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The arrival of “The Environment” Legislation and the Construction Industry.

The arrival of “The Environment” Legislation and the Construction Industry.

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Maureen Mc Henry. Originally submitted for Bsc Environmental Science at University of Ulster, with lecturer Professor Keith Day in the category of Environmental and Geosciences
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Maureen Mc Henry. Originally submitted for Bsc Environmental Science at University of Ulster, with lecturer Professor Keith Day in the category of Environmental and Geosciences

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The a
rrival of “The Environment”
 Legislation and the Construction Industry.
Over the past 40 years and with
the arrival of “The Environment”
, the construction industry within theUK has been bombarded with ever increasing legislations, regulations, targets and initiatives tocombat global environmental issues. Concerns over global warming, pollution, resource depletion,energy consumption, green house gas emission, ozone depletion and waste has increasingly putpressure on the construction industry to address its environmental responsibilities and implementmanagement and control strategies to reduce its environmental impact.
Birth of Environmentalism
Environmental issues have emerged throughout history, with evidence found in historical archives,manuscripts etc; however these tended to be under the auspices of public health, air pollution andsuch like. The birth of modern environmentalism has often been contributed to the publication of 
Silent Spring 
by American Biologist, Rachel Carson in 1962. Since then we have seen an increasingawareness of environmental issues. In 1970, the American Environmental Agency announced itsmission to
“protect human health and to safeguard the natural environment—
air, water, and land
upon which life depends”(Environmental Protection Agency
, 2010) and the celebration of the firstEarth Day, on April 22
a day designated to inspire awareness and appreciation of thenatural environment
in which American
Senator Gaylord Nelson aimed to put environmental issuesonto the national agenda. With the
UK entry into the European Union in 1972, environmentallegislation has become an integral part of UK politics. Prior to that time there was little legal or regulatory mechanisms in place to protect our environment.
Legislation and Industry
Over a period of several years, numerous legislations and standards were introduced in relation toenvironmental management tools to encourage companies to implement management and controlstrategies. The first global environmental management system standard launched was BS 7750,introduced in 1992, amended in 1994 and which set the framework for the international levelenvironmental management system standards of ISO 14000 (1992), ISO14001 (1996) ISO 14004.The BS 7750 standard was super-ceded in 1997 in favour of the ISO 14001. Within the EU, the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) was introduced in 1995, but initially restricted to theindustrial sector. In 2001 the EMAS became open to all economic sectors. This EU standard has nowbeen updated to Regulation EC No 1221/2009 and came into force in January 2010. The continuouschanges, amendments and revisions over a period of a few years often confused and restricted anyreal progress in the introduction and implementation of environmental management within alleconomic sectors, and more specifically the construction industry, an industry which was ill preparedand unwilling to implement such management plans. Lack of incentives to prioritise environmentalmatters also played its role.
However increasing public awareness of global environment problems and recognition of theenvironmental impact of the construction industry
which is “
considered to consume more energy thanother business sectors in the UK and creates the most waste, uses most non-energy related
resources, and is responsible for the most pollution”(May, 2008), has led to increasing legislation and
regulations to encourage the construction industry to accept its environmental responsibilities and
adopt sustainability practices as part of its
operating environment. “Construction is one activity that is
acknowledged to have real and potential adverse effects on the environment and well being of the
populations of the world” (Chavan, 2005)
. The issue of improving energy efficiency in buildingconstruction was now only one factor which needed addressed. Sustainable building practice wasnow on the agenda, with site waste management plans, purchase of sustainable materials,sustainable design and environmental management plans.
It was now increasingly “a requirement for 
businesses to address the environment in order to maintain customers, and exist and thrive in an ever more
critical global economy”
(Chavan, 2005).
Energy Efficiency in Building Construction - European Commission and the SixthFramework Programme
The launch of the Eco-buildings initiative by the European Commission (DG TREN) within the sixthFramework Programme played a vital role in the bringing together of the knowledge and availability of technological advances in the development of sustainable buildings, with demonstration projectswhich highlighted technology available, the economic viability of these developments and their integration into the construction industry. It was only in the past few years that these technologieswere becoming more visible within the public domain. These technologies could
improve the energy performance in buildings, reducing the conventional energy demand in new andexisting buildings and substantially contributing to reduce energy intensity, through combinedmeasures of rational
use of energy and integration of renewable energy technologies
” (
Eco-buildings,2007).This new initiative set the stage to bring together the stakeholders of the construction industry and the
