Particulate emissions in the building industry and its supply chain

The building industry and the upstream production of building materials are thought to be a major source of particulate emissions. Until now, however, there was no comprehensive review of emission sources and strengths, nor of the influence of emissions on air quality in the workplace and the wider surroundings.

At the request of Infomil, CE has therefore undertaken a survey of emissions and sources, providing insight into:

  • the total particulate emissions (PM10 and PM2.5) arising in the various links in the building material supply chain;
  • the specific activities in each of those links responsible for the greatest contribution to particulate emissions;
  • the estimated share of these sources in ambient air pollutant levels in the Netherlands and Dutch transboundary pollutant emissions;
  • a first-pass review of autonomous trends and potential abatement measures.

Based on the sources identified, CE estimates that PM10 and PM2.5 emissions in the building industry supply chain amount to about 3,300 – 5,200 t/year and 2,300 – 2,500 t/year, respectively. Because of the uncertainties in the available information, these figures have been reported as ranges.

Table 2 of the report shows that average emissions of diesel particulates (PM2.5 and smaller) are around 1000 t/y, those of quartz-containing particulates (PM10) about 1.750- 2.400 t/y and those of toxic process emissions and welding fumes (PM2.5 and smaller) about 600 t/y.

It was found that actual construction work may sometimes have a significant impact on local air quality.

Overall, it is not expected that there will be any significant autonomous reduction in these emissions in the near term. At building sites, however, there is major potential for further reducing both diesel soot emissions and particulate emissions. A substantial cut in diesel emissions can be achieved with particulate filters, while other particulate emissions at construction sites can be reduced by using ‘low-dust’ equipment. It is recommended to employ financial incentives, voluntary agreements, inclusion of due provisions in construction ordinances/directives and certification schemes to encourage implementation of diesel particulate filters and ‘low-dust’ construction site equipment, or make it compulsory.