Clean and Healthy Construction

Insights from the C40 World Mayors Summit in Copenhagen: Master Class and Market Dialogue for Clean and Healthy Construction.

Why clean construction?

Kevin Austin, Executive Director at C40 opened the event by presenting the hard facts on why clean construction needs to be on everyone’s agenda: “Roughly 60% of buildings that will exist in 2050 are yet to be built. This means constructing a city the size of Copenhagen (1.5 million people) per week until 2050”, he stated. Some of the most effective ways to lower the embodied carbon of buildings and the emissions on construction sites have been explored in the recent C40 report: Buildings and Infrastructure Consumption Emissions In Focus.

What have we learned so far?

Cities have purchasing power, which can be used strategically to drive targets for Clean Construction. More cites are realizing the potential in green public procurement (GPP), but not fully utilizing this potential due to budget restrictions, questions around market readiness and lack of supporting policies and standards. The following key insights emerged from the master class:

  • Oslo has launched a new procurement policy and strategy to help get all construction work to zero-emission by 2030. The city has initiated the first zero-emission construction site, a pilot right outside the Oslo Climate Agency. Heidi Sørensen, Director of Oslo Climate Agency, explained that the early engagement with the industry and innovative procurement initiatives are key to success and that the project proved “not to be too difficult” once the city found the industry’s perception of risk and addressed it.
  • The city of Copenhagen, Host of the C40 Mayors Summit, has also laid out plans to further reduce carbon emissions. Jørgen Abildgaard, Executive Climate Program Director City of Copenhagen, explained how the City of Copenhagen’s ambition is to become the world’s first carbon-neutral capital by 2025, where construction has one of the highest potentials for carbon savings. Moreover, Copenhagen is joining forces with Oslo and Stockholm on procuring for low-emission construction to uncover the benefits of scaling demand and sending a clear signal to the market. The three Nordic cities have initiated a joint statement, and have also collaborated on a cross-national tender for non-road mobile machinery.
  • The global competition for innovative carbon-free and resilient urban projects “Reinventing Cities”, where projects do not go to the highest bidder, but instead to the highest quality projects. 14 cities joined the competition and committed to this evaluation process, which is “opening the pathway for other projects, emphasising the need for more larger scale experiments and pilots”,  explained Helene Chartier, Head of Zero Carbon Development at C40.
  • More use of timber in construction as a key solution to reduce carbon in construction. For example, timber is lighter, which means fewer deliveries at construction sites and by utilising prefabrication the buildings go to market quicker.

Are visions, learnings and targets for Clean Construction translating into market opportunities?

The discussions at the master class were opened by the Deputy Mayor of Copenhagen, Ninna Hedeager Olsen, who emphasized the importance of collaboration with the private sector on driving development in the sector. The following insights emerged:

  • Throughout the last three years, the city of Oslo has been in regular dialogue with the market in order to shape their procurement strategy and criteria. As a result, Espen Nicolaysen, Head of the sustainability for the procurement department in the City of Oslo, announced that Oslo city council has 9 October 2019 agreed to change the award criteria, applying 30% weighing in environmental criteria, 50% of which is zero-emission non-road mobile machines (NRMM).
  • Amsterdam is taking a more strategic and collaborative approach to procurement in their strategy and have extended projects to 8 years in order to build long term relationships. This allows buyers to set minimum criteria for contractors on carbon reductions and then increase targets throughout the contract length. Amsterdam is joining forces with Copenhagen, Oslo, and 4 other cities through the programmes Big Buyers Initiative and Clean Construction to drive zero-emission construction sites through joint GPP and the next step is for the city of Amsterdam is to agree who will pay initial investments to initiate pilots.
  • The solutions exist and are being developed. The barriers seem to continue to lie in the scaling of solutions. Issues like infrastructure, energy supply, cost of ownership were mentioned and continue to pose challenges, and the views were very divided when it came to the role of regulation, and whether this really should pose a barrier for scaling. But one conclusion is clear to everyone – a joint approach is necessary.
  • When it comes to construction and supply and demand, it is not a simple buyers and supplier relationship – multiple parties are involved and need to be aligned in order to deliver emission reduction targets on the construction sites as well as the building.