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Will procurement requirements be the solution for carbon reduction in infrastructure projects?

Published Jul 08, 2019

Are procurement requirements the answer to carbon reduction in infrastructure construction projects? The recently finalized research project Impres has the answer and gives its recommendations on how to achieve greater carbon reductions.

Stefan Uppenberg, Project Manager for the Impres project and Sustainability Consultant at WSP, gives his recommendations to the industry: “Set high level goals and policies for carbon reduction, think one more time about what you actually want to achieve when defining requirements, develop guidelines, tools and training programs to help build industry capabilities, and enable and legitimize long term strategic collaborative alliances.”

The research project Implementation of Procurement Requirements for Sustainable Collaboration in Infrastructure (Impres) has been running for two years and is now completed. The study is about how procurement requirements for carbon reduction can be implemented in infrastructure projects and how this connects to national and organizational policy contexts in different countries.

The Impres project has interviewed key stakeholders on the client side and within the supply chain in large infrastructure projects in New South Wales (Australia), the Netherlands, Sweden, the UK and California (US). Questions such as how they implement requirements, the background behind them, how they organize their work and what barriers and success factors they came across has been discussed and analyzed.

One finding of the study is that all the interviewees have an ongoing process to develop and implement policies for carbon reductions in infrastructure projects. Ambitions are also raised over time. However, sometimes people are struggling with the LCA calculations and re-calculations of baselines and outcomes so that there’s a risk for less focus on actual measures for reductions.

The study also shows that there are a lot of carbon reduction measures implemented, but that they’re mostly driven by cost reductions, and not climate mitigation. On the other hand, this shows that carbon reductions and cost reductions can go hand in hand.

“Furthermore, procurement requirements are not an easy tool to work with because the organizations in construction projects are extremely complex. When talking about carbon reduction, there are a lot of processes which are affected and need to be changed in order to arrive at the goals that have been set up. Just because you set up a procurement requirement it doesn’t mean that behavior is going to change”, says Anna Kadefors, Research Coordinator for the Impres project and Professor at KTH.

The research project has been co-funded by Construction Climate Challenge (CCC), the Swedish Research Council Formas through the Strong Research Environment ProcSIBE ,and the Mistra Carbon Exit research program. The research was jointly performed by project partners KTH, Lund University, WSP and Skanska.

Belongs to: School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE)
Last changed: Jul 08, 2019