You are on page 1of 10

Construction Research Congress 2012 ASCE 2012

Environmental Impacts Assessment on Construction Sites


Samaneh ZOLFAGHARIAN1, Mehdi NOURBAKHSH2, Javier IRIZARRY3,
Aziruddin RESSANG4, Masoud GHEISARI5
Downloaded from ascelibrary.org by Fundacion Universidad Del Notre on 09/15/16. Copyright ASCE. For personal use only; all rights reserved.

Department of Structure and Materials, Faculty of Civil Engineering, Universiti


Teknologi Malaysia, Skudai, 81300 Johor, Malaysia; zsamaneh3@live.utm.my
2
School of Building Construction, College of Architecture, Georgia Institute of
Technology, Atlanta, GA 30332-0680, USA; mehdi.nourbakhsh@gatech.edu
3
School of Building Construction, College of Architecture, Georgia Institute of
Technology, Atlanta, GA 30332-0680, USA; PH (404) 385-7609; FAX (404) 8941641; javier.irizarry@coa.gatech.edu
4
Department of Structure and Materials, Faculty of Civil Engineering, Universiti
Teknologi Malaysia, Skudai, 81300 Johor, Malaysia; aziruddin@utm.my
5
School of Building Construction, College of Architecture, Georgia Institute of
Technology, Atlanta, GA 30332-0680, USA; PH (404) 343-5296; FAX (404) 8941641; masoud@gatech.edu
ABSTRACT
Since construction is considered as one of the main sources of environmental
pollution in the world, the level of knowledge and awareness of project participants,
especially project managers, with regards to environmental impacts of construction
processes needs to be enhanced. This paper aims to assess the most common
environmental impacts due to the construction process in Malaysia. To achieve this
aim, a structured interview was conducted with an expert panel group in Malaysia.
Experts were invited to identify the frequency and severity of environmental impacts
caused by construction processes in residential buildings. It was found that
Transportation Resource, Noise Pollution, and Dust Generation with Construction
Machinery are the greatest environmental impacts in Malaysia respectively. The
results of this study are useful for construction managers and other participants in
construction sites to become aware of construction processes impacts on the
environment.
Keywords: Environmental Pollution, Construction activities, Environmental
impacts Assessments.
INTRODUCTION
Environmental protection is an important issue throughout the world (Tse and
Raymond, 2001). Compared with other industries, construction is a main source of
environmental pollution (Shen et al., 2005). Building construction and operations
have a massive direct and indirect effect on the environment (Levin, 1997). Pollution
sources from the construction process include harmful gases, noise, dust, solid and
liquid waste (Chen et al., 2000). This issue has prompted many construction
participants to attempt to control the impacts of their activities by adopting
environmental management systems (Lam et al., 2011).

Construction Research Congress 2012

1750

Downloaded from ascelibrary.org by Fundacion Universidad Del Notre on 09/15/16. Copyright ASCE. For personal use only; all rights reserved.

Construction Research Congress 2012 ASCE 2012

Awareness and knowledge are the main factors to intensify the sustainability
movement (Zainul Abidin, 2010). The Malaysian government, professional bodies
and private organizations have started several programs in order to enhance the
awareness and knowledge of construction practitioners, and also to promote the
application of sustainable principles within construction projects (Zainul Abidin,
2010). Unfortunately, the sustainability movement is a new concept for the
construction industry in Malaysia and there is no comprehensive reference to inform
construction practitioners of the riskiest environmental impacts due to the
construction process. This study aimed at prioritizing the most frequent
environmental impacts, in order of their impact level, by investigating their frequency
and consequences of occurrence.
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF CONSTRUCTION
Enhancing the identification of the major environmental impacts of
construction processes will help to improve the effectiveness of environmental
management systems. Furthermore, prediction of the correlated environmental
impacts of construction before the construction stage, will lead to improvements in
the environmental performance of construction projects and sites. The determination
of major environmental impacts will assist to consider a range of on-site measures in
order to mitigate them (Gangolells et al., 2011). The environmental impacts across
construction processes consists of ecosystems impact, natural resources impact, and
public impact (Li et al., 2010).
Ecosystems Impact: The accumulated amount of adverse environmental
impacts like waste, noise, dust, and hazardous emissions still occur during the
construction process which cause serious damages to humans and ecosystems (Chen
et al., 2004). With the rise in the number of construction of new buildings, the
ecosystems impact of construction has become an important issue.
Natural Resources: Various natural resources namely energy, land,
materials and water are used during the typical construction process (Shen et
al., 2005). Moreover, several construction equipment operations involve consumption
of natural resources, such as electricity and/or diesel fuel. The building industry is
responsible for using a high volume of natural resources and generation a great
amount of pollution as a result of energy consumption during extraction and
transportation of raw materials (Li et al., 2010; Morel et al., 2001).
Public Impact: Most construction projects are located in a densely populated
area. Thus, people who live at or close to construction sites are prone to harmful
effects on their health because of dust, vibration and noise due to certain construction
activities such as excavation (Li et al., 2010).
A thorough literature review, including (Gangolells et al., 2009; Gangolells et
al., 2011; Li et al., 2010; Shen et al., 2005; Tam et al., 2006), was performed in order
to develop greater understanding of environmental impacts. The environmental
impacts can be developed to the further subcategory. A list of 26 subcategories of
environmental impacts was identified through the previous research (Gangolells et al.,
2011; Li et al., 2010; Shen et al., 2005). Figure 1 provides the hierarchy of
environmental performance subcategories as environmental impacts across
construction process.

