National CO2 calculation method is needed for infrastructure construction

The construction industry is driven in the direction of low emissions by EU, government, municipal and in-house carbon neutrality goals. An environmental impact assessment standard for infrastructure construction is on its way, perhaps already in 2021. The industry needs a common calculation method for reliably comparing carbon dioxide emissions in tenders and competitive bidding.

The carbon dioxide emissions of a construction project are caused by materials and working methods; the life-cycle perspective also needs to be considered. In infrastructure construction projects, emission calculation is still a new thing. At YIT, for example, we are calculating the emissions of projects for the first time now. Calculating the greenhouse gas emissions of an infrastructure construction project in a comparable manner requires guidelines from the authorities. Currently, the calculation methods used by different companies still differ a lot.

The industry has already launched pilot projects that require low emissions or carbon neutrality. An effective way of developing joint goals will be to incorporate the goals as a qualitative benchmark into contract tenders, which means that the calculation methods and assessments of outcomes must be clear and comparable. For the time being, we have settled with demanding, for example, the use of engines meeting specific emissions standards in work machines; which, however, is only a small fraction of emissions on the whole. The Swedish Transport Administration, Trafikvärket, already uses a model in which bidders must commit to a specific level of carbon dioxide emissions upon the threat of sanctions. In Finland, we will need the authorities’ support and a uniform guideline to promote a goal that we all share.

The development of a calculation method for housing construction is already well under way. The same work should also quickly take place in infrastructure construction. We do not have such an official calculation method yet, even though good preforms exist. This means we could contribute to the climate effort in the best way possible and review infrastructure construction as a whole. For example, using virgin materials is still required, even though the reuse of mineral aggregates, for example, would make sense in many projects.

At YIT, we have set ourselves a goal of cutting our carbon dioxide emissions by 50% by 2030 and we report on the project-specific carbon dioxide emissions of our self-developed projects starting from 2020. We want to be trailblazers by requiring that we reduce emissions using criteria that can be measured and monitored. We hope that the goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will quickly become a common operating method in the industry. This will naturally result in some additional costs, but it will be a win for the environment.

This is how you can reduce emissions in construction production:

  1. know the emissions of current operations by sub-area (materials, processes, tools)
  2. plan the big picture taking the potential for emission reductions into account
  3. plan the production and as-planned model
  4. supervise implementation and report
Jarkko Salmenoja
SVP, Traffic infrastructure, Infrastructure projects