ORIS Expert Series: Why is Carbon Accounting Key in Infrastructure Construction?

By Oliver Queck, Head of German Market

When it comes to infrastructure construction, carbon accounting might seem intangible and even unnecessary. But thinking about the future, it is a fundamental variable when planning infrastructure construction work.

Let’s take a closer look at Germany. Germany is one of the biggest economies worldwide and is a technology leader in different fields from the automotive industry to many other branches in mechanical engineering. The country has strong ambitions to become a leader in sustainability and has been a key driver in this field.

Due to its geoposition at the center of Europe, Germany is a key connection hub. With 830,000 km, its road network is one of the largest in the world (ranked number 9). Its rail network is by far the biggest in Europe with more than 39,000 km of railway lines.

Those networks are aging. They need rehabilitation but also further development to increase connection and prepare for green mobility. Large investments into infrastructure (new roads, bridges, tunnels as well as railway tracks) are expected (estimated 7bn euros for railways and 8bn euros for road networks).

It is clear for the German government that those investments will have a significant impact on the CO2 footprint of the country. As Germany is committed to be net zero by 2045, the government wants to minimize as much as possible the increase of CO2 emissions due to those infrastructure developments.


How can we achieve this ambition?

To be able to reduce CO2, it is important to measure it. You cannot optimize what you haven’t measured. ORIS allows for semi-automated measurement of the carbon footprint of infrastructure projects (road, rails), following international standards for carbon accounting in materials.

Based on these measurements, you can model alternative design options using ORIS and find ways to optimize the design in order to reduce materials consumption and carbon footprint.

Going further, we expect governments to include more stringent measures in tenders aiming at reducing the carbon footprint. Some countries are developing a system to reward or penalize offers in the tender phase which have a very low or high CO2 footprint. The so-called bonus-malus system is already used in the Netherlands and in Norway. In Norway for instance, 80% of the tenders have this system already implemented to increase awareness towards CO2 efficient materials and designs and to increase the chance that materials and designs, which might be a bit more expensive, are competitive compared to solutions which might be cheaper but more CO2 intensive. 

It is very likely that a similar system will be implemented in Germany - which mandates material suppliers, contractors and planners to prepare for it by being able to perform carbon accounting. At ORIS, we are ready to support the industry with these new requirements.

Video available here