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Zero Carbon Construction

Imagine a “Tesla-esque” construction site – green, eco-friendly and sustainable… Surely such an idea could never be reality, at least not yet?

The Olav Vs Gate site in Oslo, Norway has defied the odds by introducing an all-electric machinery site, the first of its kind. This zero-carbon construction site is an electrifying step forward for the construction industry, which has been notoriously one of the most polluting and contaminating sectors in modern society, accounting for 38% of the world’s emissions.

The works on-site involve transforming a bustling turning zone for the city’s taxis into a pedestrianised area. It’s fitting that the eco-friendly construction approach fits hand-in-hand with the development’s objective – reducing vehicle traffic and pollution and replacing it with environmentally-friendly foot traffic.

The construction site has not gone unnoticed, but not for the loud and clamorous reasons that locals are usually disturbed by. Instead, the site has been noticed for its uncharacteristic quietness. This has resulted in happy residents and workers who have not been disturbed by works, which have previously caused some inconvenience to those nearby. Workers on-site have also reported that communication has been much improved due to the lower noise levels, and this has in turn resulted in workers feeling much safer on-site as the lack of commotion allows better awareness of their surroundings.

Contractors have acknowledged that while you need to pay more upfront for the new electric machinery, you save more money during the operation through not paying for diesel and also because electric machines can work later into the night, given they produce very little noise. This investment has been welcomed as digitising the construction site is a huge factor in the modern industry - any slight improvement can result in saving cash or time, the two key figures on construction deals.

Given the success of the project and the excellent feedback, what’s the catch? Why have we not seen this rolled out across more projects throughout the world? The answer is simple, Norway has an electricity grid with 98% renewable energy which makes it ideal for conducting such a construction project. Other countries simply do not have this availability and therefore won’t be able to introduce such an eco-friendly construction project any time soon.

However, Norway presents a fine example of how the world is changing and the role zero carbon can play in the construction industry. Not only have they shown how it’s done, but they have also highlighted how to promote it. Since 2019, public tenders for construction work, such as schools, have been awarded to contractors building with zero-emission machinery. This encourages contractors to move to a renewable energy approach in order to be successful when tendering for such lucrative projects.

It is no doubt that given time (and money), we will inevitably see (but not hear!) green and eco-friendly construction projects in more cities across the world, following Norway’s lead.


Editorial prepared by: Conor Mulligan, Solicitor, Construction @ Mills Selig

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