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Chapter 2: Construction and Environment

2.1 Construction Industry in Malaysia

The construction industry translates idea of knowledge into reality and this reality
is the embodiment of the built environment. Buildings and structures change the
nature, function and appearance of our cities and countryside.

Sustainable development in the construction industry, or also known as

sustainable construction, would require the creation of buildings and
infrastructure to shape communities in a way that sustains the environment,
generates wealth over the long term and enhances the quality of life of people
without the expense of the future generation. The economic, social and
environmental benefits which can flow from a more efficient and sustainable
construction industry are potentially immense. Reducing consumption materials
and land, minimizing waste, using recycled materials, embracing energy
efficiency and managing site operations to avoid pollution are good for business
as well as the environment. Achieving long term sustainability in the construction
industry requires analysis and changes to what is built, where it is built, how it is
built and the operation of the built facilities.

2.2 Construction Process

Construction industry is the industry that concerns construction works and that
includes construction extension, installation, repair, maintenance, renewal,
removal, renovation, alteration, dismantling or demolition of:

a) any building, erection, edifice, structure, wall, fence or chimney, whether

constructed wholly or partly or below ground level;
b) any road, harbour, railway, cable way, canal or aerodrome;
c) any drainage, irrigation or river control works;
d) any electrical, mechanical, water gas, petrochemical or telecommunication
works or;
e) Any bridge, viaducts, dam, reservoir, earthworks, pipeline, aqueduct, culvert,
driveshaft, tunnel or reclamation works.

Table 1: Integrating environmental management considerations into the

construction approval process

Approval process Environmental Management Considerations

Project Identification: Site suitability

Consult local agencies
Feasibility Study Initial environmental review
Concept layout Identification of aspects and impacts
Identification of legislature and regulations;
Develop Environmental Management Plan

Project Appraisal Identification of legislature and regulations;

Land use compatibility, Develop Environmental Management Plan
Conservation values of
Develop environmental policy, objectives & targets

Project Master Plan Develop environmental policy, objectives & targets

Incorporating environmental management plan
Establish and train in Environmental Management

Project Design Establish and train in Environmental Management


Project Constructions Incorporating environmental management plan

Site investigations, Establish and train in Environmental Management
Site preparation
Monitoring environmental aspect & impacts; Mitigating
Environmental auditing
Environmental Performance Evaluation


Construction is not inherently environmental friendly industry and many research

conducted has portrayed construction as a major contributor to environmental
disruption and pollution. Construction activity is one of the major contributors to
the environmental impacts, which are typically classified as air pollution, waste
pollution, noise pollution and water pollution. The construction activities have a
significant impact on the environmental across a broad spectrum of off-site, on-
site and operational activities. Off site activities concern the mining and
manufacturing of materials and components, land acquisition and project design.
On site construction activities relate to the construction of a physical facility,
resulting in air pollution, water pollution, traffic problems and the generation of
construction wastage.
Environmental Impacts
of Construction Activity Construction Planning

Construction Materials Work Sites Traffic Planning


Structures Earthworks

Runoff and
Underground Drainage

Environmental Mitigation

Figure 1: Planning, Organization and Methods for Sustainable Construction

2.3 Impacts of construction activities on the environment

Activities in the construction industry are complex, highly dispersed and resource
demanding. The industry contributes to the loss of important natural assets and
imposes severe impacts and stress on the environment.

Construction activities and practices that fail to control its impacts and the
environment can cause damage to rivers, lakes and environmentally sensitive
ecosystems, kill fish and aquatic life, upset ecological systems and wildlife
habitats, and result in contamination of land and groundwater. The impact on the
environment is particularly high when work is done on highland, on slopes, near
coastal areas, rivers and lakes. When construction occurs near built-up areas,
poor practices may result in noise and air pollution which may cause a nuisance
and affect the health of neighbouring communities.

2.3.1 Land degradation

Large projects usually involve extensive land disturbance involving removing

vegetation and reshaping topography. Such activities make the soil vulnerable to
erosion. Soil removed by erosion may become airborne and create a dust
problem or be carried by water into natural waterways and pollute them. Due to
the soil erosion of the exposed and loose earth, there will be a deterioration of
water quality in the surrounding water bodies due to siltation and sedimentation.
Siltation and sedimentation in the water bodies can result in mud floods and flash
floods in the downstream area during heavy downpour.

Landslides and slope failure can occur at unstable slopes or when saturated with
water during heavy rainfalls.

Measures to address the impact of land disturbance on the environment should

be included in the planning and design phase of the project before any land is
cleared. Extent of exposure of bare surfaces to rainfall needs to be limited.
Surfaces need to be covered with turfing and plastic sheets as soon as possible.

Photo 1: Example of land degradation

2.3.2 Loss of flora and fauna

The biological environment includes non-human animal and plant life, the
distribution and abundance of the various species and the habitats of
communities. Species forming a community are often interdependent so
that a direct environmental effect on one species is likely to have indirect
effects on either species.

Unfortunately, the loss of flora and fauna is imminent in any development.

Planning is essential to ensure minimal losses during the implementation
stages and steps must be taken later to ensure that the losses are
“replenished.” This is essential especially when development is within the
vicinity of a mountain range, a densely forested area and catchment
areas. At the Planning stage, if the environmental considerations are
described in detail and allowances made for implementation during the
construction stages, then, the losses would be minimised and and better
protection could be put in place for the conservation of the flora and fauna.

