Case study

How Heidelberg Materials maximized concrete carbon reduction with accurate EPDs

How Heidelberg Materials maximized concrete carbon reduction with accurate EPDs

Heidelberg Materials Precast Abetong uses accurate EPDs and LCA values to reduce the carbon footprint of its concrete products.

"Not all of our competitors create EPDs, and since we do, it's a big benefit for us. Some projects we have won because we had the best EPDs and were able to provide answers surrounding them. With more and more need for reduced carbon footprint when building, EPDs will become increasingly important."

 — Andreas Lidö, Development Engineer at Heidelberg Materials Precast Abetong

Heidelberg Materials Precast Abetong is one of Sweden's leading companies in prefabricated concrete elements and concrete-based solutions. Its product portfolio includes prefabricated concrete walls, slabs, columns, and beams. The finished parts are then transported to construction sites, where Heidelberg Materials Precast Abetong or the customer handles the assembly. With its head office in Växjö, the company employs approximately 500 people and has a turnover of approximately 104 million and $113 million per year. The company is part of the international building materials group Heidelberg Materials.

Aiming for maximum carbon reduction of concrete

How is Heidelberg Materials Precast Abetong working to minimize the carbon emissions from concrete?

Concrete consists mostly of crushed rock and gravel mixed with cement and water. Cement, the binder in concrete, is a significant source of global carbon dioxide emissions. Currently, the company is working hard to reduce cement's carbon footprint by using alternative raw materials as binders. For example, Heidelberg Materials Precast Abetong uses blast furnace slag from the steel industry to obtain a cement product with a lower carbon dioxide footprint. The company is also looking into the potential of volcanic ashes and other materials. Furthermore, efforts are being made to be more efficient with energy use and transport during the production of concrete elements.

Next year a new cement from Heidelberg Materials Sement AS in Brevik, Norway, will come out that will help the company reduce the carbon footprint of their products by more than half. In terms of environmental impact, “this will enable them to compete with other types of building systems, such as wood, which wasn't the case a couple of years ago. It's an exciting time,” Andreas added.

What role do EPDs play in the company's broader sustainability strategy?

EPDs—short for Environmental Product Declarations—are important because our customers are increasingly interested in reducing the carbon footprint of their building projects. Currently, customers aren't obligated to build greener, but as regulations become stricter, that will gradually change. Concrete’s carbon footprint needs to be reduced somehow, and I think Heidelberg Materials’ customers are starting to recognize this. 

Heidelberg Materials' products are often used for buildings that must be environmentally certified according to various standards, and the EPDs help customers in their work to build sustainable buildings. The company has been producing EPDs with One Click LCA in the past two years and the goal is to have an EPD for every product we offer, and we're almost there.

Create EPDs at scale

With One Click LCA's EPD Generator manufacturers with more than two product categories can simplify EPD and product LCA for all product categories, with full control over verification and compliance processes.

Using One Click LCA to manage, report, transport, and erect concrete elements

What are the benefits of seeing project-specific results?

Heidelberg Materials Precast Abetong discovered One Click LCA by using IMPACT, a series of advanced BIM precast software developed by One Click LCA partner StruSoft. This allows for the evaluation of project-specific results based on the actual components in each element rather than relying on average values, providing more accurate and detailed insights.

What's great about using the Environmental module in IMPACT through the One Click LCA API is that it allows us to calculate the carbon footprint of a specific element with a given reinforcement. This capability increases the accuracy of the whole project and is much more useful than just having average values. The most important thing for us is to reduce the carbon footprint of our projects, and with this tool, we have the opportunity to do that. 

Heidelberg Materials has looked at other tools before, and we ended up going with One Click LCA because it's the most refined tool we could find. It's easy to use, and we receive a lot of helpful support from their LCA experts. Whenever I need a supplier's EPD to be added to the library, I send an email to one of my contacts, and the next morning, it will be available — no questions asked. So it's very service-minded, and we're really happy with it.

Easy, efficient, and automated — reducing concrete carbon emissions through LCA and EPDs 

How has incorporating One Click LCA into your workflows positively impacted your projects and LCA values?

Eventually, when we have all the data in our system, such as energy consumption, emissions from transportation, etc., we can connect that data directly to the LCA and offer greater accuracy for our projects. Since this will be automated, it will also decrease the amount of work we spend on this process while allowing us to continue to offer quality information to our customers in an easy way. The biggest advantage is that the software will provide our customers with the opportunity to see which components will leave a large carbon footprint at an early stage and how those might be changed. Can we use less reinforcement or another type of concrete to lower the carbon footprint? We can now have a dialogue with the customer at an early stage about how to reduce the carbon footprint of their projects instead of waiting until the end when there's not much that can be done. 

Has creating EPDs influenced the way that new business/tenders are won or shaped your sustainability strategy? 

Not all of our competitors create EPDs, and since we do, it's a big benefit for us. Some projects we have won because we had the best EPDs and were able to provide answers surrounding them. With an increasing need for reduced carbon footprint when building, EPDs will become increasingly important. I imagine, that in the next five years, the environmental aspects will be just or even more important than the price.

Using One Click LCA's tools, we're learning a lot about various environmental issues and have become better at contributing to these kinds of discussions—and that's one of the most important things for us. 

Creating Concrete EPDs with One Click LCA

With One Click LCA's Concrete EPD Generator concrete and cement manufacturers can measure the carbon footprint of their concrete product and create third-party verified EPDs that help them differentiate their products, win contracts and tenders, and comply with local and global compliance requirements. The resulting EPDs fulfill regulatory requirements, including the Swedish Klimatdeklaration, Danish BR18, GLA’s London Plan, and Norwegian TEK 21. They also meet the requirements of leading investors, buyers, and certification schemes such as LEED and BREEAM.

Find out more about EPDs and how One Click LCA can help you

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