Mankind is at the cusp of its game when we talk about technology and construction. Look at some of the amazing things that we have accomplished in construction in just a few years. From tall towers, like The Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, weighing about 500,000 tons, or The Palace of the Parliament in Bucharest, which has the record of being the world’s heaviest building containing 700,000 tons of steel and bronze, a million square feet of marble, 3500 tons of crystal and about 900,000 square meters of wood!
One can only wonder that with so much material being used in such ginormous structures, is it possible that it is making our planet more and more heavier? Well, the simple answer is no, it doesn’t impact the mass of our planet even by a fraction! To explain why, let’s first talk about the things that actually do alter the mass of our planet.
Earth does in fact, gain and lose mass through a couple of processes, but the increase in the construction of massive structures is by far not the reason.
Our majestic planet gains mass through dust and meteorites that are captured by its gravity. So much so, that research indicates that it’s estimated that about 100 – 300 metric tons of “space dust” strike the earth every day. That adds up to about 30,000 to 100,000 tons per year! That’s about the weight of 5 Burj Khalifa’s combined!
Alternatively, the Earth also keeps losing its mass by burning its energy from the core. As well as loses some of it when some hydrogen and helium escape from our atmosphere. This too amounts up to over 100,000 tons per year.
This may seem like a lot, but if you compare it to our planets overall mass, 5.0 sextillion tons (that’s 20 zeros!), it amounts to, well, quite less.
So coming back to the “million-dollar” question, Why does so much construction also add up to these numbers? Well, the simple answer to the question is, because all the millions of tons of steel, concrete, timber, etc., used in construction, already exists, and thus contributes in our Earth’s overall mass. We are not adding anything extra, just shaping and fabricating it.
Concrete is a mixture of materials such as limestone, clay, sand and/or shale – all of which already existing on our planet. We can build millions and millions of steel structures and it won’t impact our planet at all; the environmental effects of such mass construction are a different story, however.
So much so, that even the growing population has no impact on the overall mass of the planet. As a person grows or as new people are born, the mass for these new additions come from three sources: air, water, and food. All these elements, again, already exist on earth and hence, have no impact on our planet’s overall mass.
The only way construction of new buildings can impact on the mass of our planet is, if we bring materials from the outer space to construct a structure. Maybe SpaceX finds a way to harvest raw materials from passing asteroids and getting them down here to construct buildings; but even then, it will take decades and heaps of such materials to observe even the slightest bulge on our planets belly.