Photo 2: Example of forest degradation and loss of flora and fauna

2.3.3 Solid wastes

Solid waste can be either hazardous or non hazardous. Construction projects

generally generate more non hazardous waste than hazardous wastes. Some of
the types of wastes found at a typical construction site are construction waste,
domestic waste and scheduled waste. Construction waste are solid inert waste
which usually consists of building rubble, but may also include as demolition
material, concrete, bricks, timber, plastic, glass, metals, bitumen, trees and
shredded tires. Such wastes should be reused, recycled, or disposed of to an
approved landfill. Disposal methods adopted depend on the nature of the
material. Improper disposal can lead to the outbreak of diseases such as malaria,
dengue and schistosomiasis, transmitted by mosquitoes and snails.

Domestic waste can be found on construction sites which have base camps for
the workers on them. Domestic wastes need to be properly disposed of to avoid
the infestation of rodents, roaches and other pests. These pests bring with them
vector borne diseases such as cholera and rabies.

The contractor is also responsible in proper handling, storing, transporting and/or

disposing of scheduled wastes. Examples of scheduled or hazardous wastes are
used oil, hydraulic fluid, diesel fuel, soil contaminated with toxic or hazardous
pollutants, waste paints, varnish, solvents, sealers, thinners, resins, roofing
cement and more. It is the responsibility of the contractor to meet the Scheduled
Waste regulations under the Environmental Quality Act 1974. The responsibility
covers the proper handling, storing, transporting and disposal of these wastes.
Photo 3: Example of construction waste

2.3.4 Water pollution

Water quality is important for economic, ecological, aesthetic and recreational
purposes. Changes in water quality may affect water treatment costs or even
deny some uses of the water. The potential for soil erosion and impacts on water
quality are greatest during construction when removal of vegetation for initial
clearing and grading activities exposes soil and makes it susceptible to erosion.
The impacts are greatest during rainy season where extensive land clearing has
been carried out.

Photo 4: Example of water pollution

2.3.5 Air pollution

Activities or major concerns for air quality are the burning of waste, the emission
of dust and smoke, and the emission of chemical impurities such as heavy
metals, acid and other toxic bases. Principle effects are on human health,
aesthetic values (sight and smell) adjacent land uses, temperature modification
and humidity changes. Air quality impacts from construction include increased
dust and airborne particulates caused by grading, filling, removals and other
construction activities. Air quality impacts may also result from emissions from
construction equipment and vehicles.
Photo 5: Example of Air Pollution

2.3.6 Depletion of resources

Activities in the construction sector are complex, highly dispersed and resource
demanding. The sector contributes to the loss of important natural assets and
imposes severe stress on the environment. Agricultural land is often lost through
urbanization and extraction of raw materials. Forest timber is harvested for
construction and building materials faster than it can replaced by planting new
trees or by natural growth.
Many raw materials used in construction are limited resources. For example, the
reserves of some metals will be gone in less than 30 years, if the current rate of
exploitation continues. The consumption of fossil fuels contributes to increased
air pollution and emissions of greenhouse gases.

2.3.7 Noise and vibration

Noise and vibration would be generated by various activities and equipment used
in the construction project. Noise and vibration levels due to construction
activities in the project area would vary depending on the types of equipment
used, the location of the equipment and the operating mode. During a typical
work cycle, construction equipment may be idling, preparing to perform tasks, or
operating under a full load. Equipment may be congregated in a specific location
or spread out over a large area. Adverse impact resulting from construction noise
and vibration are expected to be limited to areas adjacent to the project and
temporary in nature. The construction noise and vibration impacts would be
localised near the area where construction is taking place.
Photo 7: Example of noise, vibration and air pollution

2.3.8 Land Contamination

Although it may be necessary to store chemicals and fuel on project sites, this
inevitably creates an environmental risk. Spills can severely pollute waterways
and land. Reducing the quantities of chemicals and fuel stored on-site to
minimum practicable levels is desirable.

Photo 8: Example of land contamination

2.4 Players and their roles, commitment and responsibilities

The key players in any project development are the Owner, the Designer or
Design Professional and the Constructor or Contractor. Other entities such as
the Authorities or Regulators, subcontractors, material vendors and so forth are
important supporting players in the development process, the major development
of the project revolves about these three major players. Table 2 gives a list of
players’ involvement at different stages of project development.
Table 2: Construction Players
Main Process Main Players
a) Developer/Client
The process of translating b) Architect
Design business/social needs to c) Engineer
knowledge products d) Quantity surveyor
e) Regulatory authorities
a) Developer/client
The process of securing the best b) Architect
Procurement process for transforming the k- c) Engineer
product to built environment d) Quantity Surveyor
e) Main Contractor
a) Architect
b) Engineer
c) Quantity Surveyor
d) Regulatory authorities
The process of transforming the e) Project Manager
k-product to a built environment f) Main Contractor
g) Skilled and unskilled workers
h) Suppliers
i) Plant operators
j) Financiers
The process of utilizing the built
Operation and Management Corporation
environment to meet the business Regulatory Authorities
/social needs