Routine Construction Activities Can Harm Biodiversity

In a world where the depletion of renewable resources is exponentially increasing, a lot of emphasis is placed on green development or the installation of energy efficient systems in buildings. The focus on the end results of installations tends to overlook another important aspect of green sites and building– the impact of construction activities on biodiversity.

A green building on a green site is the result of hundreds of smaller activities that begin as soon as the project design is completed and approved. The focus on infrastructure tends to overshadow the fact that the methods used for daily construction activities do more than just contribute to the green project. They also impact biodiversity, which exists in urban as well as rural settings. We may not think in terms of the construction worker on a city project having an impact on biodiversity, but he or she has an important role, just like the project designer or leader.

As in most systems, the level and quality of communication during a construction project has a lot to do with the success of the end result. All the designs and schematics are critical. Equally important is ensuring that the people who actually complete the work are aware of their impact on the environment while the work is being completed. In fact, biodiversity can be impacted while work is taking place as much as it can be impacted by the operation of the final project.

Green Communication

Query:  Do the earth-moving machine operators understand the need to minimize damage to surrounding natural areas while clearing the site? Heavy equipment can do a tremendous amount of damage to the ecosystem when it runs back and forth over the ground. The soil is unnaturally compacted which influences aeration and drainage and even tree roots or underground animal burrows. Moreover, the equipment can catch invasive plants and spread them around. The equipment operators should understand the steps they can take to have a minimal impact on biodiversity, like keeping equipment within certain confines.

If one of the goals of a green project is to protect biodiversity, there will need to be a greater recognition and understanding of how each action impacts the environment. Chances are the heavy equipment operators are not included in most meetings concerning green site design. That said, neither are the dozens or hundreds of workers who must park their trucks and cars somewhere near the construction site or who are responsible for ensuring supplies are moved safely from trucks to job sites. Supplies containing chemicals are dropped and spilled and washed off into streets where they enter the gutters and travel to distant locations to do their harm to plants and animals.

Protecting biodiversity in a developed community is as important as protecting it in the forests or rivers and lakes. In other words, pre-construction activities are as critical to the protection of biodiversity as construction practices. Ensuring that the people who have the most power to control the impact on diversity, the day-to-day workers, understand their influence, requires that the site designers, developers and managers employ excellent communication best practices.

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