Predicting Environmental Impacts of Building Construction

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Buildings in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat

A team of researchers from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) has developed a method that makes it possible to evaluate the environmental impacts caused during the construction of buildings, in advance. The methodology apparently makes it possible to predict up to 37 environmental impacts.

The researchers began by classifying the environmental aspects into nine categories:
1). emissions into the air.
2). water spills.
3). waste generation.
4). soil pollution.
5). resource consumption.
6). local impacts.
7). impacts associated with transportation.
8). effects on biodiversitY.
9). emergency situations and incidents.

Their division is based on the EMAS (Eco-Management and Audit Scheme) Community Regulations, a piece of legislation that aims to improve organizations’ environmental performance.

To increase the level of precision, the researchers subdivided these categories into specific impacts. For example, the “emissions into the air” category includes two environmental impacts: greenhouse gas generation (emissions from the machinery and vehicles used on the work site) and emissions composed of volatile organic compounds (VOC) and chlorofluorocarbons (CFC).

To draw up the study, financed with funds from Spain’s Ministry of Public Works, researchers analyzed statistics from 55 new construction residential sites. By doing so, they established ranges related to the magnitude of each environmental impact (non-existent, hardly significant, slightly significant and extremely significant). They confirmed the validity of the method by testing it on four new construction projects.

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