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The construction industry is one of the largest consumers of natural resources. It primarily uses 60 percent of the world’s natural resources directly or indirectly as construction materials for developing buildings and infrastructure. The issues that develop after having these vast concrete jungles are even more appalling.

The strong influence of the construction industry on sustainable development has brought authorities to develop sustainable development objectives. The severity of the problem is better understood by knowing the top sustainability issues for which the construction industry is responsible.

This article explains the top 7 sustainability issues and their connection with the construction industry.

1. Global warming due to Construction

Global warming is the process of an increase in global temperatures due to the rise in the amount of carbon-di-oxide and other greenhouse gases.

The burning of fossil fuels for energy production generates a large amount of carbon-di-oxide. This energy is consumed for different phases of the construction life cycle. The manufacture of concrete also has resulted in around 2.8 billion tonnes of CO2 that is expected to rise in the coming years.

Also Read: Sustainable Concrete Construction Methods and Practices

The greenhouse gases or GHG emitted from extraction, manufacture, transportation, installation, utilization, maintenance, and disposal of the construction materials is another main contributor to global warming. Global warming results in extreme weather conditions and natural disasters.

2. Loss of Biodiversity and Natural Habitats

The land consumption for the construction of structures or extraction of natural resources results in the loss of biodiversity and habitats. It hence results in the loss of species and their extinction. Biodiversity and natural habitats are essential elements that maintain the balance of the ecosystem.

3. Acidification due to Construction

The process of fossil fuel combustion conducted for the manufacture and transportation of construction materials emits a large amount of sulfur and nitrogen compounds. These compounds, if not correctly disposed, can dissolve in water bodies. Their solid forms also can remain in surface waters or the soils. This acidification is the primary cause of acid rain in the environment.

4. Air Pollution due to Construction

The construction industry results in airborne particles that have a size range of less than 10micrometres in diameters. These particles are hence invisible. Airborne particles, both in liquid and solid forms, cause harm to the environment and humans.

Most of the airborne particles are emitted due to construction and extraction activities such as mining of aggregate, operation of construction equipment, production of electricity, manufacturing process, and transportation of materials.

5. Toxicity due to Construction

Toxicity increases in the atmosphere with the presence of heavy metals. The presence of heavy metals in the water when it exceeds undesirable limits brings health issues to living. Manufacturing and transportation of construction materials are the major contributors to toxic metals.

6. Water Resource Pollution due to Construction

The pollution of water resources by impermeable and non-degradable construction materials reduces the ability to perform groundwater recharge. The depletion and pollution of water resources make the hydrological cycle to alter drastically.

Water is depleted by consuming it in large amounts for construction activities and extraction processes. The pollutants and by-products after construction activities are sent back to water bodies as a form of disposal. It hence pollutes the water bodies.

7. Deforestation due to Construction

Construction demands a large land area. This forces humans to takeover forest resources. With an increase in urbanization, this demand keeps on increasing. The depletion of forest land, trees for construction activities are still an increasing trend. These forests have the power to hold more than half of the world’s biodiversity, and hence it is essential to maintain it.

Understanding the risks that construction creates for the environment is the first step towards tackling this issue. Sustainable construction methods are emerging each year to address this situation.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.How does Construction Industry affect sustainability?

The construction industry demands 60% of the natural resources. This is utilized for the manufacture of products and construction activities. As a result of which it causes the following sustainability issues:
Depletion of Natural Resources, diversity, and habitats.
Manufacture of products results in the emission of pollutants and gases to the atmosphere.
Pollutants in air results in acid rain and airborne diseases
Improper disposal of construction waste results in water pollution, which results in a decrease in groundwater discharge.

2. What construction activities result in air pollutants?

Air pollutants are formed due to the construction activities like manufacture and extraction activities such as mining of aggregate, operation of equipment, production of electricity, manufacturing process, and transportation of materials.

3. What are the major causes of toxicity in construction?

The major causes of toxicity in the environment are the presence of heavy metals. The main contributors to heavy metals are the manufacturing and transportation of construction products.

4. What are the major construction practices that increase the carbon-di-oxide amount in the atmosphere?

The carbon-di-oxide amount in the atmosphere is primarily due to the manufacture of concrete structures. The combustion of fossil fuels to generate energy also results in the emission of carbon-di-oxide in large amounts.

Also Read: 6 Sustainable Innovations Shaping Construction

Also Read: Sustainability in Construction & Civil Engineering

Neenu Arjun

Neenu Arjun

EDITOR
Neenu is a Civil and Structural Engineer and has experience in Design of Concrete and Steel Structures. She is an Author, Editor and Partner at theconstructor.org.

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