Laing O’Rourke pledges low-carbon concrete on all new schemes

Laing O’Rourke has announced that it will switch to using low-carbon concrete on all of its new UK projects, with immediate effect.

In a statement, the firm said that the commitment was made after a research programme co-funded by Laing O’Rourke and Innovate UK proved it could use a range of low-carbon concrete options as a like-for-like substitute for traditional concrete.

Cement is estimated to be the third-biggest cause of carbon dioxide across the world, accounting for 8 per cent of all carbon emissions.

Laing O’Rourke said that the switch to low-carbon alternatives will reduce its own carbon by 28 per cent. This equates to a saving of 14.4 million kgCO2e, which is the same as planting 120,000 trees or 94 hectares of forest, it claimed.

Laing O’Rourke head of sustainability for Europe Rossella Nicolin said that the expertise of the specialist businesses that make up the company’s internal supply chain – including its own pre-cast concrete factory – had helped achieve the policy.

She told Construction News that the contractor had extensively assessed the technical issues with  low-carbon concrete over several years and was confident in the performance of the material.

She added that Laing O’Rourke’s further use of low-carbon concrete will be cost-neutral.

“We’re really pleased to be the first UK contractor to have low-carbon concrete on all its projects, showing leadership and commitment to decarbonisation. There is a lot of discussion on [the] impact of construction on overall emissions so we’re really playing a part.

“Concrete is still a great building material and decarbonising it and making sure we are using it in the most efficient way possible is something we feel really strongly about,” she said.

The concrete will include GGBS (Ground Granulated Blast-furnace Slag) and PFA (Pulverised Fly Ash). It will abide by the Institution of Civil Engineers’ definition of low-carbon concrete.

Asked why the policy only applied to the contractor’s UK business when climate change is a global issue, Nicolin said other parts of the business were implementing other measures and she believed that the different activities would be coordinated across the world at a later date.

Laing O’Rourke was one of 17 construction companies that last year signed up to the ConcreteZero pledge to achieve 100 per cent net-zero concrete by 2050. It was also awarded government cash in 2021 for a 12-week project investigating decarbonising pre-cast concrete at its factory.

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