The construction industry is often criticized for being one of the heavy polluters that generate dust to the atmosphere from construction works. Construction dust emission (CDE) originates from many types of onsite activities such as excavation, drilling, bulk material transportation, loading and unloading, open-air material storage, concrete and mortar making, cutting and filling, and the movement of equipment [1
]. These activities release the calcium element of PM2.5
, which is a component of construction dust and an environmental pollutant [3
]. In effect, construction dust forms a nuisance to site workers [5
] and has adverse off-site impacts on local communities [7
]. The existence of construction dust in the human lung can result in diseases such as silicosis, bronchitis, the obstruction of trachea, and occupational asthma [9
]. In China, for instance, the human health damages caused by construction dust pollution account for 27% of the total impacts of construction projects on the natural environment [10
]. Similar situations are appreciated in other countries such as the European Union, Great Britain, and the United States [11
]. It is thus reasonable to predict that construction dust pollution will be an acute environmental crisis in the future if it is not under control [14
Construction dust is released in various locations, to varying extents, and with different durations and frequencies [15
]. Finding an effective way to control CDE is subject to obstacles. One of the major obstacles is an increase in construction cost, which contractors have to handle ultimately [7
]. Indeed, both the clients and contractors may not accept those construction projects that have the problem of cost overrun [16
]. In addition, voluntary control over the construction dust emission of contractors often reaches an environmental cartel agreement among themselves, which is unfavorable to the sustainability of the construction industry [17
]. Cho [19
] pointed out that the rationale for governments to intervene in market operation is to compensate for market failures. It should be another type of market failure if contractors have little enthusiasm for construction dust control in their own right.
There are enormous demands for policymakers to reduce the emission of dust on construction sites [5
]. To echo this, previous studies have investigated a few approaches for governments to participate in the exercise of construction dust control. Wu et al. [14
] identified the sources of construction dust emissions. They recommended that governments account for two categories of dust control regulations: environmental protection-related and construction-related. To underpin the formulation of governmental measures, sources of CDE, measures to inhibit CDE, and the utilization of CDE technologies have often been discussed in previous studies [14
]. While the existing measures complement each other, few of them portray a whole picture of measures that governments can implement in a direct way. Instead, the measures adopted by a government are unsustainable or are not effective enough to inspire contractors to implement dust-free construction. As described in the following section, China’s governments across various levels have accumulated rich experiences in handling this matter, which sheds some lights on the practices in other countries. Therefore, the aim of this study is to map out what governments can do in response to contractors’ dust emissions in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry by taking China as a case. Specifically, the research objectives are twofold:
To identify the measures that China’s governments have adopted, and
To analyze the tendencies that China’s governments face in the choice of the dust control measures.
This study contributes to the body of knowledge by (1) mapping out China’s experiences; and (2) providing a cornerstone for future studies to examine the effectiveness of the measures. This work can aid those governments that currently have the pressure of mitigating CDE in improving their understanding of construction dust control, formulating dust control-related policies, and popularizing sustainable construction industrywide.
The paper is organized as follows. First, China’s practices are presented to set the scene for the study. Second, the framework of governmental measures is proposed by conducting a hybrid of research methods. Third, a collection of samples is targeted to test the proposed framework. Data about the sample are extracted using the approaches of content analysis and correspondence analysis. The results of statistical analysis are elaborated to test the proposed framework. The last section concludes the research findings.
In China, an ambitious program for urbanization was launched by the Central Government in the 1980s [22
]. Recent years have witnessed the rapid change of urbanization in China. Nevertheless, the progress of urbanization nationwide has been associated with the outspread distribution of dust pollution [23
]. Many regions have encountered an increase in environmental deterioration due to an unsustainable paradigm of construction works [27
]. According to the Report on the State of the Environment (2009–2012), although particulate pollution in China has reduced to a lower level (see Table 1
), over 85% of 74 major cities still have a PM10 concentration higher than the baseline specified in the Ambient Air Quality Standard. For instance, in Beijing, the average monthly contribution of construction dust to the overall PM10
pollution was around 10% [28
]. Dust emissions in some places of Shanghai accounted for 12.4% of air particles [29
]. In Guiyang, which is supposed to be an ecological city in Southwest China, the proportion is surprisingly 24.89% as measured by fugitive dust [27
Many attempts have been made by China’s governments to control CDE in the industry. The Guideline of Green Construction issued by the central government specifies areas that are suitable to apply technologies to mitigate dust pollution. The advent of modern technology facilities enables contractors to sustain flexibility in selecting advanced measures to mitigate construction dust pollution. Typically, construction site enclosure, road pavement, materials covering, water cleaning, tight transportation, and tree planting are extensively adopted on construction sites [14
]. These measures vary significantly in nature, but they are widely valued in protecting the natural environment and enabling the efficient use of production factors (e.g., materials, water, energy, and land). By far, over 80% of construction sites utilize technological means to control CDE in Suizhou city of Hubei province [30
]. The extensive usage of technologies allows 95% of construction vehicles to have minor impacts on Linyi city of Shandong province [31
Interestingly, notwithstanding the improvement of CDE control, the majority of Chinese contractors has a weak willingness to input more resources for this practice [21
]. As discussed above, governments at this time ought to undertake the obligation of formulating preventative measures. The Law on Prevention and Control of Atmospheric Pollution [32
] promulgated by the central government outlines a dust-free commitment in paragraph 2 of article 43. According to this law, the construction sector should be under strict supervision, and the role of local governments in this matter is to formulate standards and specifications. In Beijing, the local government enforced the Regulation on Prevention of Construction Dust Emission on Construction Sites [33
], which requires property developers to engage contractors to mitigate dust emissions, especially in demolition and removal projects [34
]. In addition, participants in the construction process are advocated to take collective actions in the attainment of zero-dust construction, and residents will be rewarded with some bonuses if their reporting of construction dust pollution is confirmed [35
]. To summarize, cities in China have accumulated considerable experiences in coping with construction dust pollution. The rich experiences might be useful for other developing countries to consider to improve their practice.
