Trenchless and the Environment: How No-Dig Construction Saves Ecosystems

By Denise Sullivan
Published: May 15, 2018 | Last updated: July 5, 2023
Key Takeaways

Trenchless technology has benefited the environment in ways traditional rehabilitation projects never could.

No-dig construction is gaining popularity when it comes to underground pipe repair and replacement. However, the reasoning behind choosing trenchless methods is its cheaper cost or lessened project time. Seldom do workers look to the environmental impact that this methodology has in comparison to traditional trenching techniques. Here are four ways no-dig construction plays a part in helping keep the environment healthy.


Air Pollution

Air quality is something that is a concern for everyone. Studies by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences show that poor air quality is responsible for the upswing in respiratory problems including asthma. Exposure to polluted air, the study also indicates, has adverse health effects such as pre-term births and cardiovascular disease.

Trenchless projects have an easier time adhering to Environmental Protection Agency regulations with less impact already in their favor.


While most air pollution comes from factories, the exhaust from large machinery contributes to the overall quality as well. In addition to the exhaust, dust and debris are sent skyward from the excavation process which adversely affects the atmospheric conditions as well.

No-dig construction does not use the same large machinery that traditional methods do, meaning less exhaust to spew into the air. Additionally, without significant excavation, there is less dust and debris to affect the air quality.

Carbon Footprint

Open trenching projects consume approximately 60 times more energy than no-dig construction projects. It takes much power to remove all the surrounding soil and then rebuild the area once finished with repairs. For example, workers replacing or repairing a pipe using trenchless technology can do so around 53 times on the same amount of energy as traditional methods.

Everyone is trying to reduce their carbon footprint. With fewer CO2 emissions, there is a reduction of greenhouse gasses. While not everyone has bought into the carbon footprint debate, all can agree that reducing the total energy used is a goal for which all conservationists should strive. When reducing energy use, the amount of pollution released into the atmosphere from power plants decreases as well.

Noise Pollution

While not an environmental issue, per se, but it is a concern for those in the area surrounding the construction. The noise of living near the site is unbearable. However, workers using no-dig construction do not need loud digging equipment to disturb the neighborhood. Many workers tap into local electrical junctions instead of portable generators to help reduce the noise they do make.


Trenchless projects also reduce traffic disruptions and diversions. (Read "Are Construction Traffic Diversions Necessary for Trenchless Projects?.")

Not only does the reduced noise help those living near the construction site, but it also helps to prevent the desertion of wildlife in the area. Excessive noise can drive animals from their homes and make them frightened to return even after construction has ended.

Protecting Wildlife

While noise can cause wildlife to flee an area, it is not the sole concern when it comes to ecosystem ramifications. Traditional trenching methods disturb a broader ground area. This disruption destroys homes of small animals and insects forcing them to relocate.

In some areas, the excavation of grounds to install subterranean pipes has led to the extinction of some species from a given area. Animals already on the endangered list may face total annihilation from the planet if construction plans do not consider their habitats before trenching. The protection of ecosystems in palustrine wetlands has shown promise in this method of construction.

Trenchless technology methods allow for less disruption of the soil. With fewer disturbances, more animals and insects remain in their habitat than before, preserving the species in areas where extinction was imminent.

No matter if workers choose to use no-dig construction or traditional trenching techniques, consideration of the environment is a must. Doing an environmental impact study before beginning a subterranean project is the best way to ensure that the ecosystem is disturbed as little as possible.

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Written by Denise Sullivan | Technical Writer @ Trenchlesspedia

Denise Sullivan

Denise Sullivan is an accomplished freelance writer from Louisiana, with a Associate's Degree in Journalism from Eastern Oklahoma State College. She also graduated from East Central University with a Bachelor's in Biology. Denise began her writing career writing operations and maintenance manuals and software utility manuals for flight simulators. Since, she has expanded her writing to a broad spectrum of topics.

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