Construction Research Congress 2012

1751

Downloaded from ascelibrary.org by Fundacion Universidad Del Notre on 09/15/16. Copyright ASCE. For personal use only; all rights reserved.

Construction Research Congress 2012 ASCE 2012

1752

Figure 1: Environmental Impacts of Construction Processes


METHODOLOGY
A structured interview with an expert panel group which consisted of 15
construction professionals was conducted to investigate the frequency and severity of
environmental impacts across construction of residential buildings in Malaysia. The
interview included two main sections, section A covered the background and general
information of the respondents, and Section B invited respondents to rate the
frequency and severity of the environmental impacts using the five-point Likert Scale
(Table 1).
Table 1: Likert Scale Used to Determine the Level of Frequency and Severity
Scale

Severity

Description

Frequency

Insignificant

Minimal impact

Never

Minor

Short-term impact

Unlikely

Moderate

Significant impact

Possible

Major

Major short-term impact

Likely

Catastrophic

Major long-term impact

Always

Determining the rate of environmental impacts depends on the probability of


an occurrence and its severity on the environment. Probability or frequency is defined
as a likelihood of construction activities potential being realized and initiating a

Construction Research Congress 2012

1753

series of impacts that could result in damage to the environment. The severity of the
consequences is defined as the extent of damage that could result from an impact on
the environment.
Risk can be assessed and presented, using matrices, by estimating
probabilities and consequences in a qualitative manner or with quantitative values
(Ayyub, 2003). A risk matrix has been used to rank various risks in order of
importance (Jeong et al., 2010). A risk matrix is a table that includes several
categories of probability, frequency, or likelihood for its rows (or columns) and
several categories of severity, consequences, or impact for its columns (or rows) as
shown in Table 2 (Cox, 2008). Table 2 demonstrates that risk will increase if either
probability or severity rise, or both rise concurrently.
Table 2: Risk Matrix (Jeong et al., 2010)
Level of
Description
Consequence
1
Insignificant
2
Minor
3
Moderate
4
Major
5
Catastrophic

Level of
Description
Frequency
1
Never
2
Unlikely

=
3
Possible
4
Likely
5
Always

Probability

Downloaded from ascelibrary.org by Fundacion Universidad Del Notre on 09/15/16. Copyright ASCE. For personal use only; all rights reserved.

Construction Research Congress 2012 ASCE 2012

5
4
3
2
1

5 10 15 20 25
4 8 12 16 20
3 6 9 12 15
2 4 6 8 10
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
Consequence

The outcome matrix will enable us to discern probable environmental impact


levels for each common environmental impact in construction projects in Malaysia.
The significant rating of a risk (expected loss) that is found in the literature is shown
in Eq.1 (Modarres, 2006):
R=FS

(1)

where R denotes the significance rating of a environmental impact level in a


construction project; F is the frequency of occurrence, ranging from 1 to 5 which 1
is the least frequent and 5 is the extremely frequent; and S is the severity of impacts
on the environment, ranging from 1 to 5 which 1 is the not sever and 5 is the
extremely sever.
DISCUSSION AND RESULTS
Respondents Background
An expert panel was interviewed to rank the frequency and severity of
common environmental impacts across construction of residential buildings in
Malaysia based on the five-point Likert Scale. About 72 percent of the interviewees
(n=15) had more than 15 years of experience, and approximately 16 percent had less
than five years of experience. The annual revenue of about 23 percent of the
companies (n=15) was more than USD 3.3 million which is approximately 10 million

Construction Research Congress 2012

Construction Research Congress 2012 ASCE 2012

Ringgit Malaysia (RM 10 million), about 50 percent of companies earned between


USD 1.7 million (RM five million) and USD 3.3 million (RM 10 million), and around
22 percent of interviewees companies obtained less than USD 1.7 million (RM five
million).

