Better soil management could cut costs for construction industry

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More effective management of soils on construction sites could help firms to save money as well as contribute to environmental benefits, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said this week.

As recognised by the forthcoming Soil Strategy for England, soil is one of our most valuable natural resources – it is also finite and non-renewable. The construction industry can have an impact on its ability to function.  For example, soil can be contaminated by spillage or use of chemicals, or it can be ‘sealed’ – covered with an impermeable material – which will affect its ability to store and filter water.

To help preserve soil resources, Defra today launched a consultation on a voluntary code of practice for the sustainable use of soils on construction sites.  By following the proposed code, construction firms could help to protect and enhance the soil resources on site and contribute to wider environmental benefits, as well as saving their business money.  Poor soil management can lead to problems such as inadequate drainage and site flooding, which ultimately increases business costs.

Landscape and Rural Affairs Minister Jonathan Shaw said:

“Soil is a vulnerable resource and is vital for food production and supporting habitats and wildlife.  We are seeking views from the construction industry on a proposed code of practice which includes measures like confining traffic movement to designated routes to avoid soil damage and correctly stockpiling soils to maintain soil structure.  I hope that many businesses will see the financial and environmental benefits of adopting such a code.”

Key measures in the proposed Code of Practice include:

  • Having a soil resources survey carried out on site prior to construction; incorporating the results of this into the site working strategy;
  • Preparing a Soil Management Plan showing the areas and type of soil to be stripped, haul routes, and the location and type of each soil stockpile;
  • Confining traffic movement to designated routes;
  • Keeping soil storage periods as short as possible; and
  • Ensuring that all soil to be used for garden or habitat creation is in good condition by promoting sufficient exposure to air, drainage and root growth.

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