Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Excavation on Residential Construction Sites

Perry Forsythe
Grace Ding


Despite considerable research concerning the manifestation of greenhouse gases in the usage of buildings, little has been done concerning emissions arising from the construction process itself. This paper specifically examines emissions arising from cut and fill excavation on residential construction sites. Even though such excavation is often seen as being economical in terms of providing a flat base for concrete raft slab construction, the environmental consequences of this approach need to be considered more fully in terms of impact on the environment. This is particularly important when steeply sloping sites are involved and for different soil types. The paper undertakes a study that quantitatively assesses the cumulative greenhouse gas emissions caused by cut and fill excavation on 52 residential projects in Australia for a range of slope and soil types. The paper presents results from the study and concludes that greenhouse gas emissions increase as site slope increases; the building footprint area (as distinct from Gross Floor Area), exposes the need to reduce the area of the building to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; excavation of rock soils creates higher emissions than other soil types; and cut and fill excavation on steeply slope sites increase emissions. Potential alternative construction includes suspended floor construction systems which involve less excavation. 

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