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Sustainability and the Built Environment

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One of the different features of the natural environment to consider when planning a construction project is air quality. Good air quality is an essential part of a healthy environment, large factories tend to be located away from populated areas to prevent air pollution and large chimneys guide the pollution further up into the atmosphere to avoid any fallout to local inhabitants. However events in history such as the ‘Great Smog of 1952’ made such an impact that the government at the time passed acts to control waste emissions into the atmosphere, one of these being The Clean Air Act 1956. The clean air act of 1956 was an act passed in response to London’s great smog of 1952; it was in effect until 1964.

The act introduced a number of measures to reduce air pollution, by shifting homes‘ sources of heat towards cleaner coals, electricity, and gas meant that the pollution in populated areas were dramatically reduced, on top of that it reduced the amount of smoke pollution and sulphur dioxide from household fires, It was also especially effective when it introduced smoke control areas in many towns and cities in which only smokeless fuels could be burnt. To reinforce these changes, the act also included measures to relocate power stations away from cities, and for the height of some chimneys to be increased. The level of carbon dioxide emissions are firmly controlled with the present day government so the effects of global warming are not increased. Planting trees improves the air quality and is considered to be a justifiable part of any housing development however air quality obviously relies on geographical location for instance the centre of London will have a vastly poorer quality of air then the unpopulated areas of Scotland. There seems to be a pattern behind all of this and that is the more populated the area is, the shoddier the air quality. Soil quality and natural drainage

There is no set benchmark for soil quality as no two soils are the same and therefor there is no British standard for a soil to be compared against. However to determine soil quality we can trial the soil against 67 measured variables, the idea originated from two environmental committees that have formulated up to 67 measured variables for soil quality. The soil association grades soils against a firm standard for the organic growing of fruit and vegetables. Below are some of the categories against which soils may be measured.

* Drainage properties
* Texture
* Acidity
* PH balance
* Use
* Level of contamination
* Fertility
* Mineral content
* Organic content
* Structural properties.

A good standard of soil is one that will sustain life. Soil is relevant for construction to deliver attractive and environmentally landscaped areas for the community to interact with. New housing schemes must include these areas as part of the government’s sustainability policy. When planning a construction project another aspect to determine soil quality is the drainage of soils, this is a vital environmental consideration. In areas that have been deforested the soils is left unbound, therefore, when these areas are exposed to rain, the water runs off and sits on the surface which can lead to a flash flooding.

However this is only the case if the rainfall is heavy, in small amounts this does not cause a problem. Recent government planning policy which has allowed developments within flood plains, has added to this problem. Too much strain on a river’s levees causes them to break and localised flooding to occur. With that being said, soil drainage is dramatically influenced by the structure of the soil. The voids within the soil allow water to penetrate through it, eventually ending up within an aquifer below ground. Another important aspect of natural drainage to consider is that geography and location play a giant role in soil quality and drainage. For instance clay soils deny the passage of moisture, whereas limestone rock welcomes the percolation of water through it, that, along with the bedrocks below the surface soils can have an influence. Land use

The use of the land has been well-defined over hundreds of years and has been largely governed by the local population and the resources that are available at a given time. As expansion took place, in order to feed the population, farming and agriculture developed in the fields surrounding the villages. The industrial use of plots of land was born around the time of the industrial revolution. Coal, oil, water and wood were increasingly used and this introduced the idea of using plots of land to farm resources. The waterway network developed with a canal system that was later superseded by the railway network. More recently, planning control has set the community more say in the choice of land use and has limited growth where it is considered inappropriate. For example, the development of out of town shopping expansions has been overturned through government policy on strategic planning. Land use can therefore be broadly categorised into:

* Agricultural
* Heavy industrial
* Housing
* Commercial
* Natural landscape.

Green belts
Green belts are the areas of green land that frame communities and deliver open parkland for the community to appreciate, absent from the industrial use of the land. Green belt land is protected because it offers an attractive and aesthetic area that breaks up the large cities. No development is permitted on it. They also provide a safeguard area between different land uses and help to preserve a clean, fresh and natural land that all of the community can experience and revel in. Forestry

Forestry can be divided into naturally occurring, established woodlands that are hundreds of years old and are carefully managed or plantations which is areas of land that have been deliberately planted to grow and harvest timber resources. Natural woodlands are limited to small pockets in Britain. There is a national forest at Nottingham, but a large proportion of the woodland was cleared for industrial development, ship building and to use as fuel. Forests also offer an opportunity for recreational activities, presenting a perfect setting for walking, bird watching, horse riding and biking. The United Kingdom government’s forestry commission cares for many of the forests and protects them as well as developing and escalating the use of timber as a resource. Timber, unlike oil, gas and coal, is a renewable resource that is not finite. Country side

The British countryside is not established in solid concentration. Small villages and settlements, such as farms, are surrounded by green areas of farming or natural landscape which is known as the countryside in the UK, these areas are green due to high concentrations of rainfall, and in hotter climates they would be brown. There are very typical areas of countryside for example the worlds of Lincolnshire, the lowlands of Scotland and the south downs of Dorset.

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