Reducing Carbon Emissions Of The Construction Industry Environmental Sciences Essay

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It is ideal to mention that almost all things emerging around us are constructed out of carbon. However "carbons in forms of solid are less damaging; such forms are tree tail or a layer of coal in the ground" [1]. CO2 is produced from diverse sources, one of which is energy, i.e, the production of energy takes place from burning fossil fuels such as oil, gas, coal, used in power plants, transportation and other construction industrial conveniences and almost everything we do in our live is involved energy.

All of the carbon emitters ranging from energy generation to transportation are found for the benefit of humans. So it's essential for us to seriously consider and work on reducing CO2 emission. Subsequently, the future will force us to reduce our emission as we will see clearly what negative affect our emitters have had on the environment

In addition, every facet of the UK's economy from construction to transportation to agriculture is dependent on fossil fuel imitative energy in fact "the emissions of carbon dioxide were over 150 million tonnes in 2004"[2] that comes from burning fossil fuels. As we search and try to discover different means of energy sources, we are still facing the certainty that CO2 emission from UK economy is still rising and actions must be come into view to equalise and cut the emissions that we cannot yet eradicate.

Figure (2) [3]

"The UK is currently likely to reduce emissions of CO2 by 15-18% of 1990 levels by 2010" [4]as shown in the figure (2) above; In order from the government to meet these figures, variety of methods are implemented to reduce the CO2 emission, trees are one way to offset carbon emission. Planting tree is a probable process to deal with climate change and it is one of the few methods that in fact eradicate active CO2 from the environment by using a process called (carbon sequestration).

Trees are known of absorbing CO2 of the atmosphere and provide it with O2 instead. This operation is referred to as Carbon Sequestration, in addition to the mentioned above, plants do also give back some CO2 but it is of such a small amount, that the effect of tree to nature and the atmosphere is seen totally positive.

Other methods that can be used in reducing carbon footprint are factors such as Solar power, Recycling, Water saving and Thermal insulation.

Solar power can be used to convert the sun's power into other energy sources typically heat, electricity or hot water. This mean of energy generation was adopted due to its extremely low carbon print and hence having no negative effect on the environment during the power generation process.

Recycling is significant in the process of reducing the amount of waste dispatched to land fill in comparison to new means of cutting the excessive use of natural sources and materials.

Saving water is necessary because there is an increase in population and therefore the rate of water usage is greater than ever, but the water suppliers have a limited contribute obtainable for drinking. Those water suppliers need to use energy to run their treatment plants and pumping water; therefore reducing the usage will save energy considerably.

Thermal insulation is used mostly in buildings to prevent having unnecessary heat driven in the structure; this will result in low running cost and less spending on central heating systems as well as reducing the power consumption from electricity.


Part 2:

CO2 emission in construction:

One of the major causes of CO2 emission in the UK is caused by construction. This is due to the fact that the construction industry uses untreated materials which are considered as major elements in generating noise, dust and considerable amount of waste.

Furthermore, the production and use of concrete has an enormous environmental effect this is because Cement is an energy consumer and CO2 fabricated material.

Other factors and causes of CO2 emission are things such as products that use high temperature processes to produce elements such as cement, bricks; these are considered as a main user of energy and emitter of greenhouse gases. Other material productions that can lead to CO2 emission are lead, iron and other chemical creation such as ammonia and titanium dioxide that can definitely cause negative impact to the environment.


Changes have been made to meet targets of reducing CO2 emission

Currently United Kingdom is working for changes toward producing and distributing a Greener and environmentally friendly energy. Simple example of those changes is pay-as-you-electrical supply, helping homes produce their own clean energy and boosting electricity production from low carbon sources, which in turn aid in the reduction of CO2 emission.

"At the moment 21 % of reduction has already been achieved from different sectors. This is equivalent to cutting all emissions from a city four times the size of London".[5] by making these necessary changes.

So The UK government has already set targets to meet its goal of making reduction in the CO2 emission and construction is one of the areas that need to be considered in order to meet these targets.

One of the actions the government has done to meet the targets is to reduce waste resulted from construction. Therefore, it has introduced the Site Waste Management Plans (SWMP) which came into force to make construction companies manage their waste generated on site, (more details of this scheme can be found in the recycling section). Other organisations supported by the government that help contractors to manage and reduce waste are (Norfolk Waste Recycling Assistance Project) (NORWRAP) and The National House Building Council (NHBC), these organisation are part of the commitment and changes the government has done to help reduce CO2 emission by launching an outline plan for these changes including waste collection and recycling.

Accordingly, this will reduce the landfill and the removal tax as well as reducing the labour costs of transporting these waste materials.

Other Ways in which the UK will meet its targets in further reduction of CO2 emissions are set out in the following areas:

Transport organism

Homes and society

Power system

Managing lands, Farms more sustainably

Figures of CO2 consumption in the UK from 1990 to 2007 resulted from different sectors are shown below:

Figure (4) [6]

Transport organism:

Most of the energy consumed in this sector is caused from different fuel types; few of which are petroleum, diesel and gasoline. As most types of transport means use these fuels, thus the emission of CO2 caused from the transportation sector continued to increase since (1990).

