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Ensuring Sustainable Construction Through Air Quality & The Built Environment

The Built Environment’s Air Pollution Generation

Construction works, renovation sites and built environments all involve activities that generate air pollution, like demolition, burning materials, operation of diesel vehicles and machinery which add to increased particulate and gas concentrations in the air, that we know when inhaled can contribute to adverse health impacts like worsened lung function and respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), construction is considered one of the primary sources of dust particles, also referred to as particulate matter such as PM2.5 and PM10. The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) claims the built environment contributes to around 40% of the UK’s total carbon emissions, coming from energy used in buildings and throughout infrastructure.

The research about the built environment and its contribution to air pollution outlines just how poor air quality arises. To fully identify solutions to these issues, it is important to consider how and who is being impacted by harmful gases and particulates.

Pollutants from Built Environments Go Further than Just Building Sites

It’s common to find construction sites throughout many areas, like city centres introducing car parks, shopping centres, new housing estates in suburban areas or construction sites located near homes, schools or offices. This, in combination with factors like wind and weather, can have an impact on an individual’s pollution exposure as wind moves dust particles around the atmosphere and hot weather can exacerbate concentrations. This means that those passing by construction sites may briefly be exposed to the impacted air quality, but people regularly attending school or work nearby can be significantly affected, potentially impacting those with respiratory issues, like asthma, or children with developing lungs.

It’s also important to consider construction workers and their exposure to harmful gases and pollutants at such sites. Workers are often in close proximity to pollution sources, like diesel vehicles and demolition sites, both of which emit high levels of dust particulates and gases, which when inhaled can contribute to adverse health impacts previously mentioned. The British Safety Council launched a report which found that London’s outdoor workers are regularly exposed to air pollution levels above WHO guidelines. Such effects outline the need for monitoring pollution levels throughout built environments and guaranteeing sustainable construction.

As air pollution has the ability to travel further than just built environments, like into construction workers, residents and children’s airways; these are just some of the many reasons why Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations must be carried out, to assess, model or monitor emissions before, during and post development projects, and to ensure applied mitigations are effective in controlling dust emissions.

building site under construction

Identifying Air Quality Levels at Construction Sites Using Zephyr® Sensors

With great thanks to modern tech developments, the ability to identify air quality levels throughout built environments has become a simple task. For example, Zephyr® air quality sensors take real-time measurements at a localised level for pollutants including nitric oxide (NO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ozone (O3), PM1, PM2.5 and PM10 and also have the capability to plug-in third-party devices to monitor additional construction related parameters such as weather, noise, vibration, and dust. This data is sent to the MyAir® web app where measurements are viewed, analysed, and downloaded in a simple and intuitive interface making it easy for anyone to interpret and action.

Using real-time measurements means air quality can be easily identified at your chosen location pre, during and post construction to ensure mitigations are working effectively and concentrations stay within safe levels throughout. Measured Zephyr® data can be downloaded in bulk, which can be used for permitting, reporting and compliance studies in accordance with agency regulations and requirements.

What’s more, Zephyr® sensors can be integrated with existing systems to trigger alerts when pollution reaches unsafe levels. This, in combination with a sleek, compact design makes for a sensor which can be easily relocated to key areas throughout sites and can notify site managers when predefined levels are reached or exceeded. Units are also available with both battery and solar power options meaning when site managers select monitoring locations, nearby electrical power doesn’t need to be a concern.

Such factors should be highly important to site managers when working on construction, as pollution sources or areas contributing to hotspots can be easily identified by moving units around and immediate, well informed decisions can be made. With the Zephyr®, identifying air quality levels is made effortless and informed, sustainable construction methods can be easily implemented, both helping to keep people safe from detrimental health impacts.

Advantages of Using Zephyr® Data Throughout Built Environments

Measured Zephyr® air quality data can be used for a range of other applications throughout built environments. Using sensors at locations of interest delivers quantified air quality information which can be used for air quality baselining reports, accurately defining existing pollution levels.

As Zephyr® sensors have the capability to plug-in third-party devices to monitor construction related factors like weather and dust, these types of data can be used for reports and compliance studies as evidence for how construction sites may have an impact on ambient air pollution levels.

Identifying the efficacy of building developments and its environmental impacts must be considered prior to its introduction. Zephyr® sensors used in combination with MappAir® modelling data provides solutions to this, as measured and modelled data can be integrated with urban planning models to guide decisions towards sustainable developments and how to efficiently introduce such plans.

Furthermore, planners can utilise a network of Zephyr® sensors so that pollution levels can be constantly monitored throughout large scale areas, and measured data can be used to trial, test and aid decisions towards environmentally friendly construction types.

Want to find out more about how Zephyr® sensors can help your business work towards sustainable construction?

Visit or get in touch with one of our air quality experts at!

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