Pollution prevention (P2) is a highly discussed topic among most sectors of the economy. P2 reduces or eliminates waste at the source using various methods. For example, modifying jobsite processes to reduce waste or eliminate it is considered one pollution prevention method.
In honor of Earth Day, the construction industry can strive to reduce pollution and make the building process more energy efficient. However, Earth Day doesn’t need to be the one day of the year to keep the environment at the forefront.
When determining how to cut pollution, especially on the jobsite, consider the following 10 prevention methods to take the next step to protecting the planet.
1. Use Water to Suppress Dust
Dust is one of the main causes of air pollution on jobsites. Many building materials are prone to releasing dust, including concrete, wood, cement, silica, and stone. There are many P2 methods to reduce dust entering the environment.
One commonly used method is spraying water onto any debris before it enters a debris chute. When grinding work occurs, spraying water can minimize dust there as well. Water sprays and sprinklers are essential to implementing effective dust control techniques.
2. Adopt Hybrid Equipment
Equipment manufacturers are exploring new hybrid technologies for architects, engineers, and construction professionals. For example, Volvo developed a hybrid excavator that is more fuel-efficient than traditional machines and harvests "free" boom-down energy.
Hybrid vehicles and equipment use cutting-edge technology to reduce fuel costs and emissions, which can increase project profitability.
3. Cover Water Drains to Prevent Contamination
Any debris or harmful chemicals on a jobsite could potentially enter drains and pollute local waterways. Construction materials or toxic chemicals can soak through the ground and leach into the groundwater or harm wildlife that inhabits these water sources.
Covering water drains prevents water pollution or contamination, and opting for nontoxic chemicals is suggested. If toxic substances are required, site managers should monitor them closely and keep them tightly covered.
4. Place Acoustic Barriers to Minimize Noise
Noise pollution is not often talked about. However, it can disturb natural animal cycles. For many people living nearby, it's bothersome listening to loud equipment, especially late at night or early in the morning.
One P2 method to reduce noise is using quiet equipment or installing movable acoustic barriers. These portable barriers control noise to limit disturbances in the jobsite's surrounding environment.
5. Adopt Careful Forestry Practices to Reduce Habitat Destruction
When working on a project, clearing land may be essential. However, companies should take measures to reduce habitat destruction and maintain biodiversity in an ecosystem.
For example, by using ethically sourced wood rather than intensive logging, companies can minimize their environmental impact and create sustainable habitats. Adopting safe land-clearing methods can help reduce habitat loss or fragmentation.
6. Choose Green Products, Local Materials, and Energy-Efficient Equipment
Whenever possible, jobsites should consider using green products, sourcing local building materials, and investing in energy-efficient equipment. For example, sourcing materials from local distributors rather than transporting them hundreds of miles can prevent pollution. It can also lead to supply chain cost reductions.
Opting for sustainability should be top of mind for professionals working on jobsites. Additionally, clients may feel more inclined to work with a company if they adopt sustainable practices or equipment.
7. Reuse or Recycle Water
Reusing water is another P2 strategy worth implementing on a jobsite. General Motors saves around $2 million annually by capturing and reusing stormwater to cool towers at the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant.
There are also water purification systems that enable companies to reuse water and reduce their water footprint.
8. Adopt Sustainable Waste Management Techniques
Many processes on a jobsite produce waste—there's no way around that. However, implementing sustainable waste management methods prevents debris from entering and polluting the environment.
Consider the Energy Star Portfolio Manager, a free and easy-to-use tool that companies can use to track waste, water, and energy consumption data to ensure the improvement of their waste management strategies.
9. Clean Vehicles and Equipment Regularly in Washout Pits
Cleaning vehicles and other jobsite equipment in a dedicated washout pit can prevent chemicals and potentially harmful substances from entering environments.
Vehicles and equipment that move from one place to another can carry seeds of invasive or non-native species to other areas, potentially contaminating a habitat. Dirty vehicles or machinery also wear out faster than clean ones, which can help companies maintain their equipment and avoid making any costly replacements.
10. Use Data-Driven Solutions to Monitor Pollution Levels
The business world is becoming more data-driven, as leveraging data can help companies outperform their competitors.
Additionally, many top data solutions for construction companies provide greater insight into pollution levels. From there, jobsite managers can take action to reduce high pollution levels.
Jobsites: Consider Implementing P2 Methods
It's no secret that the U.S., especially the engineering, construction, and architecture industries, produces different types of pollution that negatively impact the environment.
The U.S. also spends tens of billions of dollars trying to control these high levels of pollution, as they can put public health at risk. Companies can do their part by leveraging the P2 methods outlined above.