Transportation is deemed as one of the major sectors that can be mortified to meet CO2 reduction targets due to different reasons:

People can be greener in the present and future by choosing the most sustainable and lowest carbon ways of meeting their transport needs.

The government can support companies that generate low carbon vehicles to reduce greenhouse gas emission.

Homes and society (Residential):

The main goal in this sector is to make residential homes more efficient and support small scale renewable energy projects.  This intern will be enhancing green infrastructure and reduce the production of CO2 as it can be seen in Figure (4). Which can then improve the flexibility of our places to impacts of climate change such as flooding and over-heating, therefore it is vital that we acquire a long-term view to develop the functioning of our existing places.

Different type of energy sources are consumed by housing some of which are related to lights, water heating and cooking space.

New targets according to Government's resource [7] include:

'Pay as you save' pilots helping people make their house greener by using the savings made on bills to repay the upfront costs.

Encouragement on the new 'clean energy cash-back' scheme, which means people will be paid for generating electricity from low carbon sources.

The power system (energy supply):

The most effective way in which CO2 reductions can be achieved is by enhancing the way electricity is generated. Biomass is one of the means the government aim to use in producing electricity; biomass can be converted into gas or liquid fuels by using chemicals or heat to convert that energy into a usable energy source such as electricity. However, "CO2 that is released during the production of energy (electricity) from biomass is balanced by that which is absorbed during the production of the fuel itself" [8] which make this method considerably energy efficient.

Managing land, Farms more sustainably:

We have reached an era where we can use technical and methodological ideas such as recycling usable materials, converting the organic material into usable fuel and digging up landfills for extracting solid waste are all logical and feasible ideas whose time has come.

Reduction of emissions from agriculture, land use and waste can be achieved by sustaining the resources available for growing food and by well managing water and soil quality. Also allowing undeveloped land for development that greenly meet human needs, as well as supporting the "anaerobic digestion", a process that turns organic materials such as food waste, slurries and manures into renewable energy in form of biogas "[9] this can be used as an electricity production source that's why it widely spread across Europe.

Part 3:


Recycling is considered as a method of making the best use of the waste materials as well as, reducing the excessive use of the currently available natural materials. Recycling also plays a role in reducing pollution caused by dumping waste materials in the ground. Such strategy is very useful in these times where natural sources are of limited existences and need for those resources are gradually increasing day after another. This isn't only for the sake of the current generation but the upcoming generation will live their entire lives in a world we left for them, hence, we must take maximum care.

From a technical point of view, recycling is a process that takes less energy to perform and complete than starting the creation of that certain material from scratch. A clear example of that is the use of steel in construction, where melting it and reforming it is by far, an easier process than making the mixing and forming process from the beginning. In figures, researches reached the fact that "Aluminium makes use of 5% less energy when made through recycling" [10], in comparison to making from the original composites.

In this project, the main recycling sector to be discussed is recycling in construction. Construction is considered in many researches as a result of its major impact on the total recycling in the country. The value of construction industry works out to be "£100bn a year and is responsible for 8% of the domestic product in the United Kingdom" [11]. Given this field has this crucial influence, it will of course, have a positive impact on the recycling process in total.

The recycle process in the construction industry is a process that is involved in the sub-fields of public buildings, houses, roads, public access points, marine structures and major factories. Despite of all the current policies to reduce the emissions and increase the efficiency of recycling, the UK still doesn't meet the drawn targets. This only means, new methods and strategies must be taken.

In addition to the local preferences, government policies and legislations; the government was pushed by the EU in 2007 to come up with the Waste Strategy for England 2007.

As mentioned earlier, if recycling doesn't take place, the alternative method to get rid of waste materials will be dumping them in the ground. The negatives of this process are a minimum if the dumped materials are bio-degradable, but in case they aren't, recycling will play a major role in solving this problem, prevent causing damage to the environment and make a positive use of those non-bio-degradable materials.

Following those government legislation, the construction field has followed the following strategies:

Improve after-life of constructions to increase the efficiency and cause less need for waste removal.

Appropriate disposal of hazardous waste to avoid causing damage to the environment and categorise the waste accordingly.

Treat some of the materials those could be treated without the need for recycling to avoid unnecessary waste of energy.

In relation with government strategies; the Site Waste Management Plans "(SWMP) regulation was released in 2008; targeting major construction projects in England with a cost over £300,000" [12]. This scheme works on the basis of registering what materials will be used, how they will be demolished, when and how they will be dumped or recycled. This scheme stands on the following aims:

Reduce the amount of waste produced from construction, demolition or refurbishing.

Increase waste recycling and improve efficiency of the recycling process and the materials generated by it.

Ensure appropriate disposal of waste materials and diagnose when they are reach the stage to be dumped in the ground (after how many stages of curing), alternatively make better and second use of them to minimize any waste generated, this is presented in the simple flow chart below:

Process of minimising construction waste materials [13]