Saturday, December 02, 2006

Green Construction

Gas powered blowers and lawnmowers next?

New construction equipment helps clean dirty jobs
Alex Frangos, The Wall Street Journal

Charleston Gazette (West Virginia)November 14, 2006

At sites from Ground Zero to a Chicago expressway to a California airport, the notoriously dirty construction industry is starting to clean up its act.

Instead of belching black smoke, the bucket loaders, cranes and other diesel-powered behemoths at these construction projects are part of a new generation of relatively clean heavy equipment meant to mitigate the environmental effects of often-controversial building projects.

By using pollution-scrubbing exhaust filters and cleaner-burning fuel, officials in charge of getting such massive projects approved are finding it easier to win community support. In some places, local leaders are insisting on their use as a condition of backing noisy projects that can disrupt traffic, kick up dirt and foul the air.

"There is a strong voice from the community for better air quality," says Thomas Kunkel, environmental director for the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center, a state agency overseeing building in the neighborhood around the World Trade Center.

In response to demands from neighboring communities, Los Angeles International Airport officials agreed to use the cleaner construction vehicles in an $11 billion expansion that began in July. In Chicago, the cleaner vehicles are being used to widen Chicago's Dan Ryan Expressway and are planned for the enlargement of O'Hare International Airport. They are also involved in Connecticut's rehabilitation of Interstate 95. Boston's "Big Dig," a decade-long highway relocation completed this year, was an early pilot project.

Federal air-quality requirements are helping motivate the switch to cleaner-running equipment. Construction vehicles are among the largest sources of air pollution. There are around two million "off-road" construction vehicles in the U.S., compared to around 200 million cars and trucks. Yet a typical 175-horsepower bulldozer emits as much particulate matter as 500 cars, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.