Downloaded from ascelibrary.org by Fundacion Universidad Del Notre on 09/15/16. Copyright ASCE. For personal use only; all rights reserved.

Environmental Risk Assessment


Table 3 shows the average of Likert Scales of respondents opinion regarding
the frequency and severity of the environmental impacts across construction
processes of residential buildings as well as their associated risk in order of priority,
based on results of interview with the expert panel group. The methodology required
ranking of the environmental impacts, so the score for each environmental impact
could be compared with each other. Higher scores indicate impacts on the
environment are worst compared to others.
Table 3: The Average of Common Environmental impacts Assessments of
Construction Processes
SD
SDb
a
c
SEV
ILd Priority
Environmental Impacts
FOC
(FOC)
(SEV)
Transportation
Priority
3.79
0.89
3.36
0.93 12.71
Resources
1
Energy
Priority
Consumption on
3.24
1.06
3.36
0.87 10.89
4
Site
Natural
Raw Materials
Priority
3.25
0.97
3.23
1.01
10.5
7
Resources Consumption
Resource
Priority
Impact
3.08
0.79
3.1
0.88
9.56
Deterioration
16
Electricity
Priority
2.86
1.17
3
1.04
8.57
Consumption
19
52.23
Total Impact Level
Priority
Noise pollution
3.67
1.05
3.23
1.09 11.85
2
Dust Generation
Priority
with Construction
3.46
1.2
3.31
1.03 11.45
3
Machinery
Priority
Ecosystem Land pollution
3.36
1.21
3.18
1.17
10.7
6
Impact
Waterborne
Suspended
Priority
3.11
1.27
3.27
1.1
10.18
Substances such as
8
lead and arsenic
Priority
Air pollution
3.29
1.14
3.08
1.26 10.11
9

Construction Research Congress 2012

1754

Construction Research Congress 2012 ASCE 2012

FOCa

Environmental Impacts

Downloaded from ascelibrary.org by Fundacion Universidad Del Notre on 09/15/16. Copyright ASCE. For personal use only; all rights reserved.

Operations with
Vegetation
Removal
Emission of
Volatile Organic
Compounds (VOC)
and CFC
Generation of Inert
Waste
Operation with
High Potential Soil
Erosion

Public
Impact

1755

SDb
SEVc
(FOC)

SD

ILd

Priority

(SEV)

3.23

1.3

3.08

1.16

9.96

Priority
10

3.3

1.06

0.94

9.9

Priority
11

3.3

0.67

2.92

1.08

9.63

Priority
13

3.2

0.92

0.82

9.6

Priority
14

Water pollution

3.27

0.8

2.93

0.96

Waste generation

3.27

1.1

2.83

1.11

Dust Generation

2.91

0.83

3.17

1.03

Inert water

3.17

1.19

2.64

1.21

Chemical Pollution

2.75

1.14

1.04

Landscape
Alteration

2.79

0.89

2.69

0.95

Toxic generation

3.08

2.36

1.36

2.58

1.08

2.22

1.09

3.31

1.03

3.07

1.14

2.77

1.09

Waterborne
2.64
1.03
Toxicities
Green House Gas
2.73
1.19
Emission
Total Impact Level
Site Hygiene
3.25
1.14
Condition
Public Health
3.14
1.29
Effects
Social Disruption

2.77

1.17

Total Impact Level


a

FOC, Frequency of Occurring


SD., Standard Deviation
c
SEV, Severity of the impacts of on the environment or consequences
d
Impact Level
b

Construction Research Congress 2012

Priority
15
Priority
9.26
17
Priority
9.21
18
Priority
8.35
20
Priority
8.25
21
Priority
7.5
23
Priority
7.29
24
Priority
6.81
25
Priority
6.06
26
165.69
Priority
10.75
5
Priority
9.65
12
Priority
7.67
22
28.07
9.58

Downloaded from ascelibrary.org by Fundacion Universidad Del Notre on 09/15/16. Copyright ASCE. For personal use only; all rights reserved.

