Soil is a fundamental and ultimately finite resource that fulfils a number of functions and services for society which are central to sustainability. Some of the most significant impacts on this resource occur as a result of activities associated with construction activity, yet it appears that there is a general lack of awareness and understanding of this need within the building industry.
The establishment of new landscapes or gardens on construction sites often involves the respreading of stockpiled soil or the importation of soil. The manner in which this is carried out has a significant bearing on the soil’s function, and particularly its ability to support new trees, shrubs and grass.
A Code of Practice has therefore been developed to assist anyone involved in building work to better protect the soil resources with which they work. By following the guidance in the Code you will not only be able to help protect and enhance the soil resources on site but you may also achieve cost savings for your project.
• Have a soil resource survey carried out on site by a suitably qualified and experienced soil scientist or practitioner – e.g. a member of the Institute of Professional Soil Scientists – at the earliest convenience and prior to any earthworks operations.
• Incorporate the results of the soil resource survey into the site working strategy ensuring liaison between the soil resource survey and other ground investigations.
• Ensure that you are informed of and follow waste regulations as necessary.
• Consider the use of sustainable drainage systems on site as these can provide more long term protection of soils beyond the construction phase, by facilitating the infiltration and attenuation of surface water.
Soil management during construction
• Prepare a Soil Resource Plan showing the areas and type of topsoil and subsoil to be stripped, haul routes, the methods to be used, and the location, type and management of each soil stockpile.
• When stripping, stockpiling or placing soil, do so in the driest condition possible and use tracked equipment where possible to reduce compaction.
• Confine traffic movement to designated routes.
• Keep soil storage periods as short as possible.
• Clearly define stockpiles of different soil materials.
Landscape or garden creation
• Ensure that the entire soil profile is in a condition to promote sufficient aeration, drainage and root growth.
• Safeguard and utilise on-site soil resources where possible. If importing soils, use a reputable supplier, establish the source of the soil and ensure it is suitable for the intended use.