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Carbon Footprints and Transportation of Construction Materials Dissertation

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Updated: Jun 11th, 2022

Introduction

When you have measured in units of carbon dioxide, the brunt borne by the environment, due to any kind of human activity, you have made a measurable carbon footprint (UNFCCC, 1992; EC, 2007). These traces of human activity can have a prolonged disastrous effect, a lot more potent than the worst tsunami, merely because of their virtual irreversibility. The planet is vulnerable to the carbon emissions that can damage its climate and probably lead to its total destruction – a thought that is extremely frightening, but highly probable. It is this palpable fear that has led to the close monitoring of carbon emissions today. The Carbon Footprint Protocol seeks to regulate the use of all materials that contribute to the increase in carbon dioxide levels, including that caused by the transportation of construction materials (ECCM, 2007).

The carbon footprint calculator

Every activity undertaken today in the transportation sector can be assessed in order to calculate the carbon footprint that it leaves behind. The calculations are based on the analytical studies and recommendations of both governmental and non-governmental agencies, the prime objectives of which are reduction of carbon emissions. There are private firms who offer information on such calculations based on the “metrics from UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the UK’s Department for Transport and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)”. Based on these regulatory recommendations, one such firm, Carbon Footprint Ltd. helps to calculate the impact of carbon emissions, with its easy to use carbon footprint calculator (CFC, 2007; WWF, 2007; TNC, 2007).

Carbon footprints, the construction industry and related transportation

The third edition of The Green Building Bible gives a long and detailed account of how one can ensure a lower rate of carbon footprints, by following the eco-friendly suggestions offered. From building techniques, to alternative sources of energy, to a vast array of ‘green’ building alternatives, the book focuses on the dangers of following the trends that have been in place till now. There are references to the use of locally available materials as opposed to the transportation of materials from distant locations (Hall, 2005).

Some of the highest levels of carbon emissions are caused by the transportation of various materials in the construction industry. In many developing countries today, there are construction materials that are not only hazardous to use but also pose a lot of hazards in their transportation. It is only now, that there is an increased awareness on the kinds of transportation that is used; the focus on reducing carbon emissions is becoming more widespread now.

Impact on Carbon Footprint

One of the chief impacts on carbon footprint caused by the transportation of building materials is the fuel combustion emissions from ships, trains or trucks that are used in the transport of timber. A report of the ECCM on carbon benefits of timber in construction throws light on the statistics involved, when timber is transported. This is not only due to the fact that the use of timber has a direct impact, but also that the mode of transportation only augments the carbon footprint already created. Detailed calculations show the quantum of emissions caused by transporting building materials for various purposes such as residential as well as commercial buildings (Burnett, 2006).

Construction and development at the cost of ecological impairment is certainly not acceptable any more. Using eco-friendly material might be an attractive proposition, but it is not enough to mitigate the impact of the emissions of the various modes of transport that need to operate as part of the construction industry. This is where supporters of diesel instead of petrol have a say. It has been proved that the emissions of vehicles run on diesel emit a lower level of pollutants when compared to their petrol run counterparts. However, it must be noted that petrol vehicles have a very low level of particulate matter (ActonCo2, 2007).

Recommendations

While on the subject of carbon footprints, one needs to mention the concept of carbon credits and carbon sinks. Trees are repositories of carbon, which can offset and absorb the amount of carbon dioxide in the air. Increase in the green cover can result in the lowering of carbon footprint impacts, especially those created by the transportation of building materials.

It would also be wise to assess the impact of building materials and their transportation in terms of carbon footprints before the actual construction is begun. This would take into account the kinds of materials used, the location of the same and hence the related transportation costs. One could go in for materials that are either locally available or that which can be used after recycling is successfully carried out. Architects keen on monitoring carbon footprints have put forth their views on reducing the ill-effects of using materials that are not eco-friendly. (BCN, 2007).

Conclusions

The Bali Climate Change Conference has further stressed upon the need to monitor and lower emissions from various sources in a desperate bid to save the planet from a ticking time bomb – global warming and climate change (Hawthorne, 2007). Reduced usage of transport in the building industry and the usage of ‘green’ construction materials would contribute to this cause to a very large extent (Kane, 2007).

References

ActonCo2, 2007. With help from you, we can reduce CO2. Web.

BCN. 2007. . Web.

Burnett, J. 2006, Forestry Commission Scotland Greenhouse Gas Emissions Comparison Carbon benefits of Timber in Construction. Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Management, Ediburgh. Web.

CFC. 2007, . Web.

EC. 2007, Environment: The Kyoto Protocol. Web.

ECCM. 2007, CarbonFree™ Product Certification: Carbon Footprint Protocol. Web.

Hall, K. (ed) 2005. The Green Building Bible, Vol 1. Green Building Press, Carmarthenshire.

Hawthorne, M. 2007. Carbon footprint to leave mark on Bali climate talks. The Border Mail. Web.

Kane, G. 2007, Bleak News from Bali. Blog articles. Web.

TNC. 2007. Climate Change: What’s Your Impact? Web.

UNFCCC. 1992, The Kyoto Prtotocol. Web.

WWF. 2007, Footprint Calculator. Web.

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IvyPanda. 2022. "Carbon Footprints and Transportation of Construction Materials." June 11, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/carbon-footprints-and-transportation-of-construction-materials/.

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