Construction Research Congress 2012 ASCE 2012

Table 3 reveals that Transportation Resources as a subcategory of natural


resource has a much greater environment impact compared with any other
subcategories (IL=12.71). This indicates that choosing appropriate and local products
and materials may result in a significant reduction in environmental impact, because
the lower rate of fuel will be required to transport materials.
The second important impact which was identified based on interviews
results is Noise Pollution (IL=11.85). A study in Malaysia reveals that construction
activities are the second most contributory sources of noise pollution (Haron et al.,
2008). The noise generated during construction and its influence vary, depending on
the nature of the activities, the type and the status of equipment being used, the nature
of the surrounding environment, and consideration of environmental and health
regulations (Gannoruwa and Ruwanpura, 2007).
Noise control can be performed at noise source, noise path, or noise receiver
(Pelton, 1993). Noise control at source is to select less noisy equipment (e.g. Using
bored piles instead of driven piles) (Pelton, 1993). To control the noise along the
path, the noise source should be moved far from the receiver. It also can be performed
by construction of a barrier (e.g. wall) between noise source and receiver (Barron,
2003). The noise control at receiver could be performed using protective tools such as
ear plug or canal cap (Barron, 2003).
The third important impact which was defined based on the interviews results
is Dust Generation with Construction Machinery (IL=11.45). Some construction
activities expose dust which is dangerous for workers health. For instance,
sandblasting, grinding, cutting concrete and bricks produce silica, which can result in
silicosis and lung cancer in workers exposed to these activities (Bergdahl et al., 2004 ;
Dement et al., 2010 ; Peters et al., 2009). Exhaust ventilation systems, wet dust
suppression, use of personal protective equipment are common ways to reduce dust
exposure in the construction industry (Nij et al., 2003).
Furthermore, it can be seen that Green House Gas Emission contributes the
smallest portion of total impact (IL=6.06) compared with any other subcategories and
it is followed by Waterborne Toxicities (IL=6.81). Even though their shares are
small, it is important to decrease their environmental impacts. There is a potential to
decrease their impacts by applying advanced technologies or changing construction
equipment.
Risk level and percentage of environmental impacts are shown in Table 3 and
Figure 2. Ecosystem Impacts (IL=165.69) was identified as highly significant,
accounting for about 67.5% of the total impact. It is followed by the Natural
Resources Impacts (IL=52.23) with the contribution of 21% and Public Impact
(IL=165.69) with 11.5%. A research on environmental impacts assessment in China
reveals about the same proportion for Ecosystem Impacts (65%). However, the
percentage of Public Impact (27%) and Natural Resources Impacts (8%) was
different (Li et al., 2010). This difference may be the result of different construction
techniques and materials since environmental impacts may vary significantly when
different construction techniques and materials are used during the construction
process (Li et al., 2010).

Construction Research Congress 2012

1756

Construction Research Congress 2012 ASCE 2012

1757

Environmental Impacts

12%
21%

Na tura l Resources
Impa ct

Downloaded from ascelibrary.org by Fundacion Universidad Del Notre on 09/15/16. Copyright ASCE. For personal use only; all rights reserved.

Ecosystem Impa ct
Public Impa ct
67%

Figure 2. Environmental Impacts


CONCLUSION
This study investigated the environmental impacts due to construction
processes in residential building in Malaysia in order of their impact levels. An
interview with an expert panel group was conducted to determine the frequency and
severity of the environmental impacts in the Malaysian construction industry. The
results demonstrate that Transportation Resources, Noise Pollution, and Dust
Generation with Construction Machinery are the most risky environmental impacts
on construction sites in Malaysia.
Among the three environmental impacts, Ecosystem Impacts has the greatest
impact on the environment (67.5% of total impacts). Natural Resources Impact
accounts for 21%, while Public Impact consists of only 11.5%.
The results of this research can be an influential assessment tool to assist
construction practitioners to improve the on-site environmental performance. The
construction practitioners will be able to achieve a comprehensive perception of the
environmental impacts of construction processes during the pre-construction stage.
Furthermore, the risk level of environmental impacts is an appropriate measure for
understanding the impact level of construction processes on the environment and for
mitigation of such impacts, which may lead to successful sustainable performance
and management.
The outcome of this study can help organizations and managers prepare
proper sustainability plans and also to increase the knowledge of partners in
construction sites through training and awareness programs. Further research needs to
investigate the on-site sustainable performance measurements using identified
environmental impacts in advance.
REFERENCES
Ayyub B.M. (2003). "Risk Analysis in Engineering and Economics" United States :
Chapman & Hall, University of Maryland at College Park.
Barron R.F. (2003). "Industrial Noise Control and Acoustics" Marcel Dekker, New
York.
Bergdahl I., Toren K., Eriksson K., Hedlund U., Nilsson T., Flodin R., Jrvholm B.
(2004). "Increased mortality in COPD among construction workers exposed to
inorganic dust". European Respiratory Journal 23:4026.