policy makers who could now begin to make things “happen”. This was the strategic driver 
whichwould direct sustainability and bring research from theory to practice. The feasibility of introducingenergy efficiency concepts within the construction industry was increasingly becoming moreeconomically viable with technological advances beginning to provide the products required to createenergy efficient buildings and consequently support legislation and regulation for renewable energyand energy efficiency measures. The construction industry was about to be inundated with initiatives,legislation and facts on low carbon buildings and green products with a specific focus on eco-buildingtechnology. The sustainability of buildings and their energy efficiency had finally reached the forefrontof research and development.The UK Government in its first comprehensive Energy White Paper (2006) had indicated its intentionto introduce
measures to “significantly reduce energy use in buildings as an i
mportant element in itsclimate
change strategy”
(Communities and Local Government, 2007). An amendment to Part L of theBuilding Regulations in April 2006, highlighted the measures in which these energy reductionswere to be achieved, with further amendments planned for its upcoming Green Paper;
Homes for the future: more affordable more sustainable 
. This Green paper, published in July, 2007, highlighted the
commitment to sustainability by its introduction of large scale investment in eco-towns,which were to be
“exemplar “green developments which would
meet the highest standards of sustainability, including low and zero carbon technologies and quality public transport systems"(Homes for the Future, 2007) and sustainable construction and a new government strategy being;rather than introduce new legislation they aimed to make the existing regulations work better.
What Next?
No new regulations for sustainable construction? Building technology had now been enhanced withR&D and new technology increasingly used within the construction sector with ever more advances being produced on a regular basis. However,
“The Environment” wasn‟t quite finished
with the construction industry.
The Homes For the Future green paper 
(2007) was to highlight the
next major campaign for 
” within the
construction industry. The Homes for theFuture Green Paper would now
focus on “
reducing the carbon footprint of activities within theconstruction sector, with better use of resources and zero net waste at construction site level" (Homesfor the Future, 2007). Waste reduction was to be the next major agenda to impact the constructionindustry. Waste reduction within the construction sector was highlighted as a major area for action,with
the construction industry being a major source of waste in England, using the highest tonnage of solid material resources in any sector, over 400 million tonnes. The construction, demolition &excavation (CD&E) sector generates more waste in England than any other sector, and is the largestgenerator of hazardous waste, ar 
ound 1.7 million tonnes” (DEFRA, 2009)
. Consequently action onwaste reduction and resource efficiency was launched as part of the
waste strategy for England 2007. Three main areas were targeted for action within the construction industry byDepartment for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). These were;
 PlasterboardThe Sustainable Construction Strategy (see Appendix 1) was launched in June 2008 with the key
aims being to “change attitudes and encourage change and deliver benefits to the construction
industry and
the wider economy” (DEFRA, 2007).
This strategy set targets for sustainableconstruction and highlighted the means by which these targets were to be attained.Site Waste Management Plans (SWMP). The new SWMPs introduced new regulations which wereenforced in April 2008. It was now compulsory for all construction projects in England costing over £300,000 to introduce site waste management plans. These new regulations stipulated that the
SWMP must record “
amount and type of waste produced on a construction site and how it will be
reused, recycled or disposed” (DEFRA, 2008). The key aim of the regulations wa
s to increaserecovery, re-use and recycling of construction waste. Additionally the employment of SWMP washoped to tackle and alleviate the problems associated with illegal, inappropriate dumping of waste byimproving traceability of waste from construction site to landfill.Plasterboard -
“In the US and in Europe plasterboard waste disposed of in landfills have allegedly
created the
dangerous Hydrogen Sulfide Gas”
(Gypsum Recycling International). This gas, in highconcentrations could be potentially lethal. Although plasterboard itself is not considered asdangerous, however its reaction with organic waste, anaerobic conditions and exposure to raincaused the production of hydrogen sulphide gas. Therefore where and how should it be disposed?In the past restrictions on materials disposed of in landfills was limited and the environmental impactof plasterboard dispo
sal had not been recognised but with “over 300,000 tonnes per year of waste
(WRAP, 2009) being produced on construction sites within the UK, and the fact that itwas now listed as a hazardous substance, had made the problem of disposal of gypsum plasterboarda major issue.
The Waste Dilemma
The issue of waste management can be traced back to 3000BC to the Cretan capital Knossos where
“the first recorded landfill sites were created where waste was placed in large pits and covered
earth”. Recent history has seen
an ever spiralling list of legislations, regulations and targets beingintroduced with
“This Common Inheritance” the governments first White paper on the environment in
1990, The Duty of Care in 1992, EU Directives and producer responsibility in 1994, 1995 and theintroduction of the Environment Agency, Ma
king Waste Work 1996, Landfill Tax with charges of “

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