Impact on housing on the environment

What impact does housing have on the environment in Switzerland? Effects of housing on soil, landscape, biodiversity, water, climate, tranquillity, waste and raw materials.


Switzerland’s settlement area grew by 9% in the twelve years between 1997 and 2009 or by around 0.7m2 per second – mostly at the expense of cultivated land. Nearly 60% of Switzerland’s settlement area is taken up by building areas, including industrial areas (and the green spaces and gardens found within them), and almost one-third by transport infrastructures. Just over 60% of settlement areas are sealed.


The growth of the settlement area is partially responsible for the increasing landscape fragmentation, along with an extreme dispersion and poor use of settlements for living and working purposes.


The habitats of plants and animals are undergoing changes, becoming fragmented or even destroyed as structures are built on them.


In settlement areas, around 80% of watercourses are in a poor ecomorphological state, while in relation to the entire network of watercourses in Switzerland, this percentage is only about 20%. The use of plant protection products to maintain gardens and green spaces contributes to the deterioration of water quality, especially in small bodies of water.


The buildings sector is responsible for a good fourth of the greenhouse gases that are emitted in Switzerland. Between 2000 and 2015, greenhouse gas emissions in the buildings sector fell by around one-fifth.

Waste and raw materials

Around 60 to 70 mio t of a wide range of materials (mainly concrete, followed by gravel and sand) are used annually in Swiss construction projects (building and civil engineering). Construction activity generates the largest share of waste produced in Switzerland (84%), which consists of 57 mio t of excavated materials and 16.8 mio t of deconstruction materials. Around 70% of the annually generated deconstruction materials are reintroduced into the economic cycle as secondary raw materials.

From a total environmental impact perspective, the energy supplied to construction projects in Switzerland (for heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting, etc.) still causes greater environmental effects (56%) than the use of construction materials (44%).


According to model calculations, every seventh person is exposed to harmful or disturbing traffic noise at the place of residence . A higher noise level diminishes the attractiveness of settlement areas, and those who can afford it move away from particularly noisy districts.

Moving into quieter residential areas, however, leads to increasing noise levels there, because the mobility needs of the population rise as a result. The traffic flows create additional noise problems in previously quiet regions and affect acoustically valuable recreational areas as well.

Last modification 30.11.2018

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