Buildings are climate modifiers which provide indoor environments. These are essential to the well being and the social and economic developments of mankind. However, they are also intensive resources consumers and hence, they require enormous amount of materials and energy in their construction and maintenance. During the construction period and while they are demolished at the end of their life, buildings generate huge amount of solid wastes and various types of emissions, such as particulates, noise and various kinds of liquid effluents.
According to Hall (2003 ) and Anink (1996) the building industry accounts for around one-tenth of the world’s GDP, at least 7% of its jobs, half of all resources used and up to 40% of energy used and green house gas emission. Hill and Bowen (1997) discussed how the applications of modern technology, together with the increasing population, are leading to the rapid depletion of the earth’s physical resources. Hall (2003) also estimated that by 2025, the world population would reach 8 billion and 98% of the increase in the population would be in developing countries. With time, the construction industry is expanding and the rate of resource depletion is not sustainable.
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As it can be imagined, construction materials and products are essential to life – with respect to both buildings and infrastructure. Humans spend around 80% of their time (on average) in some type of building or on roads. Construction products play a major role in improving the energy efficiency of buildings and also contribute to economic prosperity (Edwards, 2003). On the other hand, construction products also produce a considerable impact on the environment. The Worldwatch Institute estimates that 40% of the world’s materials and energy is used in buildings. However, according to Anink (1996), the construction sector is responsible for 50% of the material resources taken from nature and 50% of total waste generated. Also, Rodman and Lenssen (1993) pointed that buildings account for one-sixth of the world’s freshwater withdrawals, one-quarter of its wood harvest, and two-fifths of its material and energy flows. The impact of construction products relative to the overall lifetime impact of a building is currently 10-20%. For infrastructure this value is significantly higher, greater than 80% in some cases.
In Mauritius, nearly all the main resources in a building are imported, e.g. steel and cement. An average of 600 000 tonnes of cement are imported annually in Mauritius. As our country is currently going through a boom in the construction sector, the figures are expected to increase. The price of crude oil has more than doubled on the world market during the past years. This has had a direct impact on nearly all the construction materials which are imported and produced locally. While choosing for construction materials, many do not think about the impacts that the material have on the environment.
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