Importance of Environmental Engineering in Construction

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Environmental Engineering

From the continuous build-up of waste on both land and water to the excessive utilization of our depleting natural resources, our impact on the environment is becoming increasingly evident. As lawmakers and civic leaders all over the globe begin to pay more attention by passing laws and legislation to limit our carbon footprint on the earth, one of the key players in addressing global warming is environmental engineers.

As more people recognize the current ecological crisis that we are in, many sustainable methods and natural substitutions are supposed to help mitigate climate change’s effects. Environmental engineers play a pivotal role in addressing this dilemma by designing and developing efficient systems to keep the environment clean.

In environmental engineering, these experts apply their technical background and knowledge to design and carry out ecological solutions to everyday situations that maintain or increase productivity while protecting our natural resources.

Responsibilities of an Environmental Engineer

Environmental engineers provide expert guidance by determining and establishing solutions to global warming and other ecological problems to protect nature and improve people’s quality of life. An environmental engineer may assist with a construction project to help outline and execute alternative methods in building design, contaminated waste processing, water transport, and other facets of engineering that will minimize unintended side effects.

As the name suggests, environmental engineers mainly focus on solving problems related to the environment. Here are some of their key responsibilities:

  • Air and water pollution monitoring and mitigation
  • Research natural ecosystems
  • Conduct data analysis and quality assessments for ongoing projects
  • Supervise inspections of designated sites to ensure compliance with relevant environmental rules and regulations
  • Identify the sources of contamination in bodies of water.
  • Inspect the presence of possible contaminants in building resources
  • Initiate wastewater protocols
  • Come up with reliable methodologies that can reduce the causes and effects of significant trends, including ozone depletion, the greenhouse effect, and acid rain

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), environmental engineers evaluate the earth’s natural resources while applying physical, biological, and chemical standards to address global environmental issues. Generally, they aim to protect the environment and develop ways to enhance the quality of life in the worldwide community.

Green Construction

Green construction is essentially the process of building sustainable structures and using environmentally responsible and resource-efficient techniques. Green buildings manage their environmental impact by conserving as much energy and water as possible. These innovative structures must also be constructed with recycled and renewable materials to maximize resource efficiency.

From an outsider’s perspective, these buildings may not look different from traditional ones, but they feature specialized designs and materials to impact the environment positively.

The demand for green construction has significantly grown in the past decade because it is considered an environmental movement due to the positive effect on revenue and finances. Large firms that own green buildings report a substantial decrease in operating costs and energy savings.

Notable Features of Green Buildings

While environmental engineers help create diversity in construction projects, there is an increased demand for sustainable buildings as more people experience the ever-growing harmful effects of global warming. As the impact of standard construction practices become more apparent, many companies hire environmental engineers to create structures with these key vital features:

1. Indoor Air Quality

While green buildings benefit the environment, they ideally should benefit the occupants as well. Most construction firms apply synthetic products and inorganic paint for insulation, but long-term exposure to these chemicals is potentially harmful and hazardous.

Insulation is vital in green buildings, but using volatile and inorganic materials may negatively affect the tenants. Previous standard practices primarily use asbestos as an insulator. Still, due to its potential risks, it is now preferred to use fiberglass, mineral wool, and cellulose as an efficient and safer insulator material. Several major brands are now starting to present ecological products to the general public, like fire-rated doors for drywall installation that are efficient in providing excellent insulation and fire protection.

Proper heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems are essential components in maintaining air quality in green buildings. Efficient HVAC systems can filter harmful particles such as fungus and pollen from the building’s air supply.

2. Energy Efficiency

A structure’s level of energy consumption is often a good indicator of how environmentally friendly the building is. Buildings usually consume vast amounts of energy; therefore, it makes sense that sustainable buildings must be energy efficient.

Environmental engineers are experts in designing different methods to maximize energy efficiency. Using the practice of daylighting has become prevalent in green building design due to its ability to utilize natural light to illuminate a structure. It is highly efficient, and companies who take advantage of the daylighting method gain lower power costs leading to huge savings.

Another efficient conservation method is producing and extracting natural energy. Construction firms can step up their green initiatives by installing alternative energy infrastructures on-site such as photovoltaic solar panels or small wind turbines, to make a building self-sustaining or a net producer of natural energy.

3. Water Conservation

Given how critical water is to ensure survival for most living things, green buildings must contribute to water conservation efforts by finding additional water sources and lessening water consumption indoors and outdoors.

Green buildings are encouraged to use water-efficient appliances such as low-flow aerators that limit the flow of water on faucets and dual-flush toilets that effectively distribute the water system to lessen water usage.

Role of Environmental Engineer in Construction

In a nutshell, the construction industry is considered the largest consumer of the earth’s natural resources. The pollution in the surrounding area of building operations is also highly destructive to nature, so maintaining sustainability on construction’s environmental and economic aspects has never been more critical.

Most economic developments involve engineering and construction work. Therefore, sustainable construction implies sustainable engineering methods that involve planning, manufacturing, constructing, and renovating a structure with optimum use of natural energy and resources. Environmental engineers can assert sustainability through Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA).

Environment Impact Assessment (EIA)

Sustainability involves natural and social issues, and environmental engineers have to have more excellent knowledge of the biological and social aspects to devise renewable methods and designs. An effective way of ensuring sustainability in any construction project is to consider environmental issues before conceptualizing a plan.

Sustainability principles are there for maintaining the carrying capacity of the particular habitat by the EIA engineer and its associated multidisciplinary team of engineers:

  • Improvement in the design life cycle and efficiency by minimizing the absolute use of resources
  • Use of recycled and renewable construction materials
  • Use of continual energy sources to alleviate the carbon footprint
  • Mitigate wastewater, solid waste, chemicals, and pollutants that can accumulate in the environment

The EIA is a required method as mandated by the national government and other distinguished development funding agencies. Through the EIA methodology, the environmental engineer assists developers and authorities in conceptualizing and choosing a project that is environmentally responsible and economically sound.

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

Aside from building projects, the construction industry should also improve the sustainability’s social, economic, and environmental indicators. Traditional engineering practices will not produce sustainable solutions – but with critical thinking and innovation, which considers the social and ecological aspects, these outdated practices will hopefully lessen in the foreseeable future.

Environmental engineers can utilize the LCA to optimize these aspects – from the extraction of raw materials to the final disposal of waste materials in construction sites. The engineer should focus on achieving sustainability by efficient allocation measures, energy conservation, low embodied energy intensity on building materials, reuse and recycling, and creating an organic built environment by reducing toxic waste.

The construction world is one of the largest end-users of natural resources and the biggest producer of pollutants to the environment. Environmental engineers can help transform outdated practices into sustainable methods and the industry’s overall performance regarding optimizing and conserving resources and minimizing their impact on the environment. These improvements have a chance of encouraging greater environmental responsibility and value towards sustainable growth.