4. Research Methods
The whole research process is separated into two phases. One is proposing a framework of governmental measures by using a number of research methods. The other is testing the proposed framework by analyzing a number of samples. First, raw materials such as government documents, media reports, and academic literature are collected to propose a tentative list of governmental measures in China. Second, the list is complemented by virtue of interviews and field study. Third, with reference to the work system in macroergonomics, all of the measures are categorized into groups. Fourth, 37 cities of China are compiled to develop a dataset of potential measures and calculate their utilization frequency. Last, the methods of content analysis and corresponding analysis are conducted to map out data to test the proposed framework.
4.1. Proposing a Framework of Measures
In considering that different governments might adopt different measures, a hybrid of research methods was carried out to outline potential measures. First, official documents publicized by provincial governments or above were collected and scanned carefully. Media reports on the measures that governmental authorities are currently using were retrieved. Since the measures identified in previous steps might be out-of-date, three experts (see Table 3
) were interviewed with the purpose of adding necessary amendments to the tentative list. The respondents were considered appropriate because they are typical and offer professional insights from three perspectives, namely: governmental authority, academia, and practitioners. All of the interviewees had good knowledge and experience in construction dust management. The interview revolved around two questions: Does the list provide a whole picture of measures for governments to control construction dust emissions? If not, what are your suggestions? Notes were taken immediately and treated as quantization and evaluation of the tentative list of governmental measures.
Field study was also executed to look at whether those items to which interviewees have opposed opinions should be included. It was considered that any opposed items observable on construction sites deserved inclusion. As listed in Table 4
, three construction projects were visited. These projects were visited because they are managed by construction enterprises that have good reputations and good performance on construction dust control in the construction industry. Governmental measures on dust pollution in these projects were thoroughly recorded. Project managers and site professionals were invited to make a necessary revision to the results derived in previous steps.
As a result, nine items were added and coded from M23 to M32, as shown in Table 5
These measures are concerned with the technique and management aspects of construction dust control. To capture the inherent complexity and understand key aspects of the measures, a framework is proposed by referring to the work system in macroergonomics. Macroergonomics integrates principles and perspectives from industrial, work, and organizational psychology, and helps understand the key factors within the work system [67
]. The basic work system of macroergonomics includes the technical subsystem, organizational and managerial structure, internal environment, personnel subsystem, and the external environment [68
]. As given in Table 6
, the framework in the present study is more restricted and specific than macroergonomics, yet it provides a map of China’s practical experiences in construction dust control. The framework is composed of five groups, namely technology (15 items), economy (four items), supervision (four items), organization (three items), and assessment (six items).
Samples are determined carefully for data mapping in order to test the measures proposed in Table 6
. To increase the representativeness of samples, regional centers of China are included. In addition, those cities where the construction industry has been experiencing rapid development (e.g., Qingdao, Xiamen, Shenzhen, Weinan, Ningbo, and Shaoxing) are also considered. Consequently, the sample collected is composed of 37 major cities, as shown in Table 7
As many regulations published on governmental portal sites, news from local authoritative media, and research papers about the sampled cities as possible were collected. It is noted that all of the 37 cities have enforced provisions on the control of dust pollution, and 24 cities have their own initiatives.
