The Business Case for Improving Air Quality in Construction

The Business Case for Improving Air Quality in Construction


Politicians, the media and the public agree the environment is a top priority of our times and much attention is focused on global warming and greenhouse gas emissions, particularly CO2 . But an increasingly urgent global health issue is the direct impact of poor air quality on respiratory diseases, particularly in big cities.

The pollutants which directly damage respiratory health are different from those which impact global warming, but no less critical, such as NO2 from operation of diesel engines, uses of combustion engines like
generators, excavators, bulldozers, loaders, mobile cranes etc. and particulates like PM2.5 and PM10 from dust, diesel engine exhaust of vehicles and heavy equipment. Unlike CO2 , these pollutants rapidly and directly harm humans in the communities where pollution levels are highest.

Analysis by the UK government has found the major threat to respiratory health is posed by traffic emissions, particularly commercial vehicles with the most dangerous pollutants NO2 gas and particulates (PM10 and PM2.5). All can cause serious, irreversible heart and lung damage. The biggest contributor is logistics operations supporting big cities, including deliveries for commercial construction sites.

Local government, local communities and customers are speaking loudly with regulation and their vendor selection:

The challenges to construction companies of not taking action are significant:

  • Increased cost of community engagement due to inability to identify specific pollution sources and actions taken to manage and reduce pollution
  • Lost revenue from lost project bids due to limited track record for improving air quality and an undifferentiated approach.
  • Increased projects costs due to long work stoppages from pollution triggers with limited ability to understand the root cause
  • Reputation damage/community backlash
  • Limited visibility on delivery pollution levels and specific sources

For the businesses who are able to quickly take targeted action to cut air pollution, they are seeing strong economic gains, in addition to the health benefits. Notably, unlike CO2 ’s impact on global warming, reducing pollutants like NO2, PM2.5 and PM10 can have a very immediate impact on respiratory health on a site and in the local community. A focus on reducing pollution for respiratory health improves business impact in 5 main ways by offering:

1. Increased bid win rates through clear evidence of site pollution management and reduction
2. Reduced cost and increased effectiveness of community engagement
3. Reduced duration of work stoppages by identifying the source in real time
4. Enable small compliance and sustainability teams to make a big impact
5. Rapid return on investment


1. Increase Bid Win Rates

Demonstrating effective visibility and action to mitigate the sources of pollution and delivery impact on a site can increase revenue by giving businesses a competitive advantage in tendering at both the PPQ stage and the ITT stage. Having a strong, proven track record and data set can have a greater than 7% impact on win rate at each stage.

This is due to an increasing number of clients demanding a partner who will keep air pollution to a minimum during the build phase so they can achieve their net zero targets and reduce local community health issues.


2. Improve Community Engagement
and Reduce Costs

Engagement with the local community is
strengthened by having evidence of air pollution triggers and breaches, their sources, mitigations and resulting reductions. It’s easy to say that more data about site pollution doesn’t help community engagement and can actually hurt it, but that is when you only know that a breach occurred. If you also have the pollution source, the mitigation actions taken and the resulting pollution reduction, it is proven to improve community engagement. The ability for environmental teams to easily identify pollution sources means they can resolve problems quickly before they become problems and empower community engagement teams to work more effectively and efficiently with the local community, building trust and reducing cost.


3. Reduce Work Stoppages

Construction sites experience repeated work stoppages due to pollution triggers and breaches. In one example, a major construction site in central London reported multiple air pollution triggers weekly. Stoppages averaged 4 to 6 hours for each, at a cost of tens of thousands of pounds per incident.

By identifying pollution issues before they become triggers or breaches and by identifying the source of the trigger or breach, work stoppages can be reduced and the duration can be significantly reduced.

4. Small Teams Can Make a Big Impact

Identifying pollution sources is currently impossible, or takes significant time, with air pollution monitoring alone. Environmental and compliance teams are understaffed and overworked, often having single teams covering multiple sites.

Investing in a system to identify specific triggers and breaches on a site in real time and the vehicle or delivery activity causing that trigger or breach enables a small team to be more efficient and effective. It also enables them to take immediate targeted action, and so improve air quality, supporting teams in meeting international standards ISO 9001 and 14001.

5. Rapid Return on Investment

Reducing site-based CO2 emissions is a critical, expensive and long term investment to slow global warming which is well under way and we need to continue to drive this forward. Reducing site based NO2 , PM2.5 and PM10 pollution is a critical investment to improve site and local respiratory health, but the results are much faster. Reducing these pollutants from a site can have a very rapid impact on respiratory health and a business’ bottom line. Significantly reducing NO2 , PM2.5 and PM10 by identifying the source and taking mitigating actions every week and every day will slow the damage to the respiratory health of operatives on site and the health of the

local community almost immediately. It will reduce the cost and increase the effectiveness of community engagement and it will build a data set of mitigations and resulting pollution reductions which will help win more business in the future.


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