Norway is leading the way towards a greener construction industry, with environment-friendly materials, zero-emission construction sites and smart, energy-efficient buildings.
The cities of the world are growing dramatically. However, such extensive growth has its climate challenges. New buildings are constructed with carbon-intensive materials produced at industrial scale. Construction sites use fuel-guzzling heavy machinery. Far too few buildings are built to be sustainable. All in all, the construction industry accounts for 39 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Norway is making great progress towards a much more environmentally sound and sustainable construction industry. The country has well-developed mainland industries, with access to high-quality raw materials and the knowledge needed to utilise them responsibly.
A strong public sector – which is also the country’s largest construction client – is actively using its position in the market to place stringent demands on developers, contractors and suppliers. Meanwhile, public support schemes assist environmentally ambitious companies by shouldering some of the financial risk associated with developing, testing and commercialising low-carbon technology.
Norway also has the world’s most digitally literate workforce, and is leading the way in the use of artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things. These ground-breaking enabling technologies are making it possible to build more resource and energy-efficient buildings and construction sites.
Here are three areas in which Norway is blazing a trail for the green construction industry of the future.
Clare Keogh/European Commission
Oslo was awarded the title of European Green Capital for 2019.
Production of concrete and steel generates a great deal of carbon dioxide. Steel production is not only energy intensive, but a large stream of carbon emissions is released from iron and silicon as well.
One way of addressing this problem is to implement carbon capture and storage (CCS) at facilities that manufacture construction materials. The state enterprise Gassnova has built up world-leading expertise in CCS. Among other activities, Gassnova grants financial support for development, demonstration and piloting of pioneering technology under the CLIMIT programme. Considerable headway has been made on a full-scale CCS facility at the new district heating plant at Klemetsrud, in Oslo, and Norwegian industry is beginning to adopt CCS technology on a large scale.
Another approach is to reduce significantly or eliminate the use of carbon-intensive materials in construction. Norway is heavily forested, and is leading the way in replacing steel with massive timber as a construction material. Moelven recently completed the world’s tallest timber building, Mjøstårnet, in Brumunddal in eastern Norway. A pre-fabricated, 18-storey building, the timber skeleton was built at a speed of one storey per week using the company’s glue laminated timber (glulam). Glulam can compete with steel when it comes to strength, flexibility and durability.
Norway’s forestry industry is among the world’s most sustainable. Regulations are so strict that virtually no tree can be felled without a commitment to planting a new one. Norwegian timber buildings are therefore among the most eco-friendly buildings in existence.
The new North Pier at Oslo Airport Gardermoen is another example of innovative use of materials. The roof is built of wood, and much of the rest of the building consists of recycled materials, climate-friendly insulation and concrete in which a share of the cement was replaced with reused waste.
And when concrete must be used, why not use concrete that cleans city air? Joma International applies advanced nanotechnology to make concrete that breaks down the polluting chemicals it encounters. This results in cleaner buildings, purer city air and more sustainable urban spaces.
Joma’s non-toxic surface treatment for concrete buildings is based on nanoparticles which break down harmful gases.
Zero-emission construction sites
Construction sites are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. Oslo is growing rapidly, and it is estimated that one-fifth of the city’s total emissions come from construction sites. This is why the City of Oslo is using its position as the city’s largest construction client to implement stringent requirements for contractors, creating a market for fossil-free machinery. This in turn has paved the way for suppliers such as PON and NASTA to develop custom-built, all-electric excavators, shotcrete rigs, trucks and more.
Norwegian property developers such as Veidekke and NCC are building up a stable of heavy-duty, electric construction equipment, allowing them to deliver when projects are to be fossil free. The City of Oslo has set a target for all construction sites to be completely emission free by 2030. According to some forecasts, this target will be met already by 2025. At the same time, delegations are coming from around the world to learn about how a city can grow while curbing emissions.
The way in which a construction site is managed also plays an important role in relation to resource use and carbon emissions. Studies show that up to 50 per cent of time at construction sites is wasted. Collaboration between the different stakeholders on site is often inefficient, which means that extensive resources are squandered. With its cloud-based Bimsync platform, Catenda has designed a solution that guarantees transparent and efficient cooperation at construction sites.
RoMY Clima, meanwhile, has developed a smart solution that provides construction sites with heating without the use of polluting generators.
Veidekke is working on the TGB Smestad–Sogn tunnel project in Oslo – which is entirely fossil free.
Energy-efficient buildings and energy-plus houses
Buildings must not only be constructed in a more energy-efficient manner; once they are in operation, they must consume considerably less energy and fewer resources. Norway is a pioneer in zero-energy buildings, which have zero net consumption of renewable energy, and plus-energy buildings, which generate more energy than they use and feed it back into the grid.
The new National Museum in Oslo is under construction. Once completed it will be the largest cultural centre in the Nordic region. A zero-energy building, it will be heated by water from the Oslo Fjord, among other renewable sources. FutureBuilt, a collaboration between 10 public and private sector partners, provides support for and promotes pilot projects for climate-neutral buildings in Norway.
Energy efficiency in new buildings is not only important in large commercial and cultural buildings; also new homes must consume fewer resources. Nordic Smart House has developed inexpensive, modular energy-efficient buildings that can help to cut emissions while housing the swelling urban population.
And no building is an island: the way buildings are designed in relation to other buildings, infrastructure and adjacent spaces is important to a building’s sustainability. Spacemaker uses artificial intelligence to help real estate developers and architects to work together to create smart and sustainable urban spaces.
Spacemaker software can generate billions of site proposals, sort out the best ones, visualise them in 3D, and explain the best properties of each proposal.