A project can face many challenges throughout its life cycle, from planning for and attaining proper permits, managing and documenting compliance during execution to closing out requirements upon completion. This planning process includes early engagement and involvement of stakeholders to alleviate potential concerns and future roadblocks. Environmental teams, including environmental, public engagement and real estate specialists, all have a critical role in project planning and execution to clear environmental roadblocks for unabated execution of the many phases of a project and to keep teams on schedule and on budget. Enabling for greater collaboration between engineering, construction and environmental teams can prevent or mitigate holdups in every stage of a project.

Environmental teams can have experience with a wide variety of projects in many different industries, from planning and constructing electrical transmission lines to planning and constructing manufacturing facilities. Often, a project team may be unaware of the significant environmental impacts a project could cause, and without proper planning, leading to costly and time-consuming delays.

Limiting Project Disruption

Environmental teams provide support from the very start of a project, beginning in the conceptual planning phase. Site selection, managing stakeholders and identifying the appropriate permits and timelines for approvals are all services that benefit from the addition of an environmental team. An environmental team assists in the site selection phase by researching and providing solutions to minimize environmental impacts, avoid contaminated sites and reduce project risk. If a project is expected to have a significant effect on the community and stakeholders, whether from a major road closure or potential impacts to nearby residences, a stakeholder management staff member assists with conducting open houses (virtually), collecting information from stakeholders, and working with project teams on messaging to ease stakeholder impact concerns and answer questions surrounding the project.

Depending on the type of project, permitting for air, noise, wetlands, protected species, historical resources, or flood plains may be required prior to the start of construction. An environmental team can research rules and regulations, tell you what permits are needed, and work with you to secure permits and otherwise adjust plans to prevent potential for violations or delays later on.

Additional Site Concerns

Even after performing due diligence during site selection, contamination — such as contaminated soil and groundwater related to previous activities, as well as lead paint and asbestos — can be discovered as construction progresses. When this happens, an environmental perspective is needed to clear the environmental impacts and allow the project to continue with limited interruption.

Additionally, real estate specialists can provide construction support and negotiate requirements from property owners affected by a project. This could include anything from negotiating access to a project site or little details like closing a gate to prevent a cattle farmer from unnecessarily losing animals. The team also provides monitoring to maintain compliance with protected species or historical resources that may need special attention, to prevent unintended damage throughout the construction process.

Accounting for environmental requirements, managing stakeholders and competing objectives, a construction project can be complicated to complete successfully. Involving environmental teams from the start can lead to proper permitting, well-researched site selection and minimized environmental impacts, thus helping a project stay on schedule and on budget.


Discover how an environmental perspective can help you overcome your construction process challenges, across a range of industries.



Steve Haler is a department manager and permitting compliance specialist at Burns & McDonnell. He has extensive experience leading permitting and compliance efforts for construction of electric transmission lines, substations, pipelines and power plants.