Powering forward to achieve Net Zero

Hollie Hynes General Manager – Sustainability and Environment
4 min read

We are in the midst of a decisive decade in our battle to address climate change.

The case for change is clear; infrastructure delivery is emissions intense and building and construction activities account for 39%¹ of global energy-related carbon emissions. We know we need to think differently, look to new technologies and collaborate more closely with our supply chain to improve sustainability.

In 2021 Laing O’Rourke set our global sustainability strategy, which outlines our commitment to building a sustainable future. Achieving operational net zero (scope 1 and 2 emissions) by 2030, reaching gender parity by 2033, and becoming a net zero company before 2050 (scope 3 emissions) are the cornerstones of the strategy. In Australia, we are powering forward by investing in several initiatives to reduce emissions.

Scope 1 & 2

Operational Net Zero by 2030 requires reducing emissions associated with our site operations (scope 1 and 2) and then offsetting any remaining emissions.

In Australia, our immediate focus is on reducing our reliance on traditional diesel, transitioning to bio-diesel and ultimately through to HVO which is Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil. The other pathway is to transition from traditional diesel use for plant and equipment, through hybrid and electric plant and equipment.

However, the availability and commercial viability of HVO and electric plant and equipment remains an extreme challenge particularly in Australia.

Laing O’Rourke’s subsidiary, Select, invested in Australia’s first 250 tonne electric crawler cranes in 2022 as part of a $12 million investment into electric plant and equipment. This adds to the 8.5 tonne SEA electric trucks, 3 tonne electric teletruks, electric plate compactors, lighting solutions and battery energy storage systems which are already in use by Select on Australian construction sites.

Laing O’Rourke’s Australian business is also fundamentally changing the way projects are delivered by improving baseline performance. We have set a series of mandatory minimum standards for emissions abatement on each project, while the HVO and electrification solutions continue to develop, including:

  • Purchasing green power
  • Implementing smart metering at all project sites and facilities
  • Using hybrid generators for off-grid facilities – abating between 40 and 70% of emissions for these facilities
  • Mandating B5 bio-diesel for all subcontractors and suppliers across our projects. In time, this will include the use of HVO
  • Investing further in electric plant and equipment through our plant hire business, Select, as we see this as a long-term and reliable opportunity

Scope 3

In addition to reducing scope 1 and 2 emissions, becoming a Net Zero company by 2050 requires reducing our emissions associated with the assets we are building and offsetting any remaining emissions.

Our emissions profile shows more than 95% of our emissions are scope 3. Of this, purchased materials, such as concrete, steel and asphalt, are by far the single largest subcategory of our carbon emissions.

In 2023, we commissioned an independent consultancy to identify the available lowest embodied carbon concrete mixes possible to use in transport infrastructure. We are currently working collaboratively with our clients to move beyond these limits.

In addition, several of our Australian projects are now using low carbon concrete (LCC). In a Victorian industry first, South Eastern Program Alliance (SEPA), of which Laing O’Rourke is the construction partner, Vinsi Partners, Keller, and Holcim collaborated to test and deliver a more sustainable, client approved Department of Transport approved concrete mix.

The mix contains 70% Supplementary Cementitious Materials (SCMs), halving the embodied carbon impacts of the concrete. Keller tested the concrete mix on the Union Road, Surrey Hills & Mont Albert Road, Mont Albert project’s piling, and the mix will now be used across all SEPA sites and will also be available for purchase and use across the industry. This change will prevent the emission of about 4000t of carbon dioxide over three sites.

It’s clear we need to move together to drive change as an industry. By thinking differently, innovating and collaborating more, we can help create a more productive, sustainable and efficient industry.

Hollie Hynes is the General Manager – Sustainability and Environment at Laing O’Rourke in Australia.

¹L. Huang, G. Krigsvoll, F. Johansen, Y. Liu and X. Zhang, “Carbon emission of global construction sector,” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, pp. 1906-1916, 2018.