The environment protection laws in Switzerland contain rules that are either directly applicable to buildings, works and plants or have an indirect influence on such buildings in that they define the basic conditions or contain determining factors.

Environment Protection Law

The federal Environment Protection Law (Umweltschutzgesetz) contains general principles that apply to buildings and construction work. Generally, people, animals, plants and the environment are to be protected against harmful influences of any kind. The polluter-pays principle is stipulated amongst others.

Influences are defined as:

  • pollution of the air
  • pollution of water bodies
  • pollution of the ground
  • noise
  • vibration
  • radiation
  • changes to the genes of organisms

caused by:

  • construction and operation of buildings and plants
  • handling of substances, organisms or waste
  • exploitation of the ground

Environmental Compatibility Assessment Act

The federal Environment Protection Law stipulates that all new or modifications to buildings and plants that may have an impact on the environment are subject to Environmental Compatibility Assessment. The details are regulated in the Environmental Compatibility Assessment Act (Verordnung über die Umweltverträglichkeitsprüfung).

Amongst others the following works and plants are subject to assessment:

  • highways
  • railroads
  • ship routes
  • storage and transfer of energy (power lines, oil, gas, etc.)
  • dams, bridges, corrections to water courses etc.
  • disposal (nuclear waste, waste treatment plants, etc.)
  • heavy industry (steel, aluminum, cement, etc.)
  • chemical and pharmaceutical industry
  • exploitation of materials (gravel, sand, mines, etc.)
  • farm buildings of a certain size (e.g. piggery)
  • shopping centers / malls of a certain size

Noise Control Act

The federal Noise Control Act (Lärmschutzverordnung) contains provisions against harmful and vexatious noise of existing and new plants. Areas that are exposed to noise are to be determined and building areas planned accordingly. Amongst others, building permits in areas exposed to noise are regulated and measures to protect buildings and rooms within buildings from noise are stipulated.

Clean Air Act

The federal Clean Air Act (Luftreinhalteverordnung) endeavors to protect people, animals, plants and the environment as well as the ground from harmful pollution of the air.

Amongst others:

  • emission limit values are defined
  • burning of waste in the open is prohibited
  • requirements for fuel are defined
  • immission threshold values are defined

Construction or modifications to plants and existing plants have to comply with the rules laid out in the Clean Air Act.

Water bodies protection Law

The federal Water bodies protection Law (Gewässerschutzgesetz) endeavors to protect people, animals, plants, the environment and water bodies in particular from harmful influences and pollution. It establishes the sustainable use of water and regulates the use of water for agriculture, recreation etc.

Energy Law

The federal Energy Law (Energiegesetz) contains rules on the energy-efficiency of new buildings. The rules also apply to any major renovations. The energy-efficiency of materials to be used are defined in detail.

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