In February 2018, the Scheme launched ‘Spotlight on… air pollution’ to raise awareness of the impact of air pollution and provide the industry with advice on tackling the issue.
‘Spotlight on… air pollution’ provides a central resource for everyone in the industry to improve their knowledge of air pollution, including statistics, examples of best practice, useful resources and practical guidance. The campaign also features case studies from leading contractors and organisations including the Institution of Civil Engineers and Transport for London.
Air pollution is linked to 40,000 deaths a year, causes considerable environmental damage and harms our economy. Construction sites are responsible for 7.5% of nitrogen oxide emissions, 8% of large particle emissions and 14.5% of the most dangerous fine particle emissions. As a heavy-polluting industry, construction needs to take immediate action to drastically reduce its contribution to air pollution.
As part of the research for this campaign, the Scheme issued a survey to industry professionals asking for their views and approaches to air pollution. Of those surveyed, 84% asserted that there is an issue with air pollution in the construction industry, with an additional 64% saying the industry is not doing enough to tackle this issue. Despite this urgency, 39% said they only had an average understanding of the regulations surrounding air pollution. As air pollution is an area which is tightly governed by legislative standards, construction professionals must understand what they need to do to comply with air quality measures.
The campaign has been featured in: Air Quality News, Building.co.uk, Construction Manager, Planning & Building Control Today, Professional Housebuilder & Property Developer and UK Construction Week.
New Best Practice and Innovations
To reinforce the messages of the campaign, the Scheme issued guidance to all Monitors ensuring they raise the issue of air pollution when visiting registered sites, companies and suppliers. View the guidance note here.
This drive to improve standards has resulted in a number of sites and companies taking the initiative to find new and interesting ways of tackling air pollution on their projects, resulting in a number of relevant examples being submitted to the Best Practice Hub.
Air pollution application (Berkeley Homes)
Air Quality Monitoring (ISG)
Diesel Generator – Air Quality Impacts (Laing O’Rourke)
Managing indoor air quality (Mace)
Photocatalytic hoarding – breaking down pollution (Sir Robert McAlpine)
Using exhaust filters to reduce air pollution (Kier)
In addition to submitted entries, the Scheme has identified a number of innovative activities by sites going above and beyond to minimise air pollution. These innovations include:
Air pollution monitoring awareness poster (Willmott Dixon)
Clean Air Kits to measure NO2 levels on site and tackle air pollution (Robert Woodhead Ltd)
Electronic Screed Pump (Berkeley Homes)
It is certainly promising that so many sites and companies are actively working to reduce air pollution produced by their projects. However, there is still room for improvement in how the industry addresses air pollution.
Scheme Monitors visit 18,000 construction sites and offices every year, providing them with a valuable insight into current industry attitudes. We asked our Monitors to complete a survey about how sites are addressing air pollution. Survey results revealed that:
- 62% have seen improvements in how sites, companies and suppliers are dealing with air pollution since the campaign launched, with specific reference made to formalised procedures for checking plant emissions, better maintained/ low emission machinery and improved communication with the workforce.
- 84% said recent improvements are partly or largely due to the campaign.
- 61% said more sites are raising awareness of this issue among the workforce.
- 54% have seen more literature on site/ in offices regarding air pollution.
These results are highly encouraging, demonstrating that the campaign has had a tangible impact on the industry.
That said, there is much more work to do, with 75% of Monitors asserting that the industry is still not doing enough about air pollution. A further 52% said that few sites, companies and suppliers have an adequate understanding of air pollution and its causes.
A common thread in their comments was that smaller companies and those located away from busy urban centres state that air pollution is not an issue for them, believing air pollution is only a problem in London. Others assume that air pollution solely concerns dust and demonstrated little awareness of how diesel exhaust emissions from machinery and vehicles also play a considerable part.
For those who do appreciate the issue, their answer is often that it is a head office or supply chain issue, as site managers have little control over what equipment is used. It is therefore vital that the entire industry, from senior management through to suppliers, make a collaborative commitment to drastically reducing air pollution from construction work.
New e-learning course
Our Monitors identified an urgent need for additional training on air pollution to help end misconceptions and improve understanding of this topic:
“Those who manage the sites need to receive additional training on the subject. The fact that 40,000 deaths are linked to air pollution shocks most site managers. Most site managers are aware of how air pollution is caused but few know how to deal with it.”
To help meet this demand for further information, the Scheme has developed a new e-learning course focused on air pollution. E-learning is free of charge and can be accessed by all registered Hub users.
Click here to take ‘Air Pollution’ e-learning
- Clear the Air is a Scottish website aimed at helping young people understand air pollution, including a tool for seeing the pollution in their area and calculating vehicle emissions.
- Planning & Building Control Today published an article emphasising the contribution of temporary power generators to air pollution and the need for sustainable energy solutions.
- State of Global Air, new for 2018, provides an interactive resource for viewing the latest global, regional, and country-specific data on air quality and health.