In China, governmental portals are an important channel to inform citizens of public services. Based on Chinese government public information online, together with an official platform of the Urban and Rural Construction Committee and Environmental Protection Agency, a total of 345 documents are compiled. The derived documents are listed under the following headings in governmental portals: (1) Regulations on air pollution prevention and control; (2) Procedures for implementing the administration of city appearance and environmental sanitation; (3) Provisions on the prevention and control of dust pollution; (4) Regulations on construction field management; and (5) Scheme of dust pollution prevention and control on construction sites. In addition, a number of regulatory documents elaborating some minority measures (e.g., sediment transportation, ready-mixed concrete, sewage charges) that local governments adopt are also targeted.
Out of 345 documents, 281 belong to headings (3) and (5), while the remainder is given under the headings (1), (2), and (4). In appreciating their connection to the subject of this study, those documents under the headings of (3) and (5) are given detailed examination. This part of documents spans over the period of 1997–2014 (see Figure 1
), which mirrors governmental sharpened efforts in the past years. The project types described in the documents encompass buildings, infrastructures, and demolition works. Moreover, there are 56 acts of local governments and 225 regulations circulated by municipal construction committees or environmental protection agencies.
4.3. Data Analysis
4.3.1. Content Analysis
Content analysis is an analytical technique that makes inferences by identifying specified characteristics of messages objectively and systematically [69
]. In the present study, the method of content analysis was conducted, namely (1) identifying “construction dust” per regulatory document; (2) identifying dust control measures per regulatory document; (3) counting the frequency of measures in a sample city; and (4) totalizing the number of cities that use a defined measure. To avoid subjectivity as well as information omission, these steps were cross-checked by different team members using Nvivo (version 8.0). Nvivo is a useful research tool that helps classify, organize, analyze, and summarize qualitative data; it offers a way of working with and facilitating the search for particular features within the data [70
]. All of the materials were examined in detail to ensure that no information was left out. By following these steps, the reliability and validity of content analysis results can be confirmed.
The frequencies of all of the measures are calculated and shown in Figure 2
. It was found that 30 measures have been practiced in China. In particular, M27 (mass media supervision) has the highest frequency, and the most popular category is technological measures. Meanwhile, there are two measures that do not enter into the decisions of China’s governments.
4.3.2. Correspondence Analysis
Correspondence analysis (CA) is an interdependence technique for dimensional reduction and perceptual mapping [72
]. Hill [74
] used CA to identify those species that are preferential to certain types of habitat. Hoffman and Franke [75
] applied CA to develop preferred solutions for an energy crisis. In this study, therefore, CA was employed to identify governmental tendencies in the determination of construction dust control measures. In effect, this approach is useful to extract a continuous axe of variations from abundant data [76
]. The total inertia explained by the axes retained reflects the accuracy of the lower dimensional space representation. The first two principal axes account for major variations in the original data, which can give rise to dimension reduction [77
]. A graphical representation is obtained by plotting the first two columns of F (representing row points) and G (representing column points). The resulting plot facilitates simultaneous analysis of associations among rows, among columns, and between rows and columns. Thereby, the potential relationships among variations can be derived [78
First, the data extracted are typed into Microsoft Excel spreadsheets with all of the samples coding from 1 to 37 with an ascending order based on gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. Specifically, 1 represents the least developed city, and 37 stands for the most developed city. Second, the Excel spreadsheet is imported into SPSS. Finally, CA is conducted to reduce the data into lower dimensions, and four dimensions are obtained, as shown in Table 8
. The first and second dimension account for 77% of the variance in the total, suggesting that these two dimensions are sufficient to interpret major variations in the data.
In Figure 3
, each point represents a city and it is labeled by a code to indicate city development status. If two cities are located further on the map, it means that they have greater variance in the choice of measures.
Severe environmental pollution resulting from construction dust emissions has attracted a majority of governments to consider what they do better in the attainment of sustainability. Dust control is one of the largest challenges in the area of sustainable construction that governments often urge contractors to address. It is crucial that a combination of measures be adopted to handle this public matter instead of merely employing an individual approach. With reference to China’s practices, the measures are found to be technological, economic, organizational, supervisory, and assessment-based. These five categories of measures form a conceptual framework for other countries to consider using or as a basis for reconsidering their own processes. In addition, China’s governments are inclined to use the measures of technologies and organization to encourage contractors to reduce construction dust emissions. To this end, considerable efforts should be made to stimulate technological innovation and provide institutional guarantees toward dust-free construction.
This paper contributes to the body of knowledge by mapping out China’s experiences in the past decades and presenting the tendencies of governments regarding relevant practices. The research findings lay a solid foundation for future studies to explore the effectiveness of all of the identified measures. The research can assist governments in enhancing their understanding of construction dust control and promoting dust-free construction in the construction industry. Although research works are situated in China, the findings provide useful references for those countries that have similar problems with construction dust pollution to implement. Future research is recommended to explore the rationale behind governmental decision-making on the choices of the measures.