London claims world-first with stringent new emissions standards for construction equipment

New emissions standards for construction equipment, said to be a world first, have come into force in London in an effort to tackle air pollution in the capital.

Construction site managers are now required to retrofit or replace older equipment, such as diggers and bulldozers, to ensure they comply with the new air quality standards, which came into force yesterday.

The Low Emission Zone for construction machinery complements the Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s efforts to reduce emissions from transport including the introduction of an Ultra-Low Emission Zone in central London from 2020.

Under the new rules, all construction sites in the centre of London and sites building more than 10 homes or larger than 1,000 square feet in Greater London will have to replace or retrofit polluting equipment which is more than 10 years old.

Currently, it is estimated up to 12% of nitrogen oxide and 15% of particulate pollution in London come from construction and demolition activity.

City Hall said it is important both of these sources be dealt with together, and London is claimed to be the first city in the world to impose emissions standards for construction equipment which address both pollutants.

However, some exemptions will be provided where pieces of equipment are “not available at the emission standard stipulated or in the volumes required to meet demand in a construction environment as dynamic as London’s”.

The new Low Emission Zone for construction machinery is expected to cut particulate and nitrogen oxide emissions by nearly 50% by 2020.

“Dust and fumes from construction sites are a nuisance to people who live close by but they also impact on London’s wider air quality. That’s why it’s so important for these new emission standards to come in to address the problem, which together with our efforts on transport emissions will make a significant difference to the air Londoners breathe,” said deputy mayor for environment and energy, Matthew Pencharz.

To help with implementation of the scheme a new online register has been set up at, which is intended to make it easier for site managers to register all construction machinery within the London catchment area.

After an initial six-month introductory period focusing on education and awareness-raising, should a site not meet the emissions standards required, its managers will be in breach of their planning requirements as imposed by the relevant borough. Penalties could include a delay to the final completion of a project which could have an implied financial cost for the company concerned.

This latest measure forms part of the Mayor’s wider work to cut emissions from transport which includes the Ultra Low Emission Zone as well as the introduction of hybrid and zero-emission buses.

Managing director of the Construction Plant-hire Association Colin Wood said: “We are pleased to support the Low Emission Zone for construction machinery, having worked collaboratively with the Greater London Authority on its development. We are committed to working with the industry to help them improve London’s air quality.”

Executive director of the Environmental Industries Commission Matthew Farrow said: “Emissions from construction sites are a much bigger problem than most of us realise. With so much construction taking place across London, this initiative will help clean up construction machinery and improve the health of Londoners.

"We have worked closely with the Mayor’s advisers and other stakeholders to ensure the scheme makes use of the most effective, up-to-date environmental technology. Once the scheme has bedded in, appropriate enforcement will be vital.”

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