Protecting our natural and historic environment for better health and wellbeing is a cornerstone of environmental mitigation.
Infrastructure and property development can lead to undesirable or negative effects to environmental resources and receptors. To mitigate such potential consequences, appropriate measures are designed to limit or avoid the possible negative effects. These measures are presented before decision-makers and demonstrate controls to protect the environment.
When should you consider environmental mitigation?
Mitigation is a legal requirement for developers and public bodies to prove that their projects and plans have considered the environmental consequences and taken appropriate measures to reduce these risks. Mitigation is important during design development, construction planning and operational planning.
Mitigating environmental effects as a design develops
Architectural or civil engineering designs and plans should take into consideration how to reduce adverse environmental effects. An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a process that informs and affects designs and plans, with the aim of improving the sustainability of the proposals, and protecting and enhancing the environment.
A well-designed or engineered development proposal or infrastructure scheme will continue to refer to the EIA in order to reduce any environmental or sustainability impacts. Throughout the design process, the EIA will ensure there is frequent cross-checking of the environmental parameters with the evolving design, and guide achievable design options efficiently.
Environmental mitigation during construction and when operating facilities
Construction can lead to very intense, although temporary, environmental effects. To mitigate such environmental effects, good construction environmental management planning will reduce the likelihood and severity of environmental risks and accidents. Key aspects to consider here include working closely with contractors and the regulators to set targets and implement protection measures alongside regulators. This can help lead to considerate contractor relationships with neighbours and deliver a good standard of environmental mitigation during construction.
Operational and facilities environmental management planning is another area where compliance testing, auditing and reviewing environmental thresholds, and maintaining and improving facilities to keep standards up to the required environmental quality are legally required mitigation strategies.
What is the mitigation hierarchy?
The mitigation hierarchy is a process of investigation to reduce the overall environmental effects of a proposed development scheme. In order of preference, these are:
- Avoid – this is the most preferred
- Offset or compensate
This hierarchy is an integral part of decision making during design development, and it is important to demonstrate how the mitigation hierarchy has been applied when presenting plans to public stakeholders and statutory regulators as consents and permits are being considered.
What does mitigation include?
There are lots of possible ways to mitigate the impact of development schemes, including:
- Installing renewables such as solar panels
- Managing energy usage through systems such as passive heating, thermal and solar gain, increased natural lighting opportunities and auto lighting, and providing electric car plug-ins
- Conserving water usage, and recycling ‘grey’ water from roofs and showers for landscape watering
- Managing waste through the reduce, reuse, recycle model, and providing easy waste segregation and rewards for zero litter
- Giving pure air – allowing natural breezes and air circulation
- Providing healthy travel options such as cycleways, footpaths and running tracks
- Using locally sourced and sustainable building materials, low VOC paints and interior décor
- Letting the outside come inside –natural planting to provide healthy atmospheres and ambiences both inside and outside
- Making projects bee-friendly and bird-happy – encouraging green walls and easy to maintain green roofs for wildlife and people
What techniques and processes can be considered for mitigation during design?
Here are just some of the processes which could be included as mitigation measures during the design process:
- Environmental risk and hazard mapping
- Adoption and enforcement of sustainable land use and zoning policies
- Investing in the protection of historic and natural landscape and features
- Flood plain mapping
- Designing homes away from or above flood-prone areas
- Socio-economic studies
- Environmental design and planning
With so many possibilities to consider, and legal requirements to take into account, many developers choose to consult environmental specialists to ensure all aspects are covered.
To discuss your project requirements, please contact our experienced team