Groundworks are an essential part of construction projects but can pose a number of risks to the environment.
Digging, disturbing or moving ground, having heavy machinery and equipment travelling across a site, and inclement weather conditions can all pose risks to local ecosystems and the environment. Without due care and attention vegetation or trees can be disturbed or damaged, silt or sediment can migrate into watercourses, or neighbouring properties could be impacted.
Factoring environmental protection measures into planning is essential – it will also ensure adherence to regulations and reduce the risk of heavy fines.
Depending on the types of works being undertaken, including their length, location and the forecast weather conditions, environmental protection methods could range from simple, temporary control measures to permanent applications or installations.
While the necessary measures will vary from site to site, there are common risks and protections to take into consideration, including:
- Protect soil and avoid it becoming compacted or contaminated by constructing temporary access roads to dissipate heavy loads and prevent erosion from vehicles moving across a site. Additionally, clearly marking access routes and fitting gates or fences will ensure traffic doesn’t stray from and cause harm outside of designated routes.
- Preserve topsoil, ensuring its long-term drainage ability, by stripping, moving and temporarily storing quality soil – always ensure stockpiles do not sit over 2m high. This will also ensure returning the site to ‘normal’ on completion of the project is more easily done, for topsoil to be seeded and landscaped, and does not require the purchase and transportation of new materials.
- Prevent contamination reaching watercourses and reuse water captured and collected across a site by installing a Sustainable Urban Drainage System (SUDS).
- Prevent silt from migrating into watercourses after heavy rainfall by installing silt fences and maintaining buffer grounds around watercourses or drains.
- Protect tree roots from being damaged by traffic and vehicles by installing geocell, which dissipate heavy loads and stabilize surrounding ground.
- Reduce the risk of dust pollution during dry weather by applying binder to road surfaces and spraying water over sites to reduce dust formation.
- Prevent flooding into nearby watercourses or harm to biodiversity by installing temporary or permanent SUDS basins. These can slow, store, drain or reuse water captured across site.
Using environmental protection measures – understanding the potential risks and applying the available solutions to mitigate these – is essential in all phases of construction works. They will not only protect the environment, but also deliver time and cost-saving benefits and demonstrate care and responsibility to clients and end-users.
It is vital to follow methods of best practice and adhere to regulations to limit the impact of your operations and avoid causing harm to a site, its surroundings and biodiversity.
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