“We are part of the development towards a fossil-free construction industry”

In Norway, the major developers have started demanding climate reports for building materials from their subcontractors. Bengt Johnsen, HSE Manager at Assemblin Norway, has therefore initiated a pilot study on climate reports for product purchases, with the aim of being able to report the CO2 emissions of all the products used by Assemblin in its installation work.

The construction and real estate sector generates a significant proportion of greenhouse gas emissions, in Europe as much as 40%* if you include the construction phase, operational phase and the decommissioning phase. Construction products alone account for 20-25%** of these emissions.

Interest in climate reports in Norway originated with the construction industry, which in recent years has been very involved in the digital shift and so wanted to create common platforms for different types of data, such as sustainability values. The fact that large construction projects, such as the expansion of Gardemoen Airport, have had a great environmental focus has also led to developers putting pressure on their subcontractors to be able to account for their products’ emissions.

“It started a few years ago when the major developers began to demand climate reports for some of the products we use. However, we didn’t get any answers as to what exactly such reports should contain, with the players referring, among other things, to BREEAM and EPD (environmental product declarations),” says Bengt Johnsen.

Bengt and his colleagues sat down and reviewed the kinds of environmental data that would be relevant to request from their wholesalers in order to meet the demands of developers. They concluded that raw material extraction, transport to the factory, production, and transport to the wholesaler were the variables that would fulfil customers’ requests for climate reporting. In other words, CO2 emissions for the first part of a product’s life cycle.

“Because Assemblin is so large, we need to be at the forefront of this development. And also share the information with other installation companies,” says Bengt.

It’s a question of survival

Bengt hopes to be able to deliver two projects in early 2021 with detailed facts about the environmental impact of various products. He has held meetings with the major suppliers, who are now working hard to meet Assemblin’s demands. The next step will involve setting clear quality requirements for products vis-à-vis importers, producers and wholesalers. And internally looking at how different disciplines, from IT, purchasing and development to HR and the management team, can work even better together to develop environmental management.

“At the end of the day, it’s a question of survival, that we understand this and think in new ways. In the construction sector, we’ve not been used to looking so far ahead – the future has tended to extend only to the end of a project, perhaps no more than six months ahead. But now we have to be on our toes to keep up with the trend towards a fossil-free construction industry,” says Bengt.

How will Assemblin become a leader in environmental management in the installation industry?

“Over the past three years Assemblin Norway has been aiming to reduce its CO2 emissions by 80 tonnes a year, regardless of growth and production expansion. From 2021, we will formulate a new target and then move to a percentage rate instead. We’ve gradually worked to replace our fleet of vehicles, from fossil-fuelled cars to electric cars. Now we have to take a strong stand on the product side,” says Bengt.


* www.forskningsradet.no

** www.regjeringen.no

Three questions to...

Johan Holmqvist, Business Development Manager at Assemblin VS and member of the Assemblin Group’s Sustainability Committee.

How has Assemblin in Sweden been working on the issue of climate accounting for products? 

“The study that Bengt Johnsen is running in Norway regarding climate accounting for products is being followed by a cross-border collaboration in the Assemblin Group, and from Sweden’s side we are providing input to Norway on the issue.”

Climate declarations for new construction buildings will be introduced in Sweden in 2022. How will this affect the installation industry?

“The regulatory requirement does not directly affect the installation industry, as it is material manufacturing, material transport and the production stage for which climate declarations will be required. However, Boverket has picked up signals that installations may also be included, although not until 2027. By that date, the installation industry will, of course, be prepared for a new directive, but we will certainly have started that work earlier. Reducing carbon emissions from both the construction and operational phases is a high priority, both on the part of the government and the installation industry itself. However, I believe that the client stage will be ahead of the legislation and require that climate declarations also cover installations before 2027, as with the trend currently being observed in Norway. This is because the clients will want to know what emissions their investments have generated.”

What are Assemblin’s goals at group level for reducing carbon emissions?

“Our business goal is to reduce our CO2 emissions by 10 per cent per year. We mainly look at the CO2 emissions where we have an individual impact, such as transport and the purchase of electricity.”