Social and Environmental Concerns in Construction

Construction project managers should seriously consider the social and environmental effects of their construction operations, job safety operations (Art 17.20), and for proper community relations, use of environmental impact statements and the opinions of public interest groups (Art. 17.22). Contractors should be familiar with operations that have resulted in criticism and restraints, so that they can avoid pitfalls and operate within desirable guidelines.
The Committee on Social and Environmental Concerns of the Construction Division of the American Society of Civil Engineers has defined the three main areas of concern for construction as follows:
Social. These areas cover:
Land usage, such as the visual aspect of the construction project, including housekeeping and security; avoidance of landscape defacement, such as needless removal of trees; prevention of earth cuts and borrow pits that would deface certain areas for a long time; protection of wildlife, vegetation, wetlands, and other ecological systems; and visual protection of surrounding residential areas through installation of proper fencing and plantings.
Historical and archaeological, including preservation of historical and archaeological items of an irreplaceable nature.
Crime. The construction process often creates temporary negative impacts on a community, resulting in a crime increase. This can include local crime as well as fraud and bribing of public officials.
Economics, including impact of a project on the economics of a region, such as a rapidly increased demand for labor far in excess of supply, with a negative effect on the wage structure in the area and economic harm to the area after construction has been completed.
Community involvement, including hiring practices and dealing with the leadership in the community, whether they be of different ethnic groups, income levels, or organizational affiliations (Art. 17.21); union hiring practices; and training programs and foreign language programs.
Safety (Art 17.20).
Physical Media. The effects of construction on land, air, water, and of release of pollutants and toxic substances are also a broad area of concern. Water is often altered in its purity and temperature, and wildlife often is destroyed on land and water by construction of such projects as dams, power plants, and river and harbor facilities.
Energy Conservation, Vibration, and Noise. Vibration has become of increasing concern through the increasingly frequent use in buildings of light construction materials. These are usually flexible and prone to vibrate. In addition, construction machinery has become larger and more powerful, with the result that vibration of this machinery requires strict control.
Identification of noise-producing construction operations and equipment, and control of building construction noise are a concern of contractors. Noise-abatement codes for construction exist in many municipalities. Unless the provisions of these codes are properly understood and enforced, they may result in prohibiting of two or three-shift construction work and delaying work that requires overtime. Also, some Federal agencies have promulgated regulations requiring noise readings on projects (Table 17.2). In accordance with such readings, local officials may place a construction project in one of the following categories:

Unacceptable: Noise levels exceed 80 dB for 1 h or more per 24 h, or 75 dB for 8 h per 24 h.
Normally unacceptable (discretionary): Noise exceeds 65 dB for 8 h per 24 h or loud repetitive noises on site.
Normally acceptable (discretionary): Noise does not exceed 65 dB for more than 30 min per 24 h.
Acceptable: Noise does not exceed 45 dB for more than 30 min per 24 h.
Energy conservation in construction projects is part of the overall problem of the conservation of energy resources of the nation as a whole. Contractors should be alert to and aware of any ways to bring this about. They can help by using recycled building materials, recycling materials used during demolition, and demonstrating sensitivity to depletion of endangered natural resources.

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