As HS2 meets – and potentially sets – standards for environmental protection in the built environment sector, we look at how its control measures for groundworks can be applied to other projects:
Thorough planning for excavation and earthworks is essential on any project. These preparatory works ensure stable foundations not only for the development itself but also set standards for safety, quality and environmental protection on the project overall.
For large scale projects such as HS2 – covering hundreds of miles of land across both rural and urban areas – they are arguably even more important.
The 340-mile-long development must adhere to national legislation, overseen by the Environment Agency, and its own Environmental Minimum Requirements (EMRs). These requirements set out the control measures and standards to be undertaken or met during works to protect wildlife, biodiversity and communities close by.
The requirements are comprehensive, covering all stages and aspects of works, including groundworks. Within them is a commitment to a comprehensive set of measures to minimise and manage dust creation during construction, particularly during the completion of excavation or earthworks or the creation and use of haul roads. These cover the timings of works and the types and treatment of materials in use.
Dust can be harmful to both workers and wildlife. As an inevitable by-product of construction works, control measures to both minimise and manage it are essential.
For many sections of HS2’s development haul roads will support project delivery. In rural areas haul roads grant access to remote locations, while in urban areas haul roads minimise the need for construction vehicles to travel on public roads, reducing the risk of congestion or damage to highways.
Because of the likelihood of dust creation from haul roads both during their construction and ongoing usage, dust management measures for their use on HS2 are clear in the EMRs, including:
- Surfacing and maintaining routes – to reduce and control dust creation, considering the anticipated volume and weights of vehicles.
- Inspecting routes regularly – to identify any deficiencies and complete repair works, as necessary.
- Using recycled, recyclable or reusable materials for surfaces – particularly when the locations of routes change during the course of construction, to minimise environmental impact and reduce costs.
- Implementing measures to clean and suppress dust (such as watering) – to reduce or manage dust creation. This should be completed for both roads and vehicle waiting areas, to suppress dust emissions from site boundaries.
- Enforcing speed limits – to ensure safety and suppress dust creation.
Alongside these specific requirements for haul roads, HS2’s EMRs set out more general requirements to reduce the creation of dust during other groundworks. By setting out both the measures and their benefits these are valuable for all project types, including:
- To reduce the risks associated with runoff and dust creation, topsoil should be stripped as close as is practicable to excavation or earthworks activities;
- To minimise transport costs and emissions, materials readily available on a site should be prioritized for use and the movement of excavated material should be kept to a minimum;
- To improve with their management, excavated materials should be compacted. The exception to this is where topsoil or subsoil can be restored for agricultural, forestry or landscaping uses, or habitat creation;
- To restore areas and encourage wildlife, soil spreading, seeding, planting or sealing should be completed as soon as possible on completion of earthworks activities.
As HS2’s delivery will face intense scrutiny its methods and measures for environmental protection are likely to be robust enough to influence practice within the built environment sector. Its EMRs set a good standard for others to follow, no matter the type of organisation or operations.
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