Five ways to make your construction site more sustainable
When we think of construction, it’s believed by many that the industry causes a lot of damage to the environment due to factors such as waste, a high carbon footprint, noise, and air pollution - and, as a result - it is not sustainable. But what if there were ways that it could be? We take a look at five ideas for making construction sites more sustainable.
1. Reuse and Recycle waste
The byproduct of construction is waste - whether that be rubble or unused materials, and these need to be disposed of once a job is completed. However, instead of taking it to a landfill site, you could reuse or recycle it. Materials such as metal masonry, plastics, plywood, glass, lumber, and others can all be recycled or even reused as materials for future construction projects.
Doing this can save you a lot of money and is better for the environment. Recycling companies have recently noticed a change in corporate attitudes to waste disposal and recycling across the board. There has been greater emphasis placed on finding ‘greener’ alternatives, particularly Corporate Social Responsibilities. This has lead to an uptake in recycling services and more local waste disposal.
2. Prevent chemical run-off
Construction sites are prone to having chemical leaks which cause harm to the environment. This happens more frequently if a construction site is not managed in the way it should. As a result, it is important that you make sure to protect local soil and water sources while in the construction phase.
To achieve this, silt fences can be used to prevent soil from being washed away, and if there are any contaminants near the site, make sure they are away from any water sources, as this not only impacts the water itself but also any potential wildlife that inhabits it.
3. Use sustainable building materials
One of the best ways to make your construction site or business more sustainable and environmentally friendly is to use sustainable building materials. These are often less expensive than traditional building materials, meaning overall costs will be reduced. Examples of sustainable building materials include Geo-textiles and other crop-made products, concrete reinforced with natural fibres such as timber and bamboo, and straw bales.
4. Digitise your business
Digitising things like plans and drawings is another way to improve sustainability in the construction industry due to the large amount of paper used in physical copies. UK construction companies in particular have welcomed technological innovations looking to lead the way forward in 2021. Digitising will also help to cut down on litter and reduce the risk of important documentation being lost.
5. More efficient transport
Construction transport leaves a large carbon footprint. To help reduce this, you can manage your fleet more efficiently by working out the best routes to take in terms of journey time and distance so that your carbon footprint remains as small as possible. It also may be a good idea to consider how many journeys you make, decreasing them where possible. For example, sometimes you can complete a task in one journey rather than two, and so on. This will help increase the sustainability of both your construction business and the site too.
With the right techniques, time, and effort, it is possible for construction sites and businesses to improve their impact on the environment. It just takes a few changes, which, once made, will have huge benefits.
University of Dresden constructs carbon concrete building
The Technical University of Dresden, in partnership with German architecture firm Henn, is constructing the first building to be made out of concrete and carbon fibre, rather than traditional steel.
The combination of materials, known as, “carbon concrete” has the same structural strength as its steel-reinforced alternative but less concrete is used, according to researchers at the university.
The building, called “The Cube” is currently under construction at the University of Dresden’s campus in Germany, and is believed to be the first carbon concrete building in the world. Strengthening the concrete, the carbon fibre yarns are used to create a mesh into which the concrete is then poured.
Unlike steel, the mesh is rust-proof meaning that the lifespan of carbon concrete is longer than that of the more typical steel-reinforced concrete. This also allows the layers to be much thinner than steel.
The design and shape of The Cube
According to the companies, the flexibility of carbon fibre allows the walls to fold up and become a roof. In a statement talking about the building’s design elements, Hen said: “The design of The Cube reinterprets the fluid, textile nature of carbon fibres by seamlessly merging the ceiling and walls in a single form, suggesting a future architecture in which environmentally conscious design is paired with formal freedom and a radical rethinking of essential architectural elements.
"The wall and ceiling are no longer separate components but functionally merge into one another as an organic continuum.” Displayed as a showpiece for TU Dresden’s major project, backed by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, The Cube aims to explore the potential uses of carbon concrete in construction.
"Carbon concrete could contribute to more flexible and resource-saving construction processes, and switching to carbon concrete could reduce the CO2 emissions from construction by up to 50%," Henn said in a statement.
Bio-based carbon fibre under development to reduce carbon footprint
While carbon fibre may be lighter and stronger than steel, it has a much higher carbon footprint. Describing the material’s impact on the environment, Dr Erik Frank, Senior Carbon Scientist at the German Institute of Textile and Fibre Research Denkendorf (DITF), said it is “usually very bad.” To reduce the carbon footprint, Frank is finding ways to make carbon fibre out of lignin, a common plant-based substance found in the paper manufacturing industry.