6 December 2021

Big Buyers approaching market to achieve zero-emission construction sites

Big Buyers approaching market to achieve zero-emission construction sites

On 1 December, ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability organised a market dialogue event for public procurers across Europe within the European Commission’s Big Buyers for Climate and Environment Initiative, which took place in the City of Oslo (Norway). It focused on innovative solutions to tackle emissions from construction works and convened market representatives from the Machinery, Contracting and Energy & technology fields for in-person networking and exchange. The public procurers gathered valuable market intelligence on the state of the art, remaining barriers and suitable actions to accelerate the transition to emission-free construction works. The market dialogue further conveyed the aggregated ambition and demand of the Big Buyers working group (17 European public authorities) to principal market actors in the EU construction industry.

Representatives from the Cities of Oslo and Copenhagen presented their approach on zero-emission construction sites to suppliers, including the strategies used to pilot and scale up the use of fossil-free and emission-free machinery on public construction sites. The C40 Clean Construction Programme was also presented to demonstrate the global dimension of the trend towards emission-free construction works.

Afterwards, suppliers had the chance to pitch their current market capacity and innovation for emission-free construction solutions. MGF (the Norwegian Construction Machine Manufacturers Association) accompanied by Rosendal, Volvo, Poncat and Nasta started with the state of the market for emission-free machinery in Norway, followed by CECE (the European Construction Machine Manufacturers Association), on decarbonising construction machinery from a European perspective. Veidekke and Nordkysten respectively introduced a Norwegian and a Danish contractor’s perspective, demonstrating the multiple benefits on worker health, noise, and even construction timelines that led to their organisations interest in emission-free solutions. FIEC (the European Construction Industry Contractor Federation) provided insights in the European policy perspective of fossil-free construction sites, while Moog Construction focused on high performance Zero-Emission vehicles and automation to increase productivity on sites. Ballard Power Systems Europe and SuperCharge concluded the round of pitches with their presentations on innovative solutions for supplying power to zero emission construction sites.

A panel discussion on opportunities and challenges for zero-emission construction sites in Europe rounded up the plenary programme. 

The market dialogue ended with lively group discussions between buyers and suppliers on the enabling framework for emission-free construction in Europe as well as technology and innovation for zero-emission solutions.

Important takeaways from the discussions include:

  • Market dialogue is fundamental for setting appropriate procurement procedures, and cultivating relationships of trust and collaboration between private and public sector actors. At an international level, this is about detecting trends, opportunities or barriers, forging partnerships and moving towards an aligned and enabling regulatory and policy framework. At regional level, buyers engage local suppliers to gain intelligence and ensure the criteria and procurement process they are planning to use has a suitable ambition.
  • What the market wants from public buyers is predictability, use of strategic procurement to foster and reward innovation (through use of quality and environmental criteria, for example), and a clear commitment to a timeline communicated well in advance. The more harmonised the approach is across buyers, the better. This can give market actors the confidence to invest in more sustainable products and construction methods, to bring solutions to scale sooner.
  • By aggregating demand across buyers with substantial purchasing power and informing the market, serial productionof (and contractor experience with) emission-free solutions can be accelerated, enabling infrastructure will be put in place, and prices will drop.
  • Tackling emissions from construction works aligns very well with multiple policy goals of public authorities and priorities of the construction industry. Even beyond carbon emissions, the benefits include improved worker health and safer site conditions, better local air quality, and potential efficiency gains from less noise and restructured site logistics. Further, the business case for emission-free machinery is already better than equivalent diesel machines when using a lifecycle perspective.
  • Technology is already further developed than one may expect; in fact, several fully emission-free construction sites have already been carried out! What is needed now is the scale-up of this approach across Europe, which will require multi-actor dialogues, a collaborative spirit, and a commitment from both public and private actors to decarbonisation.

In 2022, the zero-emission construction sites working group will continue to jointly engage market stakeholders, work together to align their procurement procedures, and will collaborate to deliver outcomes that serve to share their learnings with other procurers.