- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
- Specialist wikis
Last edited 21 Jun 2022
Cleaning up air quality and the Environment Act 2021
 The longstanding fight for clean air is strengthened by new targets and legislation in the 2021 Environment Act.
There’s little argument that good quality air is key to protecting our health. A 2020 landmark ruling by a London coroner cited air pollution as a significant factor in the death of a nine-year-old girl with asthma. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has evidence of links between air pollution and many illnesses. Yet, it’s not just our health driving the change for cleaner air. The impact on the environment and the push for energy independence also play a part in the air quality agenda.
Long considered the most harmful air pollutant, fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is the focus of Environment Act air pollutant framework. Two legal targets will be set by October 2022, both heavily weighted towards reducing PM2.5 emissions.
The first target is an annual reduction of PM2.5 in ambient air. The second is a long-term target to stimulate public investment and focus on reducing population exposure to PM2.5. There is currently no agreement on a safe level of PM2.5. Following consultation, a limit will likely be set and act as a standard for PM2.5 measurement.
In early 2022, DEFRA published updated statistics on the primary sources of PM2.5 emissions for the UK. Manufacturing, industry and construction topped the table of culprits, taking the blame for 27% of emissions.
Start to prepare for increased scrutiny on machinery that emits high levels of PM2.5 and other pollutants. Legislation is likely to look at recall of products that do not meet environmental standards. So, ensure you service equipment regularly and consider cleaner alternatives.
Action to lower emissions from all sources of air pollution can be seen across the UK. Enforcement powers often sit with local governments and councils. This means at the tender and planning stages, be aware of local rules to measure specific air quality, such as in an air quality management area (AQMA). London declared AQMA’s in all its boroughs. This requires ongoing air pollution monitoring on all major development sites with remedial action if levels are too high.
Be aware if your business, or any of your supply chain, will be travelling through Clean Air Zones (CAZs). This includes the potential expansion of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). ULEZ targets road traffic with Zone entry fees for the most polluting vehicles.
The latest ‘Clean Air for All Londoners Report’ from The London Assembly Environment Committee, calls for further powers to regulate Non-Road Mobile Machinery (NRMM). This would bring in a user-charging scheme with penalties for non-compliant plant and machinery. The Committee plan to lobby government to mandate all construction site developers to monitor air quality.
Portable air pollution monitors are widely available and can benefit all sites that want or need to track their air quality. There are also proactive steps to lessen the spread of dust and air pollution, such as:
- Controlling dust through fine water sprays used to dampen down the site.
- Screening the whole site to stop dust spreading or placing fine mesh screening close to the dust source.
- Covering skips and trucks loaded with construction materials and damping down with water.
- Use non-toxic paints, solvents, and other hazardous materials and where possible, no burning on site.
It’s worth remembering existing obligations to protect your workforce. Consider portable clean air systems that filter out particulates and other airborne pollutants, particularly in mobile cabins and welfare spaces. Provide PPE, where needed, and ensure it fits correctly.
The sharp rise in fuel costs and the impact of global events have shone an even brighter light on the drive to move away from fossil fuels. The effect is a renewed focus on renewable energy to achieve energy independence. The government has offered big incentives for energy storage technologies. Harnessing renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, tidal and biomass can play a part in all stages of the construction process for electricity generation. Adopting low emitting materials, such as ‘green concrete’, eco-friendly insulation, reclaimed wood and recycled steel, can significantly offset the long-term carbon footprint of a build.
Consider using low sulphur diesel together with the latest particulate filters and catalytic converters for all diesel-powered machinery on a construction site. A step further would be to adopt hybrid technology. Big-name manufacturers offer equipment such as hybrid excavators, diggers and battery rechargeable lifts.
With consultations on how to achieve emissions reductions expected throughout 2022, do keep an ear to the ground and have your say on anything that might directly affect you. There is little doubt that big polluters will see an increase in costs as air quality awareness increases. Taking a lead on air pollution now can help future-proof your business.
Staying ahead of the curve is key to staying compliant, but keeping up with fast-moving legislation can be a daunting prospect. Third-party accreditation can help. For example, meeting environmental management standards is one of the areas monitored through CHAS’s supply chain management service. Clients can use it, free of charge, to find contractors who take their environmental responsibilities seriously.
This article was written by Alex Minett, Head of Product and Markets at CHAS, outlining what businesses need to know. It was published under the same title on the ECA news and blog site on June 16 2022.
- Air Quality Hub.
- Air pollution.
- Air pollution index.
- Air Quality Taskforce.
- At a glance - Indoor air quality.
- Clean air day.
- Climate change act.
- Climate change science.
- Climate target revisions for Carbon Budget 6.
- Draft environment (principles and governance) bill.
- Earth overshoot day.
- Energy Act.
- Energy Related Products Regulations.
- Environment Bill 2020.
- Environmental legislation.
- Environmental Protection Act.
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
- Making Local Nature Recovery Strategies deliver.
- Our waste, our resources: a strategy for England.
- ReCon Soil project.
- Sustainable development toolkit.
- The Carbon Plan: Delivering our low carbon future.
- UK Climate Change Risk Assessment.
Featured articles and news
A definitive book on a pioneer of green architecture.
Using heritage as a catalyst for reviving historic centres.
Declaration prioritising sustainable urbanisation adopted.
Some brief words about the actuator.
After 34 years at the Institute.
To support the next generation of engineers.
CIAT reporting from the Competition and Markets Authority.
Making sustainable construction number one priority.
Interview with ECA CEO.
Many provisions came into force on June 28, 2022.
With room to expand.
Refurbishment, Energy Efficiency, Indoor air and process.
Why building acoustic considerations must be non-negotiable.
Aluminium Composite Panels (ACP) is one example.
Inventors and innovators at ICE.
Life, death and art at the Stuart court. Book review.
Real estate, place adaptation and innovation.
Review and comment on the revised draft before July 11.
Write about something you know, help us build and grow !
A blended event and triumphant return.
Mark Reynolds succeeds Andy Mitchell as Co-Chair of CLC
Designing Buildings is 10 years old.
From alteration to deconstruction on DB.