logos of global construction companies doing construction projects
Global construction companies Bechtel, Vinci, and Skanska acknowledge how green practices can benefit them in the long run.

Bechtel, known for global construction projects, employs sustainability in its business strategy. The company has opened the Bechtel Mining & Metals Innovation Center in Chile. It’s one of Bechtel’s most recent efforts to lessen the environmental impact of construction. Through the center, the firm aims to promote environmental sustainability in mining projects. The initiative will also develop technological innovations that can decrease water and power consumption. Since 1898, the company has completed more than 25,000 projects across 160 countries.

Sweden-based firm Skanska has been aggressive in addressing the environmental impact of construction. The multinational construction and development company commits to being carbon-neutral by 2050. In addition, all of Skanska’s commercial buildings aim for a minimum LEED Gold certification. Notable projects include the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, MetLife Stadium and the Mater Dei Hospital, among others.

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Vinci, a 115-year-old construction giant from France, also prioritizes sustainability. It is clear that the company is committed to reducing the environmental impact of construction. The UN Global Compact guides the group’s sustainable development policy. The company also conducts greenhouse gas audits. It defines action plans to reduce emissions. In 2017, Vinci’s electronic toll lanes lowered carbon emissions by 71,390  metric tons. That same year, Vinci confirmed its leadership position in France regarding climate strategy. The firm operates in more than 100 countries worldwide.

Stronger Commitment to Green Construction

The idea that sustainability costs more is an outdated notion. Many business owners are fully aware that going green will benefit them in the long run. Firms who don’t consider the environmental impact of construction will face the consequences sooner or later.

Because of the abundance of technological advancements, the construction sector has a vast potential for improving efficiency. Businesses in the industry must continue to explore how to maximize such advancements. Doing so will not only lessen the environmental impact of construction projects, but it can also boost profits. It can also strengthen a company’s image as a champion of sustainability.

Innovations are essential in solving environmental problems related to infrastructure development. Michael Buehler, Head of Infrastructure and Urban Development at the World Economic Forum, sums it up Boldly in a statement, “By redefining the ultimate frontier, leapfrogging innovations in construction will finally help to address major societal challenges, from mass urbanization to climate change.”

environmental impact of construction, Michael Buehler quoted
The time is now to make changes in the field of construction.

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