Stepping into the digital age to reduce emissions in the construction sector.

25 August 2021

Written by Andrea Lindblom

How can green tech help to reduce emissions in the construction sector? What are the challenges in greening the construction value chain? These questions will be top of the agenda for Skanska, a multinational construction and project development company, as it joins the LeadIT partnership. Lena Hök, Senior Vice President Sustainability at Skanska Group, explains why.

Lena Hok Senior Vice President Sustainability Skanska

The multinational construction and project development company Skanska has joined the Leadership Group for Industry Transition partnership. Photo: Skanska

Why did Skanska want to join LeadIT?

Skanska has a very ambitious climate target, and a high ambition to drive the transformation needed. Because this transformation has to happen so fast, we have realized that it is very important to have dialogues and work with clients and companies throughout our value chain.

In the construction sector, a large share of carbon emissions comes from the materials that are used, and also from the energy needed to build a bridge or a house, for example, and to then operate it. That means that our value chain – starting with the production of materials and ending at the end of a building’s lifespan – is very long and quite complex. It is therefore very important to understand the different perspectives that actors have along the value chain, and to have a good dialogue with everyone in that chain.

Aside from wanting to understand the challenges faced by different parts of the industry, we also want to share our perspective on possible solutions. That’s why the Leadership Group for Industry Transition, that brings together steel, cement and concrete producers, is a great forum for us.

But the added value of LeadIT is that it also brings in policymakers, who we also want to have a dialogue with. They can incentivize a faster transformation for climate-smarter, low-carbon and net-zero carbon solutions.

Over the past five years, we have seen significant developments in low carbon innovations that are heading towards net-zero solutions for our industry. We want to ensure that we all keep up and even increase the pace.

What contribution can Skanska make to LeadIT?

As a major international project development and construction firm, with markets both in Europe and the US, Skanska has an international perspective on things.

This international perspective from a big player is important because our industry is quite scattered, and it is not always easy to have ideas about both the technical drivers and solutions for transitioning our sector, and about how to scale them.

Quite a few technical solutions exist today: one example is the nearly net-zero asphalt we have invented at Skanska. That’s no small feat because asphalt is otherwise quite emissions intensive. But now, we need to ensure there’s a market for this kind of solution, and that’s where our perspective can be helpful in informing conversations, including within LeadIT.

Another conversation we would like to drive and contribute to is on digital tools. We know that a better, more tech-driven process that calculates carbon emissions embedded in construction projects also offers a great opportunity to significantly reduce emissions. So, we really need our industry to step into the digital age and make use of the green tech opportunities.

What are the opportunities that you see in green tech?

Green-tech tools can help integrate the carbon-emissions perspective into designing, planning and procuring for building projects. There are so many options for materials, design, quality and cost in that process, and all of them can be visualized. It’s important to understand what the different options actually mean from a carbon-emissions perspective – that’s crucial information that needs to be included in order to plan for reducing emissions already at that stage.

Our own carbon calculator is a good example: Skanska in the Nordics was already quite advanced in its carbon calculations, but we saw a gap in the US market. Therefore Skanska – together with software companies such as Microsoft, Autodesk and others – developed a tool called EC3, the Embodied Carbon of Construction Calculator. This tool now has some 14 000 users and is being used in 2000 projects.

One of LeadIT’s new country members is the United States. How important is that for you?

That is very important because the US is a big market, not only for Skanska but globally speaking. It is also a big market in terms of creativity and innovation, so we expect an even more fruitful dialogue about possible solutions – for instance regarding the green-tech opportunities I mentioned. We know that there is a great interest in the US to understand how tech can play an important role in accelerating the pace of transformation towards a climate-smarter society.

Over the past five years, we have seen significant developments in low carbon innovations that are heading towards net-zero solutions for our industry. We want to ensure that we all keep up and even increase the pace.

Lena Hök

Senior Vice President Sustainability at Skanska Group

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