How Strategic Environmental Monitoring Can Benefit Your Construction Project – PART 1

All too often, environmental monitoring is seen as a “grudge purchase” – you do it because someone tells you you have to. However, Texcel proposes that there is a more productive way to view your monitoring obligations.

Firstly, there are some good legalistic reasons for conducting environmental monitoring:

  • These requirements are written into your operating conditions;
  • The monitoring specifications will be linked to some appropriate standards to ensure data integrity;
  • And it is important to emphasise, monitoring is designed to provide you a level of insurance when complaints are received, or, for some reason, things go wrong.
  • In addition, it demonstrates a concern for the impact you will have on your neighbours and the environment.

The normal reaction to such imposed obligations is to do just enough to meet your legal requirements – and all too often, the results reflect that.

However, if you take a more holistic approach to your monitoring, the benefits can be significant -improving your risk/cost profile and informing your stakeholder engagement, for example.

We believe that providing the customer with timely, actionable information is a bare minimum. By taking a holistic view of the project, we can develop a different perspective on the major concerns, which can exist within the technical requirements, the work methodologies, or the human interfaces. In addition, we use both private and public data to identify the sensitive receivers around your zone of activities. Often, this process identifies information not available from other sources. Realising that how we think about a problem directly correlates to the effectiveness of the solutions, we utilise this information and the monitoring data to ensure that we maximise the benefits to you of your monitoring program. We will discuss this concept further in part 2 of this series.

Appropriate environmental monitoring will provide you with essential information in real time. This will enable you to validate your modelling, compare operating levels against background levels, etc. All this means that you can take action before authorities or complainants do. As you will know, sometimes this can be extremely important.

In addition, the ability to acquire and display monitoring information in real time can provide you with the ability to manage community concerns – even before work starts. This aspect becomes even more valuable when the monitoring is being conducted by an independent third party. An outsider collecting this data carries much more credibility with community representatives (and authorities) – particularly if that third party is permitted to establish a relationship with the community representatives before the project starts.

Another thing to consider is that it may be beneficial for you to monitor things not mandated in your conditions because this data can help you. Sometimes having data not necessarily mandated can significantly assist with managing community perceptions (and also assist in meeting prescribed limits). For example, if you are monitoring weather conditions, on windy days you may decide not to undertake activities that will generate lots of dust. Similarly, you may choose to monitor movement in a nearby significant structure if you think it could be impacted by your activities. Sometimes a meaningful condition survey before the project starts will save you lots of headaches – as will monitoring background levels before the project starts.

In summary, since almost every project these days will require you to undertake some level of environmental monitoring, it makes sense to do it in a manner that assists you rather than doing lots of work simply to adhere to mandated standards.