Construction Research Congress 2012

Downloaded from ascelibrary.org by Fundacion Universidad Del Notre on 09/15/16. Copyright ASCE. For personal use only; all rights reserved.

Construction Research Congress 2012 ASCE 2012

Chen Z., Li H., Wong C.T.C. (2000). "Environmental Management of Urban


Construction Projects in China". Journal of Construction Engineering and
Management 126:320-324.
Chen Z., Li H., Hong J. (2004). "An integrative methodology for environmental
management in construction". Automation in Construction 13:621-628.
Cox A.L. (2008). "What's Wrong with Risk Matrices?". Risk Analysis, 28:497-512.
Dement J., Welch L., Ringen K., Bingham E., Quinn P. (2010). "Airways obstruction
among older construction and trade workers at department of energy nuclear
sites". American Journal of Industrial Medicine 53:22440.
Gangolells M., Casals M., Gass S., Forcada N., Roca X., Fuertes A. (2009). "A
methodology for predicting the severity of environmental impacts related to
the construction process of residential buildings". Building and Environment
44:558-571.
Gangolells M., Casals M., Gass S., Forcada N., Roca X., Fuertes A. (2011).
"Assessing concerns of interested parties when predicting the significance of
environmental impacts related to the construction process of residential
buildings". Building and Environment 46:1023-1037.
Gannoruwa A., Ruwanpura J.Y. (2007). "Construction noise prediction and barrier
optimization using special purpose simulation", Simulation Conference. pp.
2073-2081.
Haron Z., Oldham D., Yahya K., Zakaria R. (2008). "A Probabilistic Approach for
Modelling Of Noise from Construction Site for Sustainable Environment ".
Malaysian Journal of Civil Engineering 20:58-72.
Jeong K.-S., Lee K.-W., Lim H.-K. (2010). "Risk assessment on hazards for
decommissioning safety of a nuclear facility". Annals of Nuclear Energy
37:1751-1762.
Lam P.T.I., Chan E.H.W., Chau C.K., Poon C.S., Chun K.P. (2011). "Environmental
management system vs green specifications: How do they complement each
other in the construction industry?". Journal of Environmental Management
92:788-795.
Levin H. (1997). "Systematic Evaluation and Assessment of Building Environmental
Performance (SEABEP)". paper for presentation to Buildings and
Environment:Paris, 912 June,1997.
Li X., Zhu Y., Zhang Z. (2010). "An LCA-based environmental impact assessment
model for construction processes". Building and Environment 45:766-775.
Modarres M. (2006). "Risk Analysis in Engineering: Techniques, Tools, and Trends"
Boca Raton, FL :CRC.
Morel J.C., Mesbah A., Oggero M., Walker P. (2001). "Building houses with local
materials: means to drastically reduce the environmental impact of
construction". Building and Environment 36:1119-1126.
Nij E.T., Hilhorst S., Spee T., Spierings J., Steffens F., Lumens M., Heederik D.
(2003). "Dust Control Measures in the Construction Industry". The Annals of
Occupational Hygiene 47:211-218.
Pelton H. (1993). "Noise Control Management" Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York.

Construction Research Congress 2012

1758

Downloaded from ascelibrary.org by Fundacion Universidad Del Notre on 09/15/16. Copyright ASCE. For personal use only; all rights reserved.

Construction Research Congress 2012 ASCE 2012

Peters S., Thomassen Y., Fechter-Rink E., Kromhout H. (2009). "Personal exposure
to inhalable cement dust among construction workers". Journal of
Environmental Monitoring 11:17480.
Shen L.-Y., Lu W.-S., Yao H., Wu D.-H. (2005). "A computer-based scoring method
for measuring the environmental performance of construction activities".
Automation in Construction 14:297-309.
Tam V.W.Y., Tam C.M., Zeng S.X., Chan K.K. (2006). "Environmental performance
measurement indicators in construction". Building and Environment 41:164173.
Tse Y., Raymond V. (2001). "The implementation of EMS in construction firms: case
study in Hong Kong". Journal of Environmental Assessment Policy and
Management 3:94 -177.
Zainul Abidin N. (2010). "Investigating the awareness and application of sustainable
construction concept by Malaysian developers". Habitat International 34:421426.

Construction Research Congress 2012

1759