Ecological consultants are important to virtually every industry, and not just to provide reactive consulting to environmental crises. From past years when environmental consultants were simply consulted for problem solving, their role today has become more important to decision-making right from the start in order to minimize environmental impact of such project. Below is a description of their unique contributions to construction project management.
Selection of location
Before choosing the site for any development project, the eco-consultant can assess the following parameters:
- The current and potential levels of pollution and contamination in the air, water and land as well as accompanying remediation, mitigation and avoidance measures that can be installed to reverse past damage and reduce/prevent future damage.
- The ecosystem and biodiversity of the area, and impact of human activity on ecological balance. They carry out ecological surveys and environmental impact assessments to highlight potential ecological constraints such as presence of projected species and special habitats, and how they can be preserved.
Selection of project consultants
Apart from consulting on the actual project, ecological consultants can help you to assess other consultants to be taken on in the project such as engineers, plumbers and contractors. Their track records should be assessed for evidence of environmental consciousness and dedication to energy, and natural and other resource conservation. The consultants may also be involved in environmental accreditation assessment during tendering, and on-going monitoring and evaluation during the project lifecycle.
Environmental audits are an important part of project design, and the input of the eco-consultant extends to the design review phase, where they act as part of a client's independent advisors on matters related to:
- Sustainability – compliance with organizational and regulatory policies, long-term ecological effects, energy sources and uses, pollution, recycling, material selection etc.
- Site waste management – reduction of resource consumption, and waste generation and disposal
- Climate change resilience – assessment of compliance with 'carbon budgets' as opposed to overshooting greenhouse gases then installing measures for reversal
- Hazard management – mitigation of effects of use and disposal of environmentally harmful materials at various stages of construction projects
Eco-consultants' input will be required throughout the lifecycle of a project, from design as described above to implementation. Various parameters are assessed during the lifecycle, including monitoring and reporting on:
- Noise, dust and generation of pollutants and controls thereof
- Effective use of energy and resources—water, transport (fuel), raw materials, land etc.
- Contamination risk management for land and water sources near the development site, particularly when using potentially hazardous materials
- Maintenance of remediation, mitigation and preventive measures for project operations
Information provided by the consultant can be used to by the client, contractor, engineer or other consultant to tweak project details in order to adhere to the parameters that